Using the Opta Power Rankings, we’re able to judge which of Europe’s biggest clubs enjoyed a good month and which 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 month of March.
A lot can happen in a month. Heck, in the space of just 16 days, the Premier League said goodbye to four permanent managers in Patrick Viera (Crystal Palace), Antonio Conte (Tottenham), Brendan Rodgers (Leicester) and Graham Potter (Chelsea). Time stands still for no one. And especially not for our Opta Power Rankings, a model that is constantly updating based on football results around the entire world in a valiant attempt to rank some 13,500+ teams into a giant league table.
Go on then, let’s get to it. Who were the biggest winners and losers from March?
At the Top
Here’s how the current top 20 looks at the start of April.
As if we needed any more reason to salivate over a Manchester City vs. Bayern Munich Champions League quarter-final, that tie will see the top two clubs in the world slug it out. Napoli – who are our third-favourites to win the competition – sit resplendent in third.
Ironically, it’s Chelsea (+5) who were the biggest risers inside the top 20 during March. They actually had a solid month results-wise, going unbeaten through the whole of March (W3 D1), but the power rankings particularly liked their 2-0 win over top-10 side Borussia Dortmund. Chelsea’s dismal 2-0 defeat to Aston Villa, and Potter’s subsequent sacking, are not reflected in the above rankings, so do check back next month to see how that influences their rating.
Elsewhere, Brighton (+4) and Arsenal (+3) are strong risers with both clubs enjoying excellent domestic form. Arsenal crammed six games into March and despite their disappointing exit in the Europa League to Sporting CP, continued their fine form at the Premier League summit. Brighton went unbeaten in March and are now up to sixth in the Premier League table. They’re playing some scintillating football under Roberto De Zerbi and although the power rankings don’t dish out style points, they really should. We’ll have a word.
Benfica (+3) and Juventus (+3) are both up three spots after dealing with their European knock-out encounters against Club Brugge and Freiburg with consummate ease. The Portuguese giants are actually on an eight-game winning streak in all competitions that stretches back to mid-February. That’ll do it.
Milan (-7) had a really tough March, failing to win any of their four matches. They’ll hope their surprise 4-0 victory against Napoli at the weekend (which, again, falls outside of March’s rankings) gives them a psychological edge over the Naples side when they face off in the Champions League later this month.
RB Leipzig (-3) also dropped a few spots down to 13th overall. What happened to them in March? Ah, right, yes – they conceded seven away to Manchester City. We’ve all been there.
The Biggest Risers
Stepping outside of the top 20 clubs now, who had a month to remember?
MLS started at the back end of February and we’re now six games into the campaign. Expansion club St. Louis City (+267) are off to a rapid start in the MLS Western Conference and are top of the league with 15 points from those opening six games, including winning all four in March. Similarly, FC Cincinnati (+177) – who top the MLS Eastern Conference – climb up the rankings.
But it’s in the Championship where European teams are making serious strides. Stoke City are up 187 places thanks to an unbeaten March. The Potters enjoyed wins against Sunderland and Blackburn, before holding Middlesbrough to a 1-1 draw away from home. Ranked 425th in the world, Alex Neil’s side are now nestled in between Melbourne City and Ajaccio in the global rankings. We know where we’d prefer to go on holiday, but still.
Luton Town (+120) were among our fallers in February, but they’ve bounced back strongly in March. The Hatters are unbeaten in their last seven games and picked up 10 points from their four games in March. No one else in the Championship (Middlesbrough also 10) picked up more points last month than Rob Edwards’ men, who are now in prime play-off position. We broke down the data on how Edwards has managed to achieve this despite a shoe-string budget last month.
In fact, if you looked at just the results of each Championship side across the last five games, the table reads:
- Stoke City
- Preston North End
Each club is hitting form at just the right time, and it’s no surprise they’ve moved up our global power rankings as a result.
On the continent, Anderlecht enjoyed a stellar March as well, the highlight of which was undoubtedly progressing over two legs in the Europa Conference League against Villarreal. Nothing gets the power rankings model going more than beating a higher-ranked team from a higher-ranked league and with Villarreal ranked 45ththe world vs. Anderlecht’s 107 ranking, it loved it. The Belgian side play Dutch side AZ Alkmaar in the quarter-finals. The winner of that tie could face West Ham, should they progress against Gent.
The Biggest Fallers
Two Turkish clubs in Sivasspor (-75) and Istanbul Başakşehir (-44) are among the biggest fallers in March. Sivasspor lost four of their five games in March, including both legs of their Europa Conference League quarter-final against Fiorentina, while Istanbul Başakşehir – who won the Turkish Super Lig as recently as 2019-20 – have dropped to sixth in the table as poor form has bitten. They too were dumped out of the European Conference league in March by Gent, including a 4-1 defeat at home in the second leg.
Sunderland were among the fallers in February, and they appear once again on the list this month. They were in the Championship play-off positions as recently as 18 February but the wheels have really come off since then. The Black Cats have won just one game in their last eight and are winless in their last three across a nasty patch of form that’s seem them slip to 12th in the Championship.
Ajaccio of Ligue 1 look set to be a Ligue 2 team next season. They currently occupy 19th spot in the table and are five points off safety. The fact that four teams get relegated from the French top flight this year makes their predicament even more dicey. They’ve lost their last four games on the bounce and our season-long predictor model gives them just a 1.8% chance of avoiding the drop. So while Corsica might be a better holiday destination than Stoke, who’s laughing now?
In the Southern Hemisphere, Boca Juniors (-32) have made a poor start to their title defence in Argentina, winning just once in the league during March. Arch-rivals River, currently sit top after nine games with 21 points.
It’s then in Spain where our next fallers come from, with Espanyol (-29), Osasuna (-24) and Mallorca (-24) enduring sticky months. Espanyol will be most concerned with their poor run of form though, as four consecutive defeats have dragged them into the relegation zone for just the second time this season. The supercomputer gives them over a 50% chance (51.5%) of relegation in 2022-23.