Happy New Year everyone! While the Bundesliga teams are getting busy in their winter camps, the ball’s been rolling everywhere else as La Liga and Serie A both resumed play after a shortened holiday break. Having enjoyed our first taste of football in 2016, it’s time to look at the movers and shakers in our weekly Power Rankings. -- FOXSoccer.com's Alberto Moreno and Thomas Hautmann.
Serie A record: 11-5-2. // Next opponent: Travel to Frosinone (Sunday, 9 a.m. ET) // Takeaways: Midway through the Serie A season, only six points separate the top five in Italy’s top flight and among them, Napoli may be the most finely balanced side. In Gonzalo Higuain and Lorenzo Insigne, they have the most lethal attacking duo in the league, boasting 24 goals between them, while the back line has only conceded 14 times, tied for second-fewest in the league.
Getty ImagesMaurizio Lagana
Premier League record: 12-3-5. // Next opponent: Road trip to Norwich (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET) // Takeaways: It was a grueling spell of matches that included trips to Leicester and Watford, but City stayed hot on the Foxes’ heels and table-topping Arsenal over the holiday period. Yaya Toure appears to have re-discovered his form, scoring two fantastic goals in his last three games, and Manuel Pellegrini must have been delighted to see Sergio Aguero return to his side and promptly grab a precious winner at Watford.
Getty ImagesAlex Livesey
Premier League record: 11-7-2. // Next opponent: Visit Tottenham (Sunday 11 a.m. ET on FS1). // Takeaways: Although they’ve only managed to grab two points in their last three matches and lost the top spot to Arsenal in the Premier League, the Foxes are still holding their ground. Riyad Mahrez must be at his best, and Jamie Vardy on target if they wish to get a positive result against the in-form Spurs.
Serie A record: 11-3-4. // Next opponent: Battle Sampdoria (Sunday, 2:45 p.m. ET). // Takeaways: The four-time defending Scudetto winners picked up right where they left off before the holiday break, cruising to a 3-0 win over lowly Hellas Verona for their eighth consecutive victory in Serie A. Juventus have come quite a way since the early stages of the season, and now sit just three points behind leaders Inter. The Old Lady is on fire! Need we say more?
AFP/Getty ImagesMARCO BERTORELLO
La Liga record: 11-4-3. // Next opponent: Host Deportivo La Coruna (Saturday, 2:30 p.m. ET). // Takeaways: The managerial job at the Bernabeu isn’t an easy one, sure, but Rafa Benitez’s sacking coming off a 2-2 draw at Valencia seems quite impetuous. Trailing Atletico by only four points and with a relatively easy schedule on the horizon, one has to wonder if Benitez should have been given more of a leash. Either way, all eyes will be on new coach Zinedine Zidane this weekend.
AFP/Getty ImagesGERARD JULIEN
La Liga record: 13-2-3. // Next opponent: Face Celta Vigo on the road (Sunday, 1:30 p.m. ET). // Takeaways: Between Barcelona and Real Madrid’s recent slip-ups, Diego Simeone’s outfit has relied on late goals in their last two fixtures to help squeak out last-gasp wins and climb atop La Liga. It may not be via the dazzling interchanges between Messi-Suarez-Neymar or the one-two punch of Ronaldo and Benzema, but Los Colchoneros are finding a way to better their Spanish rivals.
Getty ImagesDenis Doyle
Ligue 1 record: 17-3-0. // Next opponent: Welcome Olympique Lyonnais to Parc de Princes (Wednesday, 3:30 p.m. ET). // Takeaways: The Parisians have remained steadfast in their excellent form, and the results speak for themselves. Having acquired fifty-four points out of a possible sixty, the defending Ligue 1 champs are unbeaten in 20 matches and look to extend their home winning streak to eight games next Wednesday against Lyon.
AFP/Getty ImagesPHILIPPE HUGUEN
Premier League record: 13-3-4. // Next opponent: Host Sunderland (Saturday, 9:55.am. ET on FS1). // Takeaways: The Gunners have responded to the blowout loss to Southampton on Boxing Day as a Premier League title challenger should - with a comfortable victory over Bournemouth and a grueling, statement win against Newcastle. With half a season left to play, Arsene Wenger’s side is in pole position atop the table. Can they finish the job this time?
Arsenal FC via Getty ImagesStuart MacFarlane
Bundesliga record: 16-1-1. // Next opponent: Open 2016 at Hamburg (Jan. 22, 2:30 p.m. ET) // Takeaways: As Bayern get set for January camp in Dubai, two youngsters with little hope for playing time have jumped ship: highly-touted German talent Sinan Kurt moved to Hertha Berlin, while big but disappointing defender Jan Kirchhoff headed to Sunderland. No additions to the squad are expected before Bayern kick off the Bundesliga Rueckrunde with a trip to Hamburg in two weeks.
Bongarts/Getty ImagesLars Baron
La Liga record: 12-3-2. // Next opponent: Lock horns vs. Granada (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET). // Takeaways: Though Barcelona slipped behind Atletico Madrid in the La Liga race (albeit with a game in hand), Luis Enrique’s men had no problem in the first leg of their intra-city Copa del Rey tie against Espanyol, as Messi scored twice to continue his Messi-esque run (9 goals in 9 games). With three draws from their last five games (all comps), however, Barca’s grip on our Number 1 spot has loosened just a bit.