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 April.
The month of April lasts 30 days. Or 42.8% of Javi Gracia’s reign at Leeds United if you’re looking for an alternate measure of time.
For some, it was terrible month. Chelsea – for example – who scored as many own goals as they did real goals in the league during April 2023 (one, also the same number of managers they sacked). Others, like Newcastle – who scored 22 league goals in April, four more than anyone else in Europe’s top five leagues – enjoyed themselves a lot more.
But whose performances made a real impact to their Opta Power Rankings? It’s time to find out.
At the Top
Here’s how the top 20 looked at the end of April.
To be honest, there’s not much movement in our top 10, with Real Madrid (up two spots to fourth overall) the biggest movers inside that top group. Carlo Ancelotti’s side comfortably dispatched Chelsea across two games in the Champions League quarter-finals, and while the Blues are in total free-fall, they’re still a top-40 ranked team. For now, at least.
It’s in the chasing pack (11-20) where April really shook things around. Milan and Newcastle both jumped up seven places in our Power Rankings last month to sit comfortably within the top 20.
As mentioned, Newcastle ran riot in April, scoring more goals than anyone else across Europe’s top five leagues. They started the month with a 2-0 victory against ninth-ranked Manchester United, before smashing five past West Ham, six past Tottenham and four against Everton. The 22 Premier League goals they scored in April is only five fewer than Everton have scored all season and Champions League football next year looks like it’s on the cards.
Over on the continent, Milan set up a mouth-watering derby against rivals Inter in the semi-finals of the Champions League by overcoming fellow Serie A side Napoli in the quarters. The same Napoli who our model currently has as the third-best team in the world. And the same Napoli who Milan also pumped 4-0 away from home at the start of April. There’s nothing the Power Rankings like more than beating an excellent team in European competition, and Milan have surged up the rankings as a result.
Similarly, Xabi Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen are cruising along in Germany and jumped eight spots to 17th globally. Alonso has guided Bayer to the semi-finals of a European competition for the first time since 2001-02, when they were defeated by Real Madrid in the final of the Champions League. They’ll face José Mourinho’s Roma in the last four of the Europa League after besting Belgian side Royale Union Saint-Gilloise.
It was a bad month for Juventus who picked up just four points from 15 available in Serie A over April, scoring three goals across five matches in the league. Plus, they were dumped out of the Coppa Italia by Inter.
The race for the top four in Italy – well, second, third and fourth – is well and truly on, so this sticky patch of form has come at a bad time for the Old Lady. Progression against Sporting CP in the Europa League was perhaps the only bright spot for Massimiliano Allegri’s side, who slipped six places down to 18 in the rankings.
The Biggest Risers
Stepping outside of the top 20 clubs now, who had a month to remember?
The biggest risers inside our top 500 clubs were Swansea City. The Swans rose a whopping 236 places over April thanks a superb run of form. Only Sheffield United (18) won more points in the second tier than Swansea’s 17, and no Championship side scored more goals than their 14 in April. Swansea’s inconsistent form in the middle of the season proved their big stumbling block in their bid to earn a play-off place, but they are ending the season promisingly.
One side who have realised their hopes of promotion are Ipswich Town. The Blues sealed promotion to the Championship in style last weekend with a 6-0 win over Exeter City. With one game still to go in League One, there’s a chance Ipswich could overtake leaders Plymouth Argyle if the latter don’t win their final game. Regardless, Ipswich have guaranteed themselves Championship football for 2023-24 and could hit 100 goals and 100 points with a win over Fleetwood Town on Sunday. If they manage that, they’d become the first third-tier side to plunder a century of goals since MK Dons in 2014-15.
Ipswich have already scored 15 more goals this season than anyone else in the English Football League, and they added another 27 in April 2023. Yes, for those keeping track, that’s the same as Everton have scored in their entire Premier League campaign in 2022-23.
