Oct 29, 2017

Counting down the five best soccer teams in the world as of Oct. 30, 2017

Here it is, the third 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. Skip right to the best non-European team here. This list will update again shortly so be sure to check back frequently.

5. Napoli

Last week's spot: None, though were given consideration.
Record in all competition: 12-2-1 (12 wins, 2 losses, 1 tie)
Notable results: Lost at Shakthar Donetsk (2-1, on Sept. 13), beat AS Roma (1-0, Sept. 20), lost at Manchester City (2-1, Oct. 17), drew Inter Milan at home (0-0, Oct. 21)
Last week: Won both Serie A matches, at Genoa and at home against Sassuolo, where they scored a goal directly from a corner.
Discussion: Napoli had a good week, winning both games convincingly to take the fifth spot in our ranking. Maurizio Sarri's team have established themselves as the favorites in Serie A, with an unbeaten (and just once tied) record after 11 matches, good enough for a three-point lead over Juventus and Lazio. The European campaign has been less positive. Napoli sit third in their group, behind Man City and Donetsk, but can potentially leapfrog the latter on Nov. 21 (or maybe even earlier, depending on what happens next week). The ranking committee deemed losing at Donetsk and the Etihad as forgivable offenses and decided Napoli worthy of the fifth spot. This is a quality team in good form. With Marek Hamsik, Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens they have three bonafide superstars in the making.
The road ahead: The return leg against Man City is on Wednesday. That will be a major test for both teams. Napoli can really make a statement, and upend this entire ranking, with a win. City look ripe for the picking. Then visit Verona Sunday before AC Milan pay a visit next Saturday. Juventus looms Dec. 1.

4. Bayern Munich

Last week's spot: None.
Record in all competition: 13-2-2 (thirteen wins, two losses, two ties)
Notable results: lost to Paris Saint German (3-0, Sept. 27)
Last week: Beat RB (don't call them Red Bull. That's Rasenballsport, if you must know) Leipzig twice. The first of those games was a cup tie that went to penalties, then in Bundesliga action over the weekend the Bavarian side won rather convincingly by a 2-0 score.
Discussion: Bayern make their first appearance of the season in the top five after moving into first place in the Bundesliga. The team have been resurgent since Jupp Heynckes took control on Oct. 6. This is his fourth go-round managing the German juggernaut, in case you were counting. Bayern have reeled off five victories in a row since this most recent return. This is clearly a different team from the one who were so soundly beaten by PSG a month ago. They get their chance for revenge in December, on the last matchday of group stage play, at which point it likely won't matter.
The road ahead: Visit Celtic tomorrow and Borussia Dortmund on Saturday. Dortmund are now second in the Bundesliga and of course always a very tough place to play, so that's a big one. A loss and Bayern will likely be dropped from this space. A win and they may move up, especially considering what might happen to...

3. Paris Saint Germain

Last week's spot: Third
Record in all competition: 11-0-2
Notable results: Beat Bayern Munich (3-0, Sept. 27), drew Olympique Marseille (2-2, Oct. 22)
Last week: Beat Nice, 3-0 on Friday.
Discussion: No Neymar, no problem for PSG who made quick work of Nice on Friday night. The game was effectively settled by the 30th minute when Edinson Cavani got his second goal. PSG now have 29 points from 11 Ligue Un matches with a goal difference of +26 (34 scored, 8 conceded). But it's the French league. There's one good team besides PSG (Monaco, currently second) and a few decent ones. Nice were supposed to be decent, falling in Champions League qualification to Napoli, but Lucien Favre's men currently sit 16th.
The road ahead: Host Anderlecht in Champions League action tomorrow. That should not be a problem considering PSG won the first leg 4-0. Then visit Angers, whoever that is, on Saturday. The return leg at Bayern Munich which wraps up the UCL group stage is worth watching. That game is Dec. 5. Also visit Monaco, Nov. 25.

