European Teams of the Week: Liverpool go top, Barcelona enter top five with Dortmund

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Mohamed Salah

The only thing in football more contentious than VAR is a ranking.

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.

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. Liverpool beat Arsenal 3-1

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When Arsenal travel to Anfield, the result and manner it is achieved is painfully prosaic: a Liverpool domination. Jurgen Klopp has never lost as Liverpool boss to Arsenal and the last four encounters at Anfield have now aggregated a 12-3 scoreline in his favour after the latest 3-1 swatting on Saturday. Arsenal showed some enterprise, particularly through the frenetic record-signing Nicolas Pepe, but otherwise the European champions were pretty serene, Mohamed Salah scoring twice – the second a sublime slalom from the right – and Joel Matip heading in from a corner. Same again next season?

2. Newcastle beat Tottenham 1-0

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Steve Bruce wants Newcastle critics to shut up after a very satisfying win over Spurs. Mauricio Pochettino chastised his side and will hope the players are all ears. Joelinton, the club-record £40m signing from Hoffenheim, donned a cape and emerged as alter-ego ‘Goelinton’ with his slick first strike in the Premier League flooring the hosts. And fair play to Newcastle because they kept Spurs just out of reach and threatened dangerously on the counter through the Brazilian. Bruce has been battered for his tactics, but he drew up an organised plan which the visitors executed to perfection.

3. Crystal Palace beat Manchester United 2-1

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At this point United may as well let David De Gea take penalties and shove Paul Pogba or Marcus Rashford in goal because none of them appear capable of fulfilling their respective duties. After Pogba’s saved penalty last week, Rashford assumed the responsibility to try and equalise after Crystal Palace grabbed a shock lead through Jordan Ayew, only to rattle the post and subsequently the brains of United fans. Daniel James showed Rashford how it’s done with an exquisite finish late on, only for Patrick van Aanholt to squeeze past De Gea in injury time to secure Palace’s first ever Premier League win at Old Trafford. Their rope-a-dope style against the top-six is surely the template for all bottom-half outfits to follow.

4. Barcelona beat Real Betis 5-2

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Who needs Lionel Messi… or Luis Suarez… or Ousmane Dembele? Barcelona certainly don’t when Antoine Griezmann can impersonate all three in one game. The Frenchman had a point to prove after a blunt debut against Athletic Bilbao last week, but he responded by spearheading Blaugrana’s impressive win over Betis. Griezmann is at his best when he’s the leading man, and in this imitation game, he acted out the predatory instincts of Suarez, Dembele’s penetration and the left-foot precision of Messi. The 28-year-old scored twice – the second stolen from Messi’s playbook – and was instrumental in a roaming role, dramatically speeding up Barca’s tempo in contrast to their opening night loss. Carles Perez started his first game and proved a pest, scoring one of his own, as did Jordi Alba and substitute Arturo Vidal.

5. Borussia Dortmund beat FC Koln 3-1

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Dortmund should fall behind every game. For the second straight Bundesliga contest, BVB were 1-0 down – conceding for the umpteenth time from a set-piece under Lucien Favre – but they eventually recovered, albeit in the final 20 minutes. Frustrated by Koln’s defiance, a sparkling piece of play from Dortmund’s diamond cracked the home side open as Jadon Sancho curled home from a quickly-taken short corner to equalise. Achraf Hakimi rose from the bench and into the air to nod the visitors in front before Paco Alcacer was gifted his third of the season after Sancho squared after piercing Koln on the counter. This was another billboard of Dortmund’s title credentials.

6. Aston Villa beat Everton 2-0

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The form guide is a flimsy concept in the early goings of a new season, yet few anticipated a Villa victory in the Friday contest with Everton. The travelling Blues were the only side to retain a clean sheet through the opening two fixtures with four points obtained. Newly-promoted Villa on the other hand haven’t won a Premier League game in three years and had failed to pick up the maximum points haul in 15 straight games. All these roads ended at Villa Park as Wesley’s first goal since a £22m close-season move from Belgian side Club Brugge opened up an avenue to victory. Everton had their chances and duly missed them before Anwar El Ghazi slipped the dagger further by adding a second in injury time, securing Villa’s first English top-flight win since beating Norwich in February 2016.

7. Celta Vigo beat Valencia 1-0

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Europe was treated to a spread of spectacular goals this weekend but Gabriel Fernandez’s delicious winner against Valencia was surely one of the sweetest. A smooth move in the 15th minute between the trio of attackers expected to ensure Celta don’t repeat last season’s struggles was enough for three well-earned points. Iago Aspas slipped the ball out to the left for Denis Suarez to sharply reverse into the box for Fernandez who, with his back to goal, cheekily backheeled home from close range. It was a moment of serious quality against the Copa del Rey holders, but Celta deserved more with Suarez seeing his late penalty saved by former Barcelona team-mate Jasper Cillessen.

8. Udinese beat AC Milan 1-0

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Naturally analysis gravitates toward an alarmingly rancid AC Milan performance, however, Udinese, while not exactly gleaming themselves, produced the clinical finish needed to separate the two sides. There wasn’t a shot on target until after the break, but the home side were far more effective in the final third, carving out chances in the second half and eventually securing the breakthrough on 72 minutes. Giant defender Rodrigo Becao connected with a fine header from a corner to score his first professional goal, the talented Brazilian marking his debut having been signed from Bahia last year only to spend last season on loan at CSKA Moscow. Milan stopper Gianluigi Donnarumma denied Kevin Lasagna a certain second goal as a disoriented AC left new boss Marco Giampaolo’s cheeks looking awfully Rosso.

9. Lazio beat Sampdoria 3-0

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Ciro the centurion. Immobile’s 100 and 101st Serie A goals guided Lazio past an uncharacteristically dreadful Sampdoria as Simone Inzaghi’s outfit served notice of their intentions this season. Samp only finished a place below Lazio last season and while weakened over the summer, at home they would be expected to mount a much sterner challenge than this. Inzaghi’s brand of entertaining counter-attacking football could launch Lazio into the top four this season providing the likes of Luis Alberto and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic can shake off a poor 2018/19 season. Regardless, Immobile remains ever consistent and his two sumptuous finishes sandwiched Joaquin Correa’s arrowed strike against his former side.

10. Napoli beat Fiorentina 4-3

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Serie A was absolutely electric last season and it seems that will be theme again this season judging by Roma’s 3-3 draw with Genoa and Napoli’s mental 4-3 triumph over Fiorentina. VAR and some very contentious refereeing decisions were not enough to mask what was a deeply entertaining clash. Dries Mertens was awarded a quite absurd penalty after purposefully tripping over a felled Gaetano Castrovilli to allow Lorenzo Insigne to put the visitors 2-1 up. The Belgian had grabbed the equaliser with an outstanding dipping strike of his own, but the Viola twice equalised themselves only for Insigne’s tap-in to edge Napoli in front. The result is the perfect fillip ahead of their meeting with Juventus next weekend.

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