We journey back to the continent next to look at Dutch side Emmen, who are based in the province of Drenthe. The name Drenthe is said to mean “three lands”, but it was the land of the three points in April, with Emmen picking up vital victories against SC Heerenveen and Cambuur in their bid to survive their first season in the Eredivisie. Our supercomputer gives them a 48.3% of avoiding relegation altogether, while there’s a slightly bigger chance (51.5%) they end up in the relegation play-off.
To France next, where four of our top 10 risers reside: Auxerre (+52), Clermont (+47), Angers (+47) and Brest (+41).
First, a word about Clermont, who’ve won their last five games in a row and would top the table if the Ligue 1 standings were run for April only.
Auxerre would sit seventh in such a table, but the Opta Power Rankings give them credit for a battling draw at home to Lille (#46 in the world), while Brest went unbeaten last month.
Angers won just their third game of the entire season against Lille on 8 April. Presumably when you win 33% of your matches in a single month, the Power Rankings are duty bound to give you a healthy bump in the rankings.
While the bigger clubs don’t rise or fall in the rankings as dramatically as those lower down, their Opta Power Rating Score (measured out of 100) can.
The honour of the biggest rating risers in April belongs to Sevilla. A recent defeat at home to Girona put an end to their seven-game unbeaten run, the peak of which was undoubtedly their 3-0 victory over Manchester United in the second leg of the Europa League quarter-finals.
Sevilla’s love affair with that competition continues – since the competition’s rebranding in 2009-10, Sevilla have made the semi-final of the UEFA Europa League on more occasions than any other side (five). On each of the previous four occasions they’ve made the final four they’ve gone on to win the competition, so we might expect to see them back in this section again for May.
The Biggest Fallers
April’s not been fun for everyone, though. Championship sides Watford (-184) and Norwich City (-174) plummeted down the rankings, while Millwall (-110) also fell over 100 spots.
Watford, who were just one point outside a play-off spot as recently as March, stumbled hard in April, winning just one of their seven games in the month as a mid-table finish looms. Norwich have endured a similarly difficult run, and their final game against Blackpool would be a dead rubber if not for the emotional departure of club legend Teemu Pukki.
Despite falling in our Power Rankings, Millwall have maintained their position in the play-offs and a win against Blackburn Rovers on the final day will secure their spot. A 2-1 defeat to rock-bottom Wigan was not what the Lions would’ve wanted on MD43, and that was the first time they’d dropped out of the play-off spots for a month and a half.
Ajaccio (-107) continue to struggle in Ligue 1. They scored just two goals last month in France, and their barren run of form now extends to eight without a win. Only Sampdoria (20) have scored fewer goals than Ajaccio’s 22 over the course of 2022-23 in Europe’s top five leagues, while their terrible finishing in front of goal – they’ve underperformed their expected goals (xG) by 13.8 – can only be ‘bettered’ by Reims. Together with Troyes (-65) they look doomed.
Unsurprisingly, Chelsea (-4.33) fell the most over April in terms of their rating out of 100.
A lot has been written about the Blues, lots by us as well, but their April performance needs to be filed away in a folder entitled ‘Absolute Shocker’. Conor Gallagher’s deflected strike against Brighton served as the men’s team’s only contribution to Chelsea’s Goal of the Month competition for April. That solitary strike came from a staggering 7.3 xG generated, and if ever a stat summed up Chelsea’s total profligacy up front, it’s that no other side underperformed in front of goal as badly as that in April across Europe’s top five leagues.
For a cold, hard dose of reality, Chelsea are now nestled between Mainz and Wolfsburg in our global rankings.
Mainz and Wolfsburg have spent a combined €59.5m on players during 2022-23 season. Chelsea spent more than that on four separate players.
Bayern Munich lost top spot in the Power Rankings to Man City over the course of the month and their minor wobble has come at a really bad time. The Bavarians were outclassed by Pep Guardiola’s side across two legs in the Champions League, but domestically they’ve toiled too. A shock cup defeat to Freiburg saw them dumped out of the DFB Pokal, before a damaging home draw to Hoffenheim and an away defeat to Mainz means the Bundesliga title race is a lot tight than it should be.
Great for the neutrals, terrible for Thomas Tuchel.