Soccer Power Rankings: Barcelona and Messi still first over Juventus and Ronaldo; PSG back in top five
A couple new teams enter the top 25, including Ligue 1 club Strasbourg
Halfway through the season, there are plenty of teams dealing with injuries and other issues and relying on some other players to fill that void. It's a complicated situation for many, but it reinforces the popular saying of "next man up." Whether it's Barcelona's issues at the back or Tottenham's scramble for another option in the final third, several players find themselves needing to deliver big time as the games grow in importance.
Here are three players facing a lot of responsibility and pressure who have a real chance to greatly help their team with the second half of the season underway:
Fernando Llorente, Tottenham
With one goal in 22 appearances, he did score Sunday in the 2-1 win at Fulham, but it was an own goal. He has to deliver in the coming weeks. Harry Kane is out injured till March, and Heung-Min Son is at the Asian Cup with South Korea. He was a surprising signing from Swansea, and at 33 years of age, it's hard to think he will ever return to form. But if he can't put away goals in the coming games, Spurs could lose their third-place spot and may be in trouble in the Champions League.
Jeison Murillo, Barcelona
Barca has had to deal with injuries at the back, and it was surprising to see them sign the Colombian on loan from Valencia. He was impressive early on last season after his loan move from Inter Milan, but he failed to establish himself this season and dealt with injuries of his own. He's got potential to be a really quality defender, and he's seen time at Barca so far. They have an option to buy him after the season if he impresses, but he'll have to show he can be one of the guys to replace the aging central defense. Barcelona Barcelona is back in La Liga action on Sunday against Girona (streaming on fuboTV).
Laurent Koscielny, Arsenal
The Frenchman was rushed back from injury after all the other injuries the Gunners have faced, and he hasn't looked too sharp. He's still not quite in game shape, it seems, but he did score in the 2-0 win over Chelsea. The issue with Arsenal hasn't been scoring, it's been at the back, and the performance against the Blues was one of the more complete defensive performances we've seen from the club all season. With each minute on the field, Koscielny is looking better ever since that leg injury that saw him miss the 2018 World Cup. If he can get back to tip-top shape and stay healthy, he could be key to Arsenal potentially finishing in the top four.
Now, the rankings...
How the rankings work
We list the top 25 teams in the world based on recent form. The teams playing the best soccer -- in their respective leagues and in international competitions -- will be considered. Quality of the opponents will also be taken into an account, but above all, the most important factors are recent results and overall standings in competitions.
World Club Soccer Power Rankings
Previous rankings: Jan. 7 | Jan. 1 | Dec. 24 | Dec. 18 | Dec 10 | Dec 3 | Nov. 26 | Nov. 12 | Nov. 5 | Oct. 30 | Oct. 23 | Oct. 10 | Oct. 3 | Sept. 26 | Sept. 17 | Sept. 4 | Aug. 28 | Aug. 23 | Aug. 15 | Preseason rankings|
|Still dominating, and luckily for them Ousmane Dembele is only out for two weeks. It looked much worse.|
|--||Won the Italian Super Cup and Cristiano Ronaldo is looking stronger by the game. That's bad news for Italy and the rest of Europe.|
|--||Great attacking display to beat Crystal Palace, but this once unstoppable defense has become a bit inconsistent.|
Manchester City (ENG)
|--||Pep Guardiola's team won't be going away, Liverpool. The pressure isn't seeing them cave, and they are ready to bounce if the Reds slip up. What a race to the finish we'll have.|
|+1||Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani each got a hat trick in the win over Guingamp, and Neymar almost got one as well. How in the world did they lose to Guingamp in the Coupe de la Ligue?|
Atletico Madrid (ESP)
|Adding Alvaro Morata isn't even needed, really. One of Europe's most complete teams has lost just one of its first 20 La Liga games.|
Borussia Dortmund (GER)
|Dortmund's 1-0 win at RB Leipzig was so impressive, keeping the team's six-point cushion atop the table intact.|
Bayern Munich (GER)
|Six straight league wins, and Bayern just isn't going away. Leon Goretzka's impact in the middle has been huge.|
Manchester United (ENG)
|Unbeatable since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over for Jose Mourinho, it finally looks like the Red Devils are headed in the right direction. We haven't been able to say that since Sir Alex Ferguson was coach.|
|Llorente has to score in the coming games or they'll surely be slipping out of third place. Bad luck has struck.|
|Huge win against Chelsea, and the defense is finally showing it can compete against the big teams. Now, the key is to doing that with consistency.|
|The Blues need Gonzalo Higuain ASAP. Keeping Eden Hazard as the false nine is only going to work every now and then.|
|A five-point lead over Benfica and just 11 goals conceded in 18 games. This league still belongs to them.|
Inter Milan (ITA)
|Inter -- the most inconsistent team in Europe over the last five years. Is it ever going to change?|
|Back into the top four and riding a wave of quality performances. Everybody is contributing in attack and the team looks like it is having fun again. Winning will do that.|
|The 2-1 win over Lazio once again confirmed that this is the best team in Serie A not named Juventus. Now two straight games against Milan gives them another opportunity to prove how dominate they can be.|
|Creating so many chances and the passing has been sharp. Nobody saw this being Ligue 1's second-best team this season, but they continue to churn out result after result.|
|Really blew a chance to go top of the table by somehow drawing Heerenveen 4-4. At least it was fun for the neutral fans.|
Real Madrid (ESP)
|Two straight league wins has this team firmly in third place, but 10 points behind Barcelona at this point likely means any shot of the league title is gone.|
|Bounced back with a fortunate 2-1 win at Saint-Etienne, but this team hasn't been consistent at all over the last month. Some stability needed in defense to get to where they want to be.|
Borussia Monchengladbach (GER)
|Been Germany's third-best team all season long. The 1-0 win at Bayer Leverkusen is one that will produce serious momentum for this club with some very winnable games coming up.|
|One of the surprises of the Premier League, this team surprisingly failed to beat Burnley last weekend. Still in great shape in seventh place.|
|Still close enough to Porto in the table, but the derby on March 3 may be for all the marbles. Must continue to play quick out of the back when on the road.|
| 24. |
|This team has been so good since being promoted, and that 4-3 win over Leicester City was a treat for anybody who got to watch it. What a fun team.|
|A 5-1 win at Monaco at knocked Marseille and Lyon out of cups. One of the stories of the season in Europe.|
Biggest movers: Real Madrid, Ajax, Borussia M'gladbach and Roma
Out of top 25: Lazio (ITA), PSV (NED)
Honorable mentions: Getafe (ESP) and Real Betis (ESP)
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