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? Find out here:
Bayern Munich boss Niko Kovac insists his side are desperate to replace Borussia Dortmund at the summit of the Bundesliga in Saturday’s seismic 100th league instalment of ‘Der Klassiker’.
Two points separate first and second in the table heading into a showdown at the Allianz Arena that is shaping up to be a potential title decider.
Dortmund have seen a nine-point lead established in December disintegrate but Bayern have also suffered their own dip recently.
Both clubs were knocked out of the Champions League by English opposition, leaving them to concentrate on a thrilling domestic title race.
“Second place is the first loser. We want to win,” said Kovac.
“The game on Saturday is very, very important. We all know what’s at stake and what will be demanded of us both defensively and going forward.
“It will be an interesting game between two evenly-matched teams. The players, the fans and the club will give everything to win this.”
David Alaba, Manuel Neuer, James Rodriguez and Robert Lewandowski are expected to recover from knocks in time to play, but Alphonso Davies and Arjen Robben will definitely miss out.
Bayern shipped four goals against second-division Heidenheim on domestic cup duty on Wednesday and Kovac insists that denying the opposition is a team effort.
“It’s about responsibility and discipline,” he said. “I do not just start with the defenders, it starts earlier. You have to be ready, no matter what your level.
“France have become world champions because they played well but also defended well.
“It is not for nothing that titles are decided at the back. We have to come back to defending well, as individuals and as a team.
“That’s what we have to go back to, but you have to want it even if you’re an artist. It will be an interesting game. The team that makes fewer mistakes will win.”
Dortmund boss Lucien Favre refused to overstate the importance of a fixture that has been billed as the biggest domestic club match in Europe this season.
“This game is very special – Bayern v Dortmund,” he said. “The table is close, seven games remain, and two great teams.
“If we win, nothing is decided, if we draw, nothing is decided, if we lose nothing is decided. It’s completely open!”
Dortmund have injury concerns over Paco Alcacer, Lukasz Piszczek and Abdou Diallo.
Though the Champions League quarter-finals are a week away, there’s plenty to look forward to in Europe’s top five leagues this weekend as the fixture list has thrown up some cracking games across the continent.
There are two potential title-deciders in Germany and Spain along with fixtures that could have a huge impact on European qualification for next season.
Here are the games to watch from each of Europe’s top five leagues for this weekend.
Bayern Munich vs Borussia Dortmund
WHERE: Allianz Arena
WHEN: Saturday April 6, 8:30pm GST
The latest staging of Der Klassiker is set to be one of the biggest fixtures in the recent history of the Bundesliga. Bayern Munich have had it all their own way during their run of six straight league titles, rarely having a title challenger worthy of the description.
Not this time. Borussia Dortmund go into this game two points ahead of their rivals, a welcome position to be in after they’d spent the early part of 2019 squandering a seven-point lead over Bayern and even fall behind the Bavarians on goal difference at one stage.
Now, a win in Munich would see Dortmund go home with a five-point cushion, and even a draw would leave them with renewed confidence over their title push. The pressure is entirely on Lucien Favre’s side, because they know a Bayern win would make the one-point lead the champions would take seem like much more. But the Black and Yellow can also take a giant stride to winning a first league title since 2012 by beating Niko Kovac’s resurgent Bayern.
Interesting:— Paul Little (@little_football) April 3, 2019
BVB's total of 63 points from 27 games this season is one better than Klopp's side managed in 2010/11 & 2011/12 at the same stage.
Favre's Dortmund: 66 goals after 27 games
Klopp's title-winning sides: 55 strikes after 27 games in 2010/11 and 2011/12
Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid
WHERE: Camp Nou
WHEN: Saturday, April 6, 10:45pm GST
The title race in Spain is not as close as the one going on in Germany, but Atletico Madrid can change that this weekend. They travel to the Camp Nou knowing that a win would cut the gap to Barcelona down to a manageable five points, and a title race that had fizzled out by December would be back on.
Barca did their rivals a favour by dropping points in midweek, though it could have been worse: La Blaugrana went into the 90th minute of Tuesday’s fixture against Villarreal down 4-2, only for Lionel Messi – who else – and Luis Suarez to score twice in injury time and rescue a point.
Still, that was two points gained for Atletico, and picking up another three could give Diego Simeone’s side some momentum and make even the Messi-inspired La Liga leaders seem vulnerable. Barcelona may also have one eye on next week’s Champions League game against Manchester United, and Atletico will punish any lapse in concentration.
Juventus vs Milan
WHERE: Allianz Stadium
WHEN: Saturday, April 6, 8pm GST
There’s no title race to speak of in Serie A, with Juventus well clear at the top, but no meeting between Juve and Milan comes without the tension and drama befitting one of Italy’s fiercest rivalries.
Sadly, there won’t be a duel between two of the league’s top scorers, with Cristiano Ronaldo likely to miss this fixture through injury and allowing Milan’s Krzysztof Piatek to take centre stage and perhaps extend his lead over the Juventus man in the Capocannoniere race as both chase Sampdoria’s Fabio Quagliarella for that particular crown.
Milan have had a dip in form at the worst possible moment, taking just one point from their last three fixtures heading into Saturday’s game to drop out of third place and leave their top-four hopes in peril. They face fifth-place Lazio, who are four points behind with two games in hand, right after this, and with Juventus possibly more focused on next week’s Champions League clash against Ajax, the Rossoneri could use a positive result against Italy’s best team as a springboard for the rest of the season.
Only four players have scored 20+ goals in Europe's top five divisions this season:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 2, 2019
🇦🇷 Lionel Messi
🇫🇷 Kylian Mbappé
🇮🇹 Fabio Quagliarella
🇵🇱 Krzysztof Piatek 🆕
Pow pow pow. 💥 pic.twitter.com/mWgkVgGBTA
Everton vs Arsenal
WHERE: Goodison Park
WHEN: Sunday, April 7, 5:05pm GST
England’s top-four race is just as close as Italy’s, with four teams contesting for two spots as they head into the Premier League run-in. Arsenal look like the favourites among those two teams, with the kindest fixture list remaining, but their poor away form this season makes Sunday’s trip to Everton a tricky prospect.
The Toffees have turned a corner in recent weeks, having beaten Chelsea and then outclassed West Ham last week to boost their claim for a seventh-place finish, with the unofficial “best of the rest” tag and potential Europa League spot that will come with it.
For both teams, this is an opportunity to take advantage of two rivals not playing during the weekend thanks to the FA Cup scheduling; Arsenal’s top-four rivals Tottenham and Manchester United have the weekend off, as do Everton’s close competitors Wolves and Watford, who face each other in the cup semi-final.
People talking about Arsenal's away games to Everton, Watford n Wolves check this out. We have a good run here.— 👑Centti (@Centhiva) April 1, 2019
Last 5 away games at Everton 3W 1D 1L
Last 5 away games at Watford 4W 1L
Last 5 away games at Wolves 5W
While these games are tough, Arsenal still got the chance.
Stade Reims vs Lille
WHERE: Stade Auguste-Delaune
WHEN: Sunday, April 7, 5pm GST
Lille’s impressive season got its latest boost last weekend as they came back from 2-0 down away from home against Nantes to pick up a vital 3-2 win. That result kept them four points ahead of third-place Lyon in the race to finish second and avoid the qualifying round for next season’s Champions League.
Sunday’s opponents Stade Reims are locked in a European race of their own, currently in sixth place, three points behind St Etienne in fourth and two behind Marseille, who occupy the final Europa League place. Beating out either to get into Europe would be a huge achievement David Guion’s side.