Oct 23, 2017

The world's top five soccer clubs as of Oct. 23, 2017

Here it is, the second edition of this season's top five club ranking, reflecting the full slate of weekend games. Check out last week's iteration here. There were some important results with the teams in the #top5 (yes that's going viral) so let's see how that affected things:

5. Tottenham Hotspur

Last week's spot: None, this is Spurs' first appearance pretty much ever since we've been doing these lists.
Record in all competition: 9-1-3 (nine wins, one loss, three draws)
Notable results: Lost to Chelsea at home (2-1, on Aug. 20), beat Borussia Dortmund at home (3-1, Sept. 13), drew at Real Madrid (1-1, Oct. 17), beat Liverpool 4-1 at home yesterday.
Discussion: It was a superb week for Spurs, starting with the impressive performance at the Bernabeu. Then there was the beat-down of Liverpool yesterday. The 4-1 scoreline actually flattered Liverpool, who were a complete mess defensively and don't look to be making any appearances on this list anytime soon, if ever. But at least they still have Jurgen Klopp. Oh wait, Klopp's record is actually worse than both of his predecessors' after the same number of games played. But this isn't about Klopp or Liverpool -- it's about Tottenham and the fact is Mauricio Pochettino's men belong here in a list of the best teams on the planet. They've been tested against the best (Real Madrid, away) and didn't blink. They've beat every other quality side they faced except for Chelsea (their one loss) and that was in August. Games played in August are deeply discounted in our model, and not because Harry Kane isn't able to score any goals during that month. Tottenham ooze quality. Their goalkeeper is one of the best shot-stoppers in the game, their three centerbacks match up with any on the planet and then there's Harry Kane. English players are often usually almost always overhyped, often to the point of hyperbole, but with Kane the superlatives simply fit -- and that's according to people like Thierry Henry, a proven hater. Keep in mind that Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen have not really found their form, that Moussa Dembele and Danny Rose have been injured and that Kyle Walker left during the close season. This team is not just good, it can still get a lot better. Man City and Europe should take notice. These are giddy times for us Spurs supporters.
The road ahead: After a challenging week things don't get any easier. A League Cup match against West Ham is Wednesday, followed by a trip to Old Trafford on Saturday. Man United have seen better days and there are indications Jose Mourinho has lost the dressing room already and the team is on for a repeat performance of 2016/17. Still a visit to Anfield is never easy and Spurs have lost or drawn 73 percent of the time these teams have played historically (136 of 186 games, according to our friends at 11v11.com. The recent record is more in Tottenham's favor though, with the North London side losing just three of the last 10 matchups). The return leg against Real is Nov. 1. The North London derby Nov. 19 followed by the return leg against Borussia Dortmund two days later. Man City, if you're curious, is on the docket for Dec. 16. It's feasible that match could go a long way toward deciding the Premiership title.

4. Real Madrid

Last week: Fifth
Record in all competition: 8-1-3 (8 wins, 1 loss, 3 ties)
Notable results: Won at Dortmund (by 3-1, on Sept. 26), drew Tottenham Hotspur at home (1-1, Oct. 17)
Discussion: Real Madrid move up a spot by virtue of Man United dropping out. Real held serve this weekend, beating SD Eibar by the impressive-sounding score of 3-nil. While Real are just third in La Liga, it is due to points dropped in August (when two of their draws took place) and in their solitary loss to Real Betis on Sept. 20. None of those results speak to any real weakness with this team, though it will be very interesting indeed to see how they do at Wembley in the return leg against Spurs.
The road ahead: The return leg at Tottenham is Nov. 1. The Madrid derby is Nov. 28. A trip to Athletic Bilbao looms Dec. 12. The superclasico clash against Barcelona is on Dec. 20.

3. Paris Saint Germain

Last week: Second
Record in all competition: 11-0-2
Notable results: Beat Bayern Munich (3-0, Sept. 27), drew Olympique Marseille (2-2, Oct. 22)
Discussion: PSG came back to draw Olympique Marseille yesterday in thrilling fashion. The highlights are worth watching. Here, check them out:

Thrilling though the game was, it still exposed some weaknesses in PSG's game, particularly its defense. The ranking committee has taken notice and docked PSG one spot in the #top5. PSG should still win Ligue Un with ease. Beyond that, it's anybody's guess. They likely won't be truly tested until the elimination round of the Champions League, depending on who they draw.
The road ahead: The return leg at Bayern Munich which wraps up the UCL group stage is worth watching. Probably won't matter in the standings but could be a good test as Bayern look resurgent under Jupp Heynckes. That game is Dec. 5. Also visit Monaco (currently second in Ligue Un), Nov. 25.