2. Manchester City

Last week: First
Record in all competition: 14-0-1
Notable results: Won at Chelsea (1-0, Sept. 30), beat Napoli (2-1, Oct. 17)
Last week Won twice, in midweek Carabao Cup (Wolverhampton Wanderers, albeit on penalties) and Saturday over West Bromwich Albion (3-2).
Discussion: Neither victory last week was quite as convincing as we would have liked, costing City their top spot in the ranking. The Wolves game was just league cup and not worthy of much discussion except to say that it was against a Championship side. A very good Championship side, but a Championship side nonetheless. Who, it should be noted, were not playing all starters either. The win over West Brom was a little more comfortable than the score might indicate, with Albion's second goal coming very late and after matters were already decided. Still, when you're supposed to be the best team in the world minor blemishes like the Wolves match will be counted against you. Tough, but so is life.
The road ahead: The return leg against Napoli tomorrow. That game is in Naples and is as much a chance for the Italian side to show they belong as it is for City to reclaim the top spot. The Manchester derby is the second weekend in December. Man U are looking resurgent after this week.

1. FC Barcelona

Last week: Second
Record in all competition: 13-0-1
Notable results: Beat Juventus (3-0, Sept. 12). Drew at Atletico Madrid (1-1, Oct. 14)
Last week: Won twice, in midweek Copa del Rey (3-0 over Real Murcia) and Saturday at Athletic Bilbao (2-0).
Discussion: Speaking of "No Neymar, no problem..." The Brazilian's departure to Paris was supposed to usher in a period of instability and self-doubt. While that is very much what has happened politically in this part of Spain, or what is still Spain at the time of this writing, the local soccer power is a-ok. Like Man City they possess an unbeaten and only once-tied record. It was a very close call but the win at Bilbao, never an easy task, is what clinched it along with the slightly less convincing performance from City. Unfortunately, the political crisis could have a major impact on the club in short order. The president of La Liga has said Barcelona would not be allowed to play in Spain's topflight if Catalonia becomes an independent country. Presumably this would not be instituted mid-season. Barca bloggers Barca Blaugranes seem to think joining France's Ligue Un would be a good idea. To his credit, Barca head coach Ernesto Valverde is refusing to be drawn in to the crisis.
The road ahead: Visit Olympiakos in Champions League play tomorrow. Host Sevilla, currently fifth, in Liga action on Saturday. Those should prove whether they are worthy of this spot. With great ranking, comes great responsibility. The return leg against Juventus is Nov. 22, though that may not matter at that point seeing how the teams are first and second in their Champions League group, with neither of the other two clubs (Sporting Lisbon is the fourth) being able to offer up much in the way of competition. The clash with Real Madrid is on Wednesday, Dec. 20. At the Bernabeu. Midweek. Should be fun.

Dropping out

Real Madrid (fourth last week) after losing to Girona, Tottenham Hotspur (fifth) after losing at Manchester United.

Also receiving consideration

Chelsea (first in their CL group where they won at Atletico Madrid, fourth in Premiership), Besiktas (first in their Champions League group after defeats of Monaco, RB Leipzig and FC Porto, but just third in domestic competition).

Non European Team of Note: Boca Juniors

Unbeaten and untied after six games in Argentina's Superliga, with just one goal conceded, the club from Buenos Aires replace their crosstown rivals River Plate in this space. Last week saw the continuation of Boca's dominance, with a 4-0 victory over Belgrano. Dario "Pipa" Benetto, author of two goals in that game, has picked up where he left off last season when he was the league's top scorer. His prowess has earned him call ups to Argentina's national side, never an easy task with all the competition. Centerback Lisandro Magallan has caught the eye of European clubs as well. Another one to watch is teenage midfielder Julian Chicco, who already has his own YouTube highlight reel. Unfortunately, Boca have no continental competition until the 2018 Copa Libertadores, which kicks off in January. But things are about to get very interesting domestically where they face River Plate on Sunday. If any of our South American readers have further thoughts on Boca or other teams in the region that they'd like to contribute, please supply them in the comments section.

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