Just missing the cut: Napoli dropped a shocker at Bologna a week after taking the Serie A summit with a win against Inter, falling back to third place as a result. Manchester United tumbled back out of our top ten after falling on their collective faces in Wolfsburg and missing out on the Champions League knockout stage. Borussia Mönchengladbach handed Bayern their first Bundesliga loss of the season, but couldn’t protect a first-half lead at Man City in mid-week to end their European adventure.
Lars Baron (Bongarts)
Serie A record: 10-3-2. // Upcoming match: At Udinese (Saturday, 2:45 p.m. ET). // Last week: Not ranked. // Reasoning: Inter used Napoli’s slip-up to reclaim the Serie A summit with a 1-0 win over Genoa. Eight of their ten wins this season have come by that scoreline, a testament to Inter’s defensive prowess and poise in close games.
Getty ImagesClaudio Villa - Inter
Premier League record: 9-3-3. // Upcoming match: Travel to Aston Villa (Sunday, 8:30 a.m. ET). // Last week: Not ranked. // Reasoning: The Gunners needed a borderline miracle at Olympiakos on Wednesday and got one, winning 3-0 on a Olivier Giroud hat trick to extend their Champions League knockout stage streak to 16 consecutive seasons -- three shy of Real Madrid’s record. Up next, a trip to last-place Aston Villa shouldn’t scare anyone, but this Premier League season has been a strange one.
Bundesliga record: 11-2-2. // Upcoming match: Face Eintracht Frankfurt (Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET). // Last week: Ranked sixth. // Reasoning: Dortmund may have lost three of its last five, but the weekend’s dramatic win at Wolfsburg allowed BVB to separate from the pack as Bayern’s only true challenger, trailing the league leaders by “only” five points. Losing its final two Europa League games makes Dortmund the team every group winner will want to avoid on Monday’s draw.
Borussia Dortmund/Getty ImagesAlexandre Simoes
Premier League record: 9-2-4. // Upcoming match: Host Swansea (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET). // Last week: Ranked fourth. // Reasoning: After getting upset at Stoke over the weekend, City were staring at another defeat at home to Mönchengladbach in the Champions League before Raheem Sterling’s second-half birthday brace helped them to a comeback win and first place in the group. As a result, a kind Round of 16 draw should await for Manuel Pellegrini’s team … though we wouldn’t at all be surprised if they get PSG. Again.
Getty ImagesLaurence Griffiths
Premier League record: 9-5-1. // Upcoming match: Host Chelsea (Monday, 3 p.m. ET). // Last week: Ranked ninth. // Reasoning: The Foxes aren’t just a cute story anymore. They’re a real story. Alone in first place 15 games into the season, Leicester have to be considered a bonafide contender for a top-four finish -- at the very least. Whether they can aim higher will depend a lot on how they fare in the next four games: Home bouts vs. Chelsea and Man City bookend back-to-back trips to Merseyside.
AFP/Getty ImagesGEOFF CADDICK
La Liga record: 10-2-2. // Upcoming match: Battle Bilbao (Saturday, 12:15 p.m. ET). // Last week: Ranked seventh. // Reasoning: While Barcelona, Real Madrid and Valencia have stolen much of the limelight, Atleti have quietly won week-in, week-out. They’ve taken 20 out of a possible 24 points since losing to Villarreal in late September. With a commitment to defense and hitting opponents on the counter, Diego Simeone’s side is looking more like the team that won La Liga two seasons ago.
AFP/Getty ImagesJORGE GUERRERO
La Liga record: 9-3-2. // Upcoming match: Travel to Villarreal (Sunday, 2:30 p.m. ET). // Last week: Ranked fifth. Reasoning: Coming off a controversial week in which they were thrown out of the Copa del Rey, Los Blancos responded with 12 goals in their next two games, ten of which came from Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo. Having clinched top spot in their Champions League group and trailing Barcelona by just four points now in La Liga, all is still well (sort of) in Madrid.
Real Madrid via Getty ImagesHelios de la Rubia
Ligue 1 record: 14-3-0. // Upcoming match: Host Lyon (Sunday, 3 p.m. ET). // Last week: Ranked third. // Reasoning: Since a 1-0 defeat to Real Madrid in Champions League group play last month, the Parisians have scored 21 times and conceded just twice in seven games (all comps.). Zlatan Ibrahimovic became the club’s all-time leading Ligue 1 scorer last week, and is a big reason why PSG have already built up a 15-point lead on second place.
Getty ImagesJean Catuffe
Bundesliga record: 13-1-1. // Upcoming match: Host Ingolstadt (Saturday, 9:30 a.m. ET). // Last week: Ranked second. // Reasoning: Pep Guardiola’s team lost a Bundesliga match for the first time this season, getting overrun by a bold, aggressive Mönchengladbach side that refused to back down like most of Bayern’s opponents. Dortmund’s win at Wolfsburg meanwhile shrunk Bayern’s league lead to five points, though you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone picking them to slip up again before the winter break.
AFP/Getty ImagesANDREJ ISAKOVIC
La Liga record: 11-1-2. // Upcoming match: Host Deportivo (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET). // Last week: Ranked first. // Reasoning: Valencia became only the third team (Celta de Vigo, Sevilla) to take points from Barca in La Liga this season, before Leverkusen also managed a draw in the Champions League. With the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan to come, Luis Enrique began rotating out some of his stars, and the intensity we’re accustomed to seeing from Blaugrana was missing this past week.