As the qualifying stages of the Champions League and the new Europa League are already on their way, with the second legs of the current rounds taking place tomorrow, we take a glance the UEFA coefficient club rankings, and check out who are the best clubs in Europe in the past five seasons. The ranking, just so you know, is determined by the results of the clubs in the European competitions and also is determined by the nation of the club coefficient – 33% of the nations coefficient score + what the club has scored in the last five seasons.
Number 10 – Olympique Lyonnais, France
It’s weird going into a season and not have Lyon start another attempt to defend their title. After a complete domination of Ligue 1 since 2001, last year Lyon were dethroned by Bordeaux, and actually finished third, behind Marseille at second, meaning Lyon will have to play a qualifier to get into the Champions League. A very new situation for the team that one seven straight league titles. It’ll be strange without Benzema and Juninho as well.
The last five years for Lyon were all in the Champions League, but the team never got passed the quarter finals. They reached them in 2005 (lost to PSV in Penalties) and in 2006 (lost to AC Milan). Last three seasons have all ended in the round of 16, with the last two years losing to the eventual champions – 2008 to Manchester United and last season to Barcelona.
The team has certainly been busy in the transfer market this season, with Lisandro Lopez and Michel Bastos being the main arrivals. It just may be enough to recapture the French title, but it won’t get them very far in the Champions League – another round of 16 exit if you ask me.
Number 9 – Werder Bremen, Germany
Bremen were lucky to win the German Cup, the DFB Pokal, and managed to clinch a European spot for 2009-2010, cause last season everything came tumbling down, like in the Nick Cave song. Bremen finished 10th in the league, the club’s worst finish under Thomas Schaaf. The team however did manage to reach the UEFA Cup final, losing to Shakhtar Donetsk 2-1 in extra time.
Werder were consistent members of the Champions League in the last five years, but never made it further than the round of 16, with their 2004-2005 meeting with Lyon, ending in a humiliating 10-2 aggregate exit, being the most memorable. In 2006-2007 they reached the UEFA Cup Semi Final, losing to Espanyol. The team did sell it’s best player in the summer to Juventus – the Brazilian play maker Diego and had Pizarro return to Chelsea after his loan ended. With the few players that they have obtained since, I find it hard to believe they’ll make a deep run in the Europa league in in the Bundesliga next season.
Number 8 – Bayern Munich, Germany
Not a very impressive five year run for the Bavarian giants, who did win three league titles in the last five years, nothing new in the domestic domination part, but didn’t do anything impressive by their standards in Europe. The team didn’t even play in the Champions League in 2007-2008, reaching the semi finals of the UEFA cup but were eliminated by Zenit St. Petersburg. Last year they were crushed by Barcelona in the Champions League quarter finals.
Bayern missed out on the title last year, but have added a lot of fire power, including Ivica Olic and Mario Gomez and are still holding on to their best player, Frank Ribery. I believe they’ll get back the league title, but don’t see them advancing past the Champions League quarter finals.
Number 7 – Sevilla FC, Spain
The only team on this list besides the number one team, which also comes from Spain, to win two European trophies in the last five years – two consecutive UEFA cups in 2006 and 2007. In 2006 it was a 4-0 win over Middlesbrough, who have since been relegated from the English Premiership at Eindhoven, and in 2007 it was a penalty kicks triumph over another Spanish club, Espanyol. The two trophies were Sevilla’s first silverware additions to the club house since 1948. The team managed only one Champions League appearance, in 2007-2008, losing to Arsenal in the round of 16.
Sevilla’s only addition in the off season so far has been Didier Zokora from Tottenham – Sevilla will make another run for places 3-6 in Spain but also won’t make it very far in the Champion League, I’m not sure they’ll even qualify from their group. Maybe a run in the Europa League later on is in their cards.
Number 6 – Arsenal F.C. , England
The first English club in the Top 10, one of four, the biggest national representation, showing the dominance of the English team in the last five years. Their best performance outside the league, which hasn’t been very good to the gunners in recent years (no league title since 2004), was the 2006 Champions League Final. On the way Arsenal were able to knock out Real Madrid and Juventus, including becoming the first British side to beat Real in the Bernabeu and not conceding a goal for ten consecutive games. Then came the final, and despite leading 1-0 most of the game, their 10 men weren’t enough for Barcelona and they lost 2-1. This was Arsenal’s only Champions league final ever.
After a disappointing fourth place finish last year and a Champions League semi final exit against Manchester United, Arsenal aren’t looking like they’re going to make a whole lot of improvements this year. Thomas Vermaelen is the only new signing, with Adebayor off to Manchester City. No title for Wenger again this year, maybe they can surprise in Europe. With a comfortable draw, Arsenal can repeat last year’s semi final.
