Juventus, Milan Rise; Chelsea, Newcastle Fall in our Opta Power Rankings
Using the Opta Power Rankings we’re able to judge which of Europe’s biggest clubs enjoyed a good month and which of those had one to forget. Or in other words, who’s hot and who’s not. Here, we look at the highest risers and fallers across the last month.
February gets a lot of hate. For large swathes of the northern hemisphere it’s cold, dark, wet and not quite spring yet. And while we’ll get onto those clubs who’ll be glad to see the back of it, let’s first tackle those teams who didn’t want it to end.
The Biggest Risers
It may have taken them until the last day of February, but Cremonese have now finally won a league game this season, and against José Mourinho’s Roma no less! Victory not only pulled Cremonese off the bottom of the table, but it now means that every single team in Europe’s top five leagues have won a league game in 2022-23.
The Serie A minnows also enjoyed an exceptional Coppa Italia quarter-final win away at Roma earlier in the month to reach the semi-finals of the competition for the first time since 1987. They’re the biggest risers, moving up 128 places.
Blackburn Rovers win over Leicester City in the FA Cup capped off a great month for the Lancashire side. With their 2-1 victory at the King Power stadium on Tuesday, Rovers qualified for the FA Cup quarter-finals for the first time since 2014-15, and their win was the first time they’d beaten Premier League opposition since a 4-1 win against Stoke in February 2015, losing four and drawing two such games since then. Their win alone against Leicester saw them jump 59 places in our rankings.
Jon Dahl Tomasson’s side were unbeaten in all competitions in the month of February and have now won four on the bounce. They are hitting form at just the right time and are firmly in the play-off hunt.
Gil Vicente also went unbeaten in February and pulled off a giant killing earlier this week, beating Portuguese titans Porto 2-1 at Estádio Do Dragão (we’ll ignore the fact that Porto had nine men for over a third of the match). It was a hammer blow for Porto in their efforts to keep pace with Benfica at the summit of Liga Portugal, and Sergio Conceicao’s side are now eight points off the leaders.
Despite losing 3-0 at home to Manchester City in the FA Cup – which won’t harm their overall rank given the disparity in strength between the two teams – Bristol City still enjoyed a very solid month in the Championship. They were just one of just three sides (Blackburn and Burnley) to remain unbeaten in the league in February. And only one side (Burnley – two) concede fewer goals than their three.
Elsewhere, Sampdoria rose 38 spots in the rankings. Despite sitting rock bottom of Serie A, they picked up a surprise 0-0 draw at home to Inter – a side who sit 226 positions above them in the rankings.
Focusing on just the top 50 teams for a moment, February was an excellent month for both Juventus (+14 spots) and AC Milan (+11).
Juventus – who are now ranked 13th in the world – played a lot of football in February, seven games in all. They won all but one of those, and a 3-0 away win against Nantes saw them progress to the last 16 of the Europa League. Should they get past Freiburg, and if Manchester United best Real Betis, then the two will meet in a quarter-final matchup brimming with European royalty.
Victories over Atalanta (rank 36) and Tottenham (rank 18) were big scalps for Milan. In fact, they leapfrogged Spurs in the global rankings after their 1-0 win in first leg of their last 16 Champions League tie.
The Biggest Fallers
Over in France, it’s been a bad month for Troyes who fell 90 places. The French side have now gone nine games without a win in all competitions, in a run that stretches back to 2 January. They’ve lost five in a row and that terrible run of form has seen them sink to 19th place in Ligue 1.
With 55 goals conceded in Ligue 1 this season, Troyes have the leakiest defence. They shipped 14 goals in February, three more than any other team in Europe’s top five leagues.
Luton Town fell 89 places in February. The Hatters have won just once in their last five championship games and have hit a sticky patch at just the wrong time. But the main reason for this fall was their 3-0 defeat to League Two club Grimsby Town on 7 February in the FA Cup. At the time of the match, Grimsby were ranked 3,140th in the Opta Power Rankings; 2,825 places below Rob Edwards’ side – a big cup shock as it was, but to lose by a three-goal margin damaged Luton’s ranking even more.
Only Elche (nine) have picked up fewer points in 2022-23 across the top five European leagues than beleaguered Angers. They last won a Ligue 1 game in September 2022, and our Opta season-long predictor gives them a 97% of finishing bottom. It seems pretty cut and dry that they’ll be playing Ligue 2 football next year.
Four Championship sides who endured a tricky month were West Bromwich Albion, Norwich City, Watford and Sunderland. Ironically enough, the latter three of those occupy spots 7-9 in the Championship with WBA currently in sitting in 11th. Misery loves company.
The clubs at the very top of the rankings don’t get spared either. While the biggest clubs don’t rise or fall in the rankings as dramatically as those lower down, their Opta Power Ranking Score (measured out of 100) can.
Of the top-ranked 400 European clubs today, only two had a worse month than Chelsea based on the decrease in their ranking score (-2.39). It fell from 92.02 (enough for 12th in the world) at the start of the month to 89.63 (21st) now. The Blues have won just one game in 2023 in all competitions (P11 W1 D4 L6) and the end is surely nigh for Graham Potter.
Newcastle’s ranking score decrease (-2.32) was the fourth worst. The Magpies didn’t win any of their four games in February and this marks the first month that Newcastle didn’t win a competitive game since November 2021. A downturn was bound to happen given the consistency of Eddie Howe’s selections (nine players have started 20 or more of their 23 league games), but with key players returning to the fore, Newcastle have the players they need to move back up the table.
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