The Opta Power Rankings provide us with a scientific way to directly compare teams across leagues all over the world. Let’s examine how much they’ve changed since the start of the season.

A lot can happen in eight months. Just ask your parents.

In the world of football, eight months is an eon. The status quo can be flipped, rebuilt and flipped all over again. And looking at the Opta Power Rankings over time can be nice way to capture some of those shifting fortunes.

As a quick reminder, the Opta Power Rankings are a ranking system that assigns a score on a scale between zero (the worst team in the world) and 100 (Manchester City) to rate 13,000 teams against each other. These scores are then adjusted over time based on team form.

Let’s journey back to the start of the season, when we were all bright-eyed and bushy tailed.

Here’s how the top 10 looked back then:

Opta Power Rankings top 10 at start of 2023-24 season
As of 23 April 2024

Of those 10, seven have held their positions in the top 10. That means three of them have not.

RB Leipzig have only just slipped out of the top 10, dropping four positions into 11th.

Marco Rose’s side are currently fourth in Germany and occupy the final Champions League qualification spot (although it does look increasingly likely that fifth will also qualify). Perhaps the highlight of their season came in their very first competitive match, a 3-0 win over Bayern Munich in the DFL-Supercup.

However, for Napoli and Manchester United, things have taken a far more drastic turn.

Napoli, fresh off the back of their first Serie A title in over 30 years, were as high as fifth in the world at the start of the season.

Since then, though, it’s safe to say the defence of their crown has not gone as planned. Napoli currently sit in eighth place in Serie A; they were knocked out in the last 16 of both the Coppa Italia and Champions League; and are on their third manager of the season. They’ve dropped 24 spots in the rankings down to 29th in the world.

Ahead of this season, there was cause for genuine optimism at Manchester United. They’d finished strongly in Erik ten Hag’s first season at the club, qualifying for the Champions League in the process and had reached both domestic cup finals. Victory over Newcastle in the EFL Cup final had brought them their first competitive trophy since winning the UEFA Europa League in 2017.

But in 2023-24, things have gone horribly wrong and their close call in the FA Cup semi-final against Coventry was the latest in a litany of embarrassing moments they’ve suffered during the campaign.

United are now ranked 28th in the world according to the Opta Power Rankings. It’s not the lowest rank they’ve ever been at, but the graph below shows how poorly they’ve performed in 2023-24.

Manchester United Opta Power Ranking over time

If three teams have fallen out of the top 10, three teams must have replaced them.

That’s the sort of ground-breaking data analysis you’ve come to expect from us at Opta Analyst, isn’t it?

Opta Power Rankings Top 10 now
As of 23 April 2024

Barcelona have crept into the top 10 having started the season ranked 11th, but it’s the team who just knocked them out of the Champions League that are now the highest-ranked ‘newcomers’.

PSG are ranked fourth in the world and are chasing a treble with Luis Enrique. Runaway leaders at the top of Ligue 1, they’re favourites to beat Lyon in the Coupe de France final and have a very real shot at reaching the Champions League final, too.

But by far the biggest surprise package of this season has been Xabi Alonso’s new Bundesliga champions, Bayer Leverkusen. Their league triumph was their first trophy since the 1992-93 DFB-Pokal and represents the end of Bayern’s 11-season monopoly on the top-flight.

Leverkusen have risen all the way to sixth in the Opta Power Rankings, which is a 21-spot jump from the start of the season. They are currently on a 45-match unbeaten run across all competitions, are in the final of the DFB-Pokal and are favourites to win the Europa League. A historic treble potentially beckons.

Bayer Leverkusen Opta Power Ranking over time

The team they’ve dethroned – Bayern Munich – have endured a tough season domestically.

Bayern have relinquished their Bundesliga crown and are currently 14 points behind Bayer Leverkusen in the league, while they were also knocked out by third-tier club FC Saarbrücken in the second round of the DFB-Pokal. As a result, they’ve slipped six spots in the Power Rankings down to eighth.

Come through a gargantuan Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid and that could change, though.

Biggest Risers Outside the Top 10

We’ve focused on changes within the top 10 of the Opta Power Rankings so far, but there are some real success stories worth noting as we move a little further down.

Opta Power Rankings 11-20

Atalanta started the season ranked 39th in the world but have surged up our rankings and now sit in 12th. They are stumbling a little domestically, but Gian Piero Gasperini’s side are deep in two cup competitions.

They stunned Liverpool in the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final tie, beating them 3-0 at Anfield. That seismic result helped set up a semi-final clash against Marseille, and the Opta supercomputer makes Atalanta second favourites to win the competition behind Bayer Leverkusen. La Dea are also in the final of the Coppa Italia, giving them a chance to pick up their first silverware since winning Serie B in 2010-11.

Sporting CP are another big riser, up 23 places from the start of the season. They’re now the 15th best team in the world – the highest spot they’ve ever been in since we started tracking the Opta Power Rankings.

With the in-demand Rúben Amorim at the helm, Sporting CP lead the Primeira Liga by seven points with four games to go, as they aim for their second league title in four full seasons under his management.

They are also in the final of the Taça de Portugal where they’ll face Porto.

The graph below charts Sporting’s remarkable transformation over the four years Amorim’s been in charge. It provides some clarity as to why so many of Europe’s leading forces potentially see him as their next manager.

Sporting CP Opta Power Ranking over time

Bologna (rank 22) don’t quite make it into the top 20, but their rise this season has been meteoric. Ranked 67 back in August, they’ve leaped up 45 places in the Opta Power Rankings.

That’s come under the stewardship of Thiago Motta. The former PSG midfielder took over in September 2022, and since then just five sides have picked up more points in Serie A.

Bologna currently sit in fourth place in Serie A, and look likely to secure Champions League football next season. It’ll be their first taste of European football since the 1999-00 UEFA Cup. ­­­­

Notable Fallers Outside the Top 10

Looking at teams that started the season inside the top 30, two Premier League clubs, Brighton and Brentford, are among the biggest fallers in the Opta Power Rankings.

Brighton were as high as 18th in the Power Rankings back in August, but an inconsistent season has seen them fall 17 spaces to 35th.

Roberto De Zerbi’s side started the season brilliantly, winning five of their first six games, and were third in the Premier League table in late September.

Performances have fluctuated wildly since then, though, and that form has seen them slip down the table.

Their Europa League campaign captures how just tumultuous their season has been. Despite losing their first group game at home to AEK Athens, they went on to top their group. A tie against Roma was the standout of the last 16, but Brighton’s tournament ended in ignominious fashion, with a 4-0 hammering in Rome effectively knocking them out ahead of the return leg.

Brentford have also struggled with inconsistency this season. After a top-half finish in 2022-23, the Bees came into this season ranked 26th in the world. However, at the time of writing, they’ve fallen 21 spots and now sit in 47th.

Recent back-to-back wins against Sheffield United and Luton have staved off any talk of relegation, but 15th place in the league table is not where this club should be.

Lastly, while one club ascends in Portugal, another falls. Porto were just outside the top 10 at the start of the season (11) but have since fallen to 24th.

They are miles off the pace in the league and are a longshot to even quality for the Champions League. They did run Arsenal close in the Champions League last 16, ultimately getting knocked out on penalties, but their domestic form has been uncharacteristically poor.

With the title likely heading to Sporting CP, Porto will go two years without winning the top flight for the first time since 2016-17.

Sérgio Conceição will be desperate to leave a parting shot against Amorim in the Taça de Portugal final.

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