2. FC Barcelona

Last week: Third
Record in all competition: 11-0-1
Notable results: Beat Juventus (3-0, Sept. 12). Drew at Atletico Madrid (1-1, Oct. 14)
Discussion: Barca move up a spot by virtue of a 2-nil victory over Malaga on Saturday. Their record is now quite simply better than PSG's and they look the better side so far, albeit by a narrow margin.
The road ahead: Visit Athletic Bilbao Saturday. The return leg against Juventus is Nov. 22, though that may not matter at that point.
The clash with Real Madrid is on Wednesday, Dec. 20. At the Bernabeu. Midweek. Should be fun.

1. Manchester City

Last week: First
Record in all competition: 12-0-1
Notable results: Won at Chelsea (1-0, Sept. 30), beat Napoli (2-1, Oct. 17)
Discussion: Man City continue to boss England and Europe alike. Last week they saw off Napoli with ease and had a nice stroll at Burnley yesterday. Their goal difference in the Premiership is 32 for, four against and in the Champions League it's been a similar story: eight scored, one conceded. Their Champions League group may not be a veritable group of death, but it does include a tough visit to Shakhtar Donetsk (already passed, City won 2-nil) and the aforementioned Napoli who currently lead Serie with an unbeaten record (it was unbeaten and untied but Napoli drew Inter Milan on Saturday). It's hard to see exactly where and whether Man City have any weaknesses. Surely the defense is untested and may begin to show signs of rust as the season wears on. But for now, this is the top team in the world, hands down. Oh yeah that one draw was against Everton on the second matchday of the season. Like we said, August. It's hard to imagine City not putting 10 past Everton if that match were played now.
The road ahead: An easy week with Wolverhampton Wanderers in League Cup action on Wednesday, followed by West Bromwich Albion on the weekend. The return leg against Napoli is the following Tuesday. The Manchester derby is the second weekend in December, though with the way things are going Man U don't look like they'll be able to offer up much in the way of competition.

Also receiving consideration: Napoli, Chelsea, Inter Milan, Besiktas.

Oct 22, 2017

Spurs beat up on Liverpool, making us look like idiots

But we're glad to be idiots on the day. (For the uninitiated: our official prediction for this game was a scoreless draw, a score which didn't even hold up for five minutes). It was a tremendous performance by Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley Stadium. An absolute clinic by the lads in the white shirts who should have rightfully put the game out of sight in the first 25 minutes. As it were, it took a Dele Alli goal on the stroke of halftime to reassert a two-goal advantage and effectively decide things. Spurs will take it. So will their supporters, me included. After almost five years of frustration against Liverpool, a compelling victory that puts Tottenham firmly in the top three in the Premiership table and potentially sets them up as the main title challenger to Manchester City this season.

We knew before this match that Liverpool's defense was poor. But we didn't quite know the extent. Dejan Lovren had one of the more pathetic performances you'll ever see from a Premiership defender. At times it looked like he was playing for Spurs. It was a joke, except no Liverpool supporters are laughing. Neither was the master of Gegenpressing, Juergen Klopp, who pulled the Croatian defender for Oxlad-Chamberlain midway through the first half. Gegen means against in German so maybe the concept calls for going against your own team. If so, Liverpool executed beautifully.

Credit Mauricio Pochettino again for rolling the dice with his 'WTF' lineup, same as he did in Madrid at midweek. When the starting eleven were announced, nobody even knew where people would line up. Was Aurier on the right or left? Where would Eriksen, Alli and Son play? (The latter hopefully not at left wingback again, as he did rather disastrously on one occasion last season). It took a deep dive on social media to at least answer the Aurier question.

It turns out Son was Spurs' most advanced player for most of the early stages of the game. Eriksen was on the right wing, with Alli on the left flanking Harry Winks. Maybe it was Son's positioning that threw off Lovren and the other Liverpool defenders on Tottenham's first goal. Whatever the reason, Lovren looked completely lost, but credit Trippier for a gutsy pass and Harry Kane for persevering until the ball was in the back of the Liverpool net. Less than five minutes were played. Just a few moments later, Spurs got their second goal, effectively achieving what Germans call the Vorentscheidung. Lovren was again at fault, this time whiffing on a header that put Kane and Son in on goal. Punditarena.com has some excellent analysis of both goals, complete with video.

This post will be updated so check back often. You won't regret it.