Soccer Power Rankings: Liverpool finishes year on top after dominant Premier League start; Barca moves up

The calendar flips over to 2019 on Tuesday, and these will serve as our final Power Rankings of 2018. It's been a wild year, especially the second half with the European seasons. So who earns superlatives for the latter part (post World Cup) of 2018? Before we jump into the rankings, here they are:

Best team from the first half: It's Liverpool. First place in the toughest league with a seven-point lead, 48 goals scored and only eight against. This is just as good of an attacking team as in the past, but now the stout defense with Virgil van Dijk and Alisson has taken the club to another level. The favorite to win the Premier League and a contender in the Champions League once again.

Most underachieving team: Manchester United, of course. And it all had to do with Jose Mourinho. Now, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has this team playing well, so he could be the guy to get them where they want to be. But squeaking by in the Champions League and losing five games in the opening months of the Premier League season is just unbelievably bad for a team with this amount of talent. 

Most overachieving team: Borussia Dortmund. Paco Alcacer has been the saving grace in the final third and the club finds itself in first place in the Bundesliga and in the round of 16 in the Champions League. Axel Witsel has been huge in the middle with his defense and ability to getting the ball forward. Jadon Sancho looks to be the future of the club with Christian Pulisic nearing the exit door

Team to watch out for: Wolverhampton. Just hear me out. Now, this team isn't likely to win any trophy, but the club deserves your attention. This team was just promoted, and 20 games in the club is in seventh place with an 8-5-7 record. Coach Nuno Espirito Santo has pushed the right buttons like bringing in Joao Moutinho, and you can't deny the results. So far this season, Wolves have played and managed to avoid defeat against Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham -- five of the six teams ahead of them.

And now to 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 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: 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  

RKTEAMCHGANALYSIS

1. 

Liverpool (ENG)

--

Destroyed Arsenal and are seven points clear of City ahead of Thursday's showdown. Easily the biggest game of the season.
2.

Juventus (ITA)

--Cristiano Ronaldo scored two more goals and Juve's 53 points in the first half are the most it has ever recorded. Dominant. 
3. 

Barcelona (ESP)

+1Off due to the holiday, but sitting in first place in La Liga and looking like a true contender in the Champions League. 

4.

Manchester City (ENG)

-1Fans will hope it was just a rough patch, but the Liverpool game (3 p.m. ET Thursday, available on fuboTV) a is starting to feel like a must-win.

5.

PSG (FRA)

--Off for the holiday break but still in a commanding spot in Ligue 1. It will all come down to the Champions League for them.

6.

Atletico Madrid (ESP)

--

Diego Simeone, once again, has his team in the thick of things in every competition. 

7.

Borussia Dortmund (GER) 

--

The Bundesliga leaders have 44 goals scored, the most in the league. But Bayern Munich is just six points behind.

8.

Chelsea (ENG)

+2

Two strong road wins have the Blues in fourth place to kick off 2019. What a start under Maurizio Sarri.  

9.

Tottenham (ENG)

-1

Two steps forward, three steps back. Losing 3-1 at home to Wolves was rough, and at a really bad time. Title shot gone?

10.

Arsenal (ENG)

-1

There is the Arsenal of old -- the one that can't contend with the bigger teams.

11.

Bayern Munich (GER)

--

Undefeated in their last eight with six wins, the Bavarian giants have finally turned the corner under first-year boss Niko Kovac. 

12.

Inter (ITA)

+3

Back-to-back 1-0 wins, including one over Napoli, has this team playing with some confidence. A very manageable schedule in January and February. 

13.

Porto (POR)

--

The club finishes 2018 in the Champions League knockout stage and with a four-point lead over rival Benfica in the Primeira Liga. 

14.

Ajax (NED)

--

It's time to start believing that this team could actually knock off Real Madrid in the UCL round of 16 come February. The talent is there. 

15.

Napoli (ITA)

-3

The defense, for the most part, has looked the part, but the scoring boots have rarely appeared. The three goals against Bologna was the first time the team scored multiple goals since Dec. 8. 

16.

Manchester United (ENG)

+1

Starting to create some buzz now with Solskjaer leading the way. Too late to get back into the top four battle?

17.

Lyon (FRA)

-1

This team has what it takes to knock Barcelona out of the Champions League, but don't put money on it. 

18.

PSV (NED)

--

Neck and neck with Ajax in the league, and Hirving Lozano continues to show why he is special. 

19.

Lille (FRA)

--

The best team in Ligue 1 so far not named PSG. That's something, I guess. 

20.

Real Madrid (ESP)

--

Club World Cup champs and finally starting to get results, but this team just don't look sharp. Losing Cristiano Ronaldo will do that to you. 
21.

Roma (ITA)

--

Two big wins to get back into the top-four race. Several games coming up this team should win.

22.

Borussia M'gladbach (GER)

--

Looking good in the Bundesliga in third, but this team has very little chance of actually competing for the crown. 

23.

Sevilla (ESP)

--

A great start, but some really tricky games coming up including against Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid. We'll find out soon if this team is for real. 
24.    

Wolverhampton (ENG)

NR

Watch out for this team. Not quite Leicester City level, but this team has a chance to be top half for quite a while.

25.

Lazio (ITA)

--

Solidly in the fourth spot in Serie A with a 9-5-5 record, but Napoli and Juventus are next. Brutal.


Biggest movers:
Inter and Napoli
Out of top 25: Watford (ENG)
Honorable mentions: Deportivo Alaves (ESP) and Red Bull Leipzig (GER)

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CBS Sports Writer

Roger Gonzalez is an award-winning writer based in Virginia that has covered pro soccer from Europe's top clubs to Argentina's first division. Roger started out his pro soccer writing career with Goal.com... Full Bio

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