Number 5 – A.C. Milan, Italy
The only Italian club in the top 10, with Roma at 14 being the next in line. Very bad for the league that was the best in Europe from the late 80’s till 2000, but has since become the second, third and many say it’s fourth now behind England, Spain and Germany. Milan have reached two Champions League finals, in 2005 and 2007, both against Liverpool. In 2005 it was the classic 3-3, with Liverpool coming back from 3-0 down at halftime, winning the penalty shoot out. In 2007 it was Milan’s revenge, winning their seventh Champions League/Cup title and their second in the last decade.
In the last two seasons the aging club hasn’t been able to achieve great success, with a round of 16 loss to Arsenal in 2008 and not even making the Champion League in 2009, losing to Werder Bremen in the UEFA Cup. Milan sold Kaka to Real Madrid, but despite reported interests and links to almost every striker in the continent, haven’t made a big name purchase. The league won’t be their again (2004 last league title) and the Champions League won’t see them get very far.
Number 4 – Manchester United, England
Finalists in the last two seasons? Fourth? Well, don’t forget about 2005 and 2006. Manchester United did win the Champions Leauge in 2008, beating Chelsea after a penalty shoot out with Moscow entertaining the all English final. United did reach the final in 2009, but lost as they were outplayed, witted and classed by Barcelona’s Xavi and Iniesta.
But in 2005 they were knocked out by Milan in the round of 16 and in 2006 they didn’t even make it out of the group stage. 2007 was another loss to Milan, this time in the semi final.
United have sold Cristiano Ronaldo to Real and have made several purchases (Valencia, Owen, Obertan) although none as high profile players as Ronaldo. They are still favorites to win the league title this year, but it’ll be closer than last season, much closer. Champions League? Europe is easier for the English teams than the domestic league is. They can go all the way there too.
Number 3 – Liverpool F.C. , England
It’s been interesting since Rafa Benitez took the helm at Anfield in the summer of 2004. No, they still are without a league title since 1990. But Liverpool are once again a European Powerhouse, threatening to go all the way in the Champions League every year, and after last year’s title challenge and second place finish, are prime contenders to break their 20 year league drought.
2005 Saw the Reds lift their first Champions League trophy since 1984 with that amazing final against Milan, coming back from 3-0 down in Istanbul and winning the penalty shoot out. 2007 – Same rivals, different outcome, Milan won 2-1. Liverpool reached the semi final in 2008 but lost to Chelsea, and again to Chelsea, this time in the quarter final, last year, with the 4-4 second leg match still lingering in fans minds.
Liverpool haven’t bolstered their attack but the back, purchasing Glen Johnson from Portsmouth. How far will they get this year? Champions League, you can never know. Premiership? If Gerrard and Torres remain healthy throughout the season, there’s not a bad chance Liverpool will win their first Premiership title.
Number 2 – Chelsea F.C. , England
The best English club in European competitions the last five years. They haven’t won the Champions League, but they have reached the semi final in four of the last five years (2006 is the only glitch) and were only a penalty away from winning it in 2008, losing to Manchester United in a rainy Moscow final. Chelsea and Liverpool have met four times in the last five years – twice Liverpool beating the blues (2005, 2007) and Chelsea winning in the last two (2008, 2009). So far, whoever hosts the second leg always makes it to the next stage.
Chelsea finished third last season in the league and were dramatically beaten by Barcelona with that Andres Iniesta injury time goal. They will make a challenge for both league and Europe titles again, and don’t be surprised seeing them in contention for both in late April and early May, despite Yuri Zhirkov being the only new big signing.
Number 1 – FC Barcelona, Spain
Although the Premiership is the best league in Europe, the best teams comes from Spain, or Catalonia to be more specific. The only team to win two Champions League finals in the last five years – one in 2006, coming back from 1-0 down against Arsenal to win 2-1 and the second last year, a 2-0 victory over Manchester United. Barcelona finished their Champions Leauge season against English team every time since 2005. Beating United and Arsenal in the finals, a 2005 exit against Chelsea, a 2007 exit against Liverpool and against United in 2008.
2009-2010 for the treble winners? A huge, epic, colossal title battle against the Galacticos from Madrid, with Ibrahimovic on the verge of signing for Barcelona in the Eto’o deal, and same goes for the Champions League – it’s going to be super hard, but they can retain the title, being the first team to do so since Milan in 1989-1990.