Zinedine Zidane celebrated a perfect coaching debut at Real Madrid, Barcelona enjoyed a week to remember, and most of the rest of our top ten also took care of business this week. As such, there was little movement in our rankings, but take a look at where things stand as we enter another compelling weekend of games. -- FOXSoccer.com's Thomas Hautmann and Danny Michallik.
Getty ImagesDenis Doyle
Just missing the cut
Reasoning: Though Villarreal were knocked out of the Copa del Rey this week, their league form is sensational. After six straight wins, including victories over Real Madrid and Valencia, the Yellow Submarine has quietly snuck into the La Liga title race. Thanks to a stout defense and buoyed by the return of playmaker Dimitri Payet, West Ham have won three in a row, are just one point out of the Premier League top four spot and, believe it or not, haven’t lost a game since Nov. 22. It’s true. Look it up!
Getty ImagesManuel Queimadelos Alonso
Premier League record: 12-4-5. // Next opponent: vs. Crystal Palace (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET) // Reasoning: Wednesday’s disappointing 0-0 draw against Everton was the first time City were held goalless at home this season, but the offense has been sputtering for a few weeks now. Despite the return of Sergio Aguero, the Sky Blues have just six goals in their past five games.
Getty ImagesIan Walton
Serie A record: 12-5-2. // Next opponent: vs. Sassuolo (Saturday, 2:45 p.m. ET) // Reasoning: The Serie A leaders have Juventus breathing down their necks, but Napoli are chugging right along, taking apart promoted Frosinone 5-1 on the road behind a Gonzalo Higuain double. The Ciucciarelli now have 13 goals in their past four games, all wins, and are heating up just in time for a showdown with Inter next weekend.
Getty ImagesGiuseppe Bellini
Premier League record: 12-7-2. // Next opponent: at Aston Villa (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET) // Reasoning: Leicester came out of its toughest, congested six-game stretch in the Premier League this season -- games vs. Chelsea, Manchester City, Bournemouth and at Everton, Liverpool and Tottenham -- with three wins, two draws and just one loss. Their reward? Joint-top of the league. No, the Foxes aren’t going away, folks.
Getty ImagesDan Mullan
Serie A record: 12-3-4. // Next opponent: at Udinese (Sunday, 9 a.m. ET) // Reasoning: We’re starting to sound like a broken record, but Juve’s turnaround this season has been stunning. After 10 games, the Old Lady was locked in 12th place. Nine matches and nine wins later, Massimiliano Allegri’s group lies just two points behind leaders Napoli, and boasts the longest winning streak across the top 5 European leagues.
AFP/Getty ImagesMARCO BERTORELLO
La Liga record: 12-4-3. // Next opponent: vs. Sporting Gijon (Sunday, 10 a.m. ET) // Reasoning: The Zinedine Zidane era couldn’t have gotten off to a better start as Real crushed Deportivo La Coruna, 5-0, while fans flocked to buy the reinstated No. 5 Zidane kits around the Bernabeu grounds. The question now, of course, is how long the honeymoon will last. A hunch: It will last at least through this weekend.
Real Madrid via Getty ImagesHelios de la Rubia
La Liga record: 14-2-3. // Next opponent: at Las Palmas (Sunday, 12:15 p.m. ET) // Reasoning: Atletico comfortably beat Rayo on Thursday to reach the Copa del Rey quarterfinals and Los Colchoneros are pressing on in La Liga, as well. Diego Simeone’s side has conceded a league-low eight goals -- nearly half as many as the next-best side (Barcelona, 15 GA). They continue to lead the La Liga race on account of Barcelona having played one less game.
AFP/Getty ImagesJAVIER SORIANO
Premier League record: 13-4-4. // Next opponent: at Stoke (Sunday, 11:15a.m. ET) // Reasoning: The Gunners survived an early scare from Sunderland to progress to the fourth round of the FA Cup, then played out a thrilling 3-3 draw against Liverpool on Wednesday. Though Joe Allen’s last-gasp equalizer denied Arsenal a big road win, they’ll be encouraged by the form of Olivier Giroud, who scored a brace at Anfield to give him nine goals from his last nine games.
Arsenal FC via Getty ImagesStuart MacFarlane
Ligue 1 record: 17-3-0. // Next opponent: at Toulouse (Saturday, 11a.m. ET) // Reasoning: Since PSG last dropped a point in Ligue 1 play -- a 0-0 draw at second-place Angers -- Laurent Blanc’s men have reeled off eight straight wins in all competitions, outscoring opponents 19-2. Well on pace for a second consecutive domestic treble, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the only teams capable of challenging PSG lie outside of France.
Getty ImagesJean Catuffe
Bundesliga record: 16-1-1. // Next opponent: at Hamburg (Jan. 22, 2:30p.m. ET). // Reasoning: The big positive coming out of Bayern’s January camp in Dubai, which they wrapped this week, is that several key stars are on the mend from injury. Arjen Robben and David Alaba were back practicing fully with the team, while Mario Goetze has been working with the ball again for the first time since October.
Bongarts/Getty ImagesLars Baron
La Liga record: 13-3-2. // Next opponent: vs Athletic Bilbao (Sunday, 2:30p.m. ET) // Reasoning: Barca had little trouble with either Granada at the weekend (4-0 win) or Espanyol in the second leg of their Copa del Rey tie (2-0 win). Messi’s triumph at the Ballon d’Or gala for a record fifth time provided the icing on the cake. A sterner test is expected this weekend as Bilbao come to the Camp Nou.