Barca the best; Benfica and Fenerbahce are surging – The National Top 20 Power Table

Voting: Each writer picked their top 20 teams. We then assigned points to each vote, with 20 points awarded for a first place vote, 19 for second, 18 for third and so on, to create the final list.

Presenting the fifth edition of The National’s European football Power Table, our view of the top 20 European clubs of the moment as voted on this week by Thomas Woods, Steve Luckings, Jon Turner and Jonathan Raymond.

Others receiving votes this edition: KAA Gent 6; West Ham United 6; Club Brugge 5; Shakhtar Donetsk 4; Dynamo Kiev 4; Lyon 3; Manchester United 2; FC Basel 2

Dropped from Top 20, no votes: Villarreal (were: 19); Southampton (were: 17); Fiorentina (were: 10)

20 – Manchester City (10 points; last: unranked)

Up and down times for City, huh? Potential death-knell losses to Leicester and Tottenham in their Premier League title chase, blasted out of the FA Cup by Chelsea, ace their Dynamo Kiev first leg test in the Champions League last 16, win a trophy in the League Cup, drubbed again in the Premier League by Liverpool, and then recovering with a smackdown of Aston Villa in the league. There’s enough bad in there to keep them very much on the fringes of our top-20 picture, but also just enough – particularly in the Champions League – that you can see them among the elite.

19 – CSKA Moscow (11 points; last: unranked)

The Russian Premier League has returned to action, with a victory in the Moscow derby no less. They have a fairly comfortable lead at the top of Russia’s top flight, as well, with three points on FC Rostov and especially considering the likes of Lokomotiv Moscow (eight points behind), Zenit St Petersburg (nine points back) and Spartak (ten points off) are not within striking distance.

T18 – Sporting CP (12 points; last: 15)

They were beaten at home by Benfica, slogged through a goalless draw with Vitoria de Guimaraes and were bounced out of the Europa League – not a good run for the Lisbon giants of late. And, despite all that, they still are just two points back with a shot to take the Portuguese Primeira Liga title.

T18 – Olympiakos (12 points; last: 16)

Knocked out of the Europa League, but have recovered from a 1-0 loss to AEK Athens in the Greek Super League, where they have a preposterous plus-48 goal difference and a 17-point lead in the race for Greece’s domestic championship.

16 – AFC Ajax (13 points; last: unranked)

Ticking along, waiting for PSV to slip in the Dutch Eredivisie race, with their last three league results coming at a combined 11-1 advantage against Excelsior, AZ Alkmaar and Willem II.

15 – Fenerbahce (17 points; last: unranked)

It’s all coming up Fenerbahce lately. They overtook Istanbul rivals Besiktas at the top of the Turkish Super Lig with a 2-0 win on February 29, Galatasaray are mired in Financial Fair Play sanctions and banned from Europe for a year and to top it all off the club reached the Europa League last 16 past Lokomotiv Moscow and were drawn in a manageable tie with Portugal’s Braga.

14 – Arsenal (27 points; last: 5)

Perhaps saved their very season with that snatched point at Tottenham, snapping a three-match losing streak that has them almost surely on the outs in the Champions League and facing longer than ever odds at ending their Premier League title drought.

13 – PSV Eindhoven (35 points; last: 14)

Quietly continuing to plug along at the top of the Dutch Eredivisie, where they maintain a consistent one-point advantage over Ajax. The defending Dutch champions also still have reasonable hope of advancing to the Champions League quarter-finals, though their 0-0 draw at home in the first leg with Atletico Madrid will not be easy to overcome.

T11 – Real Madrid (39 points; last: 9)

What a slide it has been of late for Real Madrid. Another battering of unequal opposition aside, in the 7-1 vicoty over Celta Vigo, the recent loss in the Madrid derby and a 1-1 draw with Malaga last month have all but obliterated their hopes of winning La Liga, though they remain a distinct threat to capture an 11th European Cup crown.

