European Teams of the Week: Lionel Messi and Barcelona top with Man United in sixth

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Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembele

The only thing in football more contentious than a dubious refereeing decision is a rankings system.

There are plenty of them out there – though many are deliberately divisive – but given the tribal nature of football they do drum up some interesting debates among supporters.

We’re going to add our twist to the list. Each week we pick out the 10 best teams from Europe’s top-five leagues (minus cup competitions).

It’s not cumulative, the rankings is based on a team’s performance in that particular game week.

So, who makes the top-10 this week? Check out below.

1. Barcelona (beat Sevilla 4-2)

Messi que un club. Realistically, it’s Lionel Messi who tops this list because the messiah’s display at Sevilla was simply divine. The 31-year-old scored the perfect Messi hat-trick: left-foot, right-foot and a chip. Twice Barcelona fell behind, and twice the Argentine dragged them back into the fixture before winning it with his 50th career hat-trick and 650th goal for club and country. He even managed to assist the out-of-form Luis Suarez late on.

2. Burnley (beat Tottenham 2-1)

Harry Kane vies with Burnley defender James Tarkowski

Harry Kane vies with Burnley defender James Tarkowski

It’s as if the title race to Tottenham is like the sea. You know when you test the water to see if it’s too cold by dipping your toes in? Then when you finally deem it warm enough, jump in. Well, Spurs have undergone this process on repeat this season and they were left drowning once more on Saturday. Burnley deserve every credit for this victory. It’s not one in isolation either because Sean Dyche’s outfit were unbeaten in seven league games heading into the clash. A tremendous defensive display, anchored by James Tarkowski’s beastly performance (he lead the way in tackles, clearances and aerials won), was allied by goals from Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes.

3. Borussia Dortmund (beat Bayer Leverkusen 3-2)

Individuals propelling the collective is very much the theme of this week’s rankings. Jadon Sancho mirrored Messi in producing a technically sublime volley to make it 2-1 having assisted Dortmund’s opener from a corner. The 18-year-old was electric and this win, plus his display, recharged their title ambitions. It also reinstalled some belief having ended a run of three draws against one of the most improved sides in 2019. Still of concern is the blind panic in the last 20 minutes as the hosts were in danger of surrendering another big advantage, as they did in the 3-3 draw with Hoffenheim. Lucien Favre’s leaders hung on but he’ll be concerned by the continued defensive problems having now conceded 11 goals in their last five games in all competitions.

4. Monaco (beat Lyon 2-0)

January is turning out to be quite the turning point for Monaco. After sacking Thierry Henry and rehiring Leonardo Jardim, plus bringing in seven new faces, the Principality club are now finally climbing away from the relegation zone. They’re unbeaten in four league games and are five points clear of Caen, who occupy the relegation play-off spot, after downing French football’s most erratic team, Lyon. Gelson Martins, one of the players brought in during the winter window, continued his fine form with a precise opener. Rony Lopes, such a pivotal player last season, robbed possession and charged into the box before gently pushing home Monaco’s second.

5. Reims (beat Montpellier 4-2)

We’ll stick with Ligue 1 and Reims stretched their remarkable run of form by battering fellow European qualification chasers Montpellier. David Guion has guided Reims to 10 games unbeaten in France’s top flight, and they alongside Paris Saint-Germain and Lyon have been the outstanding teams in 2019. Remi Oudin, their 22-year-old forward, scored twice and has eight for the season, adding his name to the list of talented young attackers emerging from Ligue 1. And scoring against Montpellier is an impressive feat when you take into account their defensive fortitude this season.

6. Manchester United (drew 0-0 with Liverpool)

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Ravaged by injury before and during the game, this will feel like United gained one point and Liverpool lost two. Nemanja Matic and Anthony Martial were ruled out prior to kick-off only for Ander Herrera, Juan Mata and then his half-fit replacement Jesse Lingard to all limp down the Old Trafford tunnel before half-time. Yet, despite having the heart ripped out of the team, United showed tremendous willpower to not only survive, but actually embrace the challenge. Although Liverpool predictably dominated possession, the better chances were crafted by United. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can be profoundly proud of his side’s efforts.

7. Torino (beat Atalanta 2-0)

The Serie A narrative mirrors Ligue 1 in the sense that the title is so non-existent it has masked the genuine excitement which is beneath. Torino added credence to that standpoint when beating Atalanta. The visitors were the form side in Italy until defeat to AC Milan last weekend. Another loss, and with it a pretty poor performance, has seriously damaged their European qualification chances. Conversely, Torino have only lost one of their last six and goals from Armando Izzo and Iago Falque reinforced their own challenge with both sides now on 38 points.

8. Wolfsburg (beat Borussia Monchengladbach 3-0)

Precision beats dominance every time. In just about every notable metric, Gladbach were on top but a series of missed chances allowed Wolfsburg the opportunity to seriously dent their Champions League ambitions. The Foals have been beaten 3-0 in two of their last three Bundesliga games with a disappointing 1-1 draw with Eintracht Frankfurt in between. The visitors were more clinical, even if they did take the lead through a scruffy Yannick Gerhardt finish. Admir Mehmed was brought on after the break and scored a brace to inflict further misery.

9. Napoli (beat Parma 4-0)

Arkadiusz Milik

Arkadiusz Milik

In keeping with the trend of brilliant individual displays this weekend, Arkadiusz Milik’s double against Parma is as good as you’ll see this weekend. The Polish centre-forward rolled a delightful free-kick under the wall for his first then produced a measured finish having sold the defender with a cheeky body feint. Four goals against a struggling Parma doesn’t exactly jump out but for a bit of Milik appreciation they warrant their spot.

10. AC Milan (beat Empoli 3-0)

Finally to AC Milan. Whether through the sheer weight of Krzysztof Piatek’s predatory instinct, or through the growing guile of Lucas Paqueta, the Rossoneri are producing some scintillating football in 2019. Piatek plundered his seventh goal in five games while Franck Kessie deliciously added a second with an impudent chip. The livewire Spanish winger Samu Castillejo grabbed the third and Fabio Borini thought he scored a fourth only for VAR to intervene. It’s not been the case for a long time, but Milan are a genuinely good watch at the moment.

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