T11 – AS Roma (39 points; last: 18)

A case study in the effects of expectations. Here lie Roma, even with Real Madrid by our vote even though they will with near-certainty be knocked out by Real in the Champions League. Expectations – Real are floundering in their bid for a Spanish title while over in Serie A, Roma are surging with wins over Palermo, Empoli and Fiorentina in recent weeks by a 12-2 combined scoreline.

10 – Tottenham Hotspur (41 points; last: 7)

Missed a golden opportunity to take the Premier League title with two hands in a narrow loss at West Ham and the North London derby draw with Arsenal, but look at the bright side – they are still Leicester’s closest challengers, still have the English top flight’s best goal difference and still have a chance to prove their quality with their Europa League last 16 tie against Borussia Dortmund.

9 – Benfica (43 points; last: 13)

Europe’s most on-form team outside the ‘Big Five’ domestic competitions. They have finally taken hold of the Portuguese Primeira Liga lead, beating rivals Sporting Lisbon, and have won 15 of their last 16 matches across all competitions, with a 1-0 edge to progress past Zenit St Petersburg in the Champions League last 16 as well.

8 – Napoli (51 points; last: 11)

Their once-strong position atop the Serie A table is long gone, after a loss to Juventus and draws with AC Milan and Fiorentina, and they wre knocked out of the Europa League by Villarreal. But! Even with all that, they are only three points off Juve for the scudetto race and they are now coming off a solid recovery in beating Chievo 3-1.

7 – Borussia Dortmund (54 points; last: 6)

It would have been great to see them put a real charge into the Bundesliga title race by beating Bayern Munich, but it remains nonetheless highly impressive that they are just five points off Pep Guardiola’s Bavarian side. They have been running through the rest of their domestic rivals and scored a nice takedown of FC Porto in the Europa League, setting them up for an enticing tie with Tottenham.

6 – Paris Saint-Germain (56 points; last: 4)

They are starting to lose interest in Ligue 1, it seems. with their first loss coming against Lyon followed immediately by an unimpressive goalless draw with Montpellier. It is hard to count it too much against them, though, as PSG continue to cruise to the league title with an insurmountable lead already built, their easing into the Coupe de France semi-finals 3-1 past Saint-Etienne and an advantageous position to advance past Chelsea into the Champions League quarter-finals.

5 – Atletico Madrid (57 points; last: 8)

Their first-leg Champions League last 16 0-0 draw with PSV Eindhoven away is credible enough, and they followed it with a statement away win in the Madrid derby and a 6-1 combined scoreline against Real Sociedad and Valencia in their last two La Liga matches. Still a formidable contender to lift the European Cup, even if it is too much now to think they could catch Barcelona for the Spanish title.

4 – Leicester City (64 points; last: 12)

No more denying it – these are your presumptive favourites to win the Premier League. Against all expectations, Leicester have not slowed in their chase for the unlikeliest of championships, and the remainder of their schedule leaves them with a clear path to claim the world’s most prestigious domestic honour. Yes, Leicester, the best team in England.

3 – Bayern Munich (71 points; last: 2)

They have a few dispiriting domestic results in their rearview mirror, including a stunning 2-1 loss at home to Mainz, and there is every chance Pep Guardiola’s dream of leading Bayern to the European Cup will be dashed by Juventus – all that acknowledged, they are still Bayern Munich, still should win Bundesliga and still should take care of the second leg with Juve at home in the Champinos League.

2 – Juventus (76 points; last: 3)

Made it to the Coppa Italia final, have a good shout to oust Bayern Munich in the Champions League and lead Serie A fairly commandingly after beating Napoli last month. After a season that started so very poorly for Juve, it is remarkable how last season’s European Cup finalists have turned things around.

1 – Barcelona (80 points; last: 1)

There could be no other. In five rounds of putting this together, not even one of our voters has had the gall to give any other club a first-place vote. En route to blasting Arsenal out of the Champions League, cruising toward another La Liga title and unbeaten since losing to Sevilla in October, Barca are the undisputed kings of Europe until any club can prove otherwise.

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