March has indeed roared in like a lion, and with the slate of games ahead of us, it surely will not go out like a lamb.  The Champions League and Europa League are back again this week and can only add to the craziness that is occurring throughout our Top 25.  Agree or disagree with any part of this week’s countdown? Let us know in the comments or via social media on Facebook or Twitter.

*Resumes and form are accurate as of 11:57 AM ET on 3/8/16

Barcelona Small 1. BARCELONA (Spain)                    LAST WEEK: 1

2015-16 RESUME: 1st/La Liga (72 PTS, +56 GD), Round of 16/Champions League (2-0 lead over #12 Arsenal after first leg), Finals/Copa Del Rey (vs #14 Sevilla), 2015 Club World Cup Winners

LAST WEEK’S RESULTS: 5-1 WIN/Rayo Vallecano (La Liga), 4-0 WIN/Eibar (La Liga)

Barcelona continues their merciless reign at the top of our Top 25 after another 2-0 week in the Spanish Primera Division.  Wins over Eibar and Rayo Vallecano aren’t anything to particularly write home about, but the way that Barca put away the minnows in front of them is applause worthy.  Lionel Messi and company will hope to maintain that level of dominance this weekend as Barcelona hosts Getafe at the Camp Nou.  After that, they begin their toughest test of 2016 as #12 Arsenal comes to town for the second leg of their Champions League Round of 16 tie.  After that, they go to #13 Villarreal then host #8 Real Madrid in the latest installment of El Clasico.

Juventus Small2. JUVENTUS (Italy)                    LAST WEEK: 3

2015-16 RESUME: 1st/Serie A (64 PTS, +35 GD), Round of 16/Champions League (2-2 vs #3 Bayern Munich after first leg), Finals/Coppa Italia (vs AC Milan), 2015 Supercoppa Italiana Winners

LAST WEEK’S RESULTS: 3-0 LOSS (5-3 pen. WIN)/Inter Milan (Coppa Italia), 2-0 WIN/Atalanta (Serie A)

Juve move up once space in the rankings this week.  They stayed at the top of Serie A with a 2-0 win over plucky Atalanta with some goals from some unlikely sources.  Andrea Barzagli and Mario Lemina provided the two efforts to restore the Old Lady’s three point lead at the top of the league.  Their other result of the week wasn’t pretty, but it did allow them to advance to the finals of the Coppa Italia.  Inter reversed their 3-0 deficit from the first leg of their semi-final tie, but Juventus were able to get through to the finals on penalty kicks.  Juventus will try to retain the Cup at the end of May.  But for now they have to worry about a Sassuolo team that already beat them once this season and oh yeah, the second leg of their Champions League Round of 16 battle with #3 Bayern Munich.

Bayern Munich Small 3. BAYERN MUNICH (Germany)                    LAST WEEK: 2

2015-16 RESUME: 1st/Bundesliga (63 PTS, +46 GD), Round of 16/Champions League (2-2 vs #2 Juventus after first leg), Semi-Finals/DFB-Pokal (vs Werder Bremen)

LAST WEEK’S RESULTS: 2-1 LOSS/Mainz (Bundesliga), 0-0 DRAW/#6 Borussia Dortmund (Bundesliga)

It was a tough week for Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga.  They started off with a shock loss in the mid-week to Mainz, their first loss at home all season.  That put their lead at the summit of the German first division to just five points ahead of their matchup with second placed #6 Borussia Dortmund at the weekend.  They didn’t lose any ground, but were unable to gain any either as Dortmund held them to a 0-0 draw in Dortmund.  #2 Juventus looms next week in the Champions League at the Allianz, but rebounding in the Bundesliga comes first against Werder Bremen.  They’ll also hope that Mainz can do them a favor when they play Dortmund this week.

Atletico Madrid Small 4. ATLETICO MADRID (Spain)                    LAST WEEK: 5 

2015-16 RESUME: 2nd/La Liga (64 PTS, +30 GD), Round of 16/Champions League (0-0 vs #17 PSV Eindhoven after first leg), Quarter-Finals/Copa Del Rey (Eliminated by Celta Vigo)

LAST WEEK’S RESULTS: 3-0 WIN/Real Sociedad (La Liga), 3-1 WIN/Valencia (La Liga)

Diego Simeone’s men have been much maligned, myself included in that lot, during his tenure at Atletico Madrid for their low scoring games.  They veered away from that this past week in picking up six crucial points in La Liga.  Atletico put three past both Real Sociedad and Valencia to keep their slimming league title hopes alive.  They are currently eight points behind the leaders, #1 Barcelona.  While winning the Primera may be a far fetched feat for Atletico, winning the Champions League is far from it.  #17 PSV come to the Vicente Calderon next week after a 0-0 stalemate in Holland.  Antoine Griezmann will look to put home his team leading 5th goal in the competition in front of the home Rojiblanco supporters.

PSG Small 5. PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN (France)                    LAST WEEK: 4

2015-16 RESUME: 1st/Ligue 1 (74 PTS, +53 GD), Round of 16/Champions League (2-1 lead over Chelsea after first leg), Finals/Coupe de la Ligue (vs Lille), Semi-Finals/Coupe de France (vs Lorient), 2015 French Super Cup Winners

LAST WEEK’S RESULTS: 3-1 WIN/Saint-Etienne (Coupe de France), 0-0 DRAW/Montpelier (Ligue 1)

Paris Saint-Germain take another step down the Top 25 after a second consecutive poor result in the weak French league.  Montpelier is hovering above the relegation zone, but they were able to go to the Parc des Princes and hold high scoring PSG to a 0-0 draw.  That brought them down a bit after advancing to the semi-finals of the Coupe de France in the mid-week against Saint-Etienne.  PSG could be back up on our proverbial medal stand quite soon though as they face Chelsea for the right to advance to the quarter-finals of the Champions League.  With Ligue 1 all but wrapped up and their domestic cups a near lock, the UCL is the only thing that could potentially propel the Parisians upward again.

Borussia Dortmund Small 6. BORUSSIA DORTMUND (Germany)                    LAST WEEK: 6

2015-16 RESUME: 2nd/Bundesliga (58 PTS, +34 GD), Round of 16/Europa League (vs #9 Tottenham Hotspur), Semi-Finals/DFB-Pokal (vs #22 Hertha Berlin)

LAST WEEK’S RESULTS: 2-0 WIN/Darmstadt (Bundesliga), 0-0 DRAW/#3 Bayern Munich (Bundesliga)

There was very little to frown about for Borussia Dortmund last week.  Coupled with a loss by #3 Bayern Munich to Mainz, Dortmund’s 2-0 win against Darmstadt put them within a very manageable five points of the leaders.  They kept that deficit intact at the weekend by going into the lion’s den known as the Allianz Arena and coming away with a hard fought draw.  BVB will hope to continue positively this week as they host #9 Tottenham Hotspur in the Europa League.  Before the return leg next week, Thomas Tuchel’s squad will welcome the team that beat Bayern last week, Mainz, to Signal Iduna Park.

Leicester City Small 7. LEICESTER CITY (England)                    LAST WEEK: 8

2015-16 RESUME: 1st/Barclays Premier League (60 PTS, +21 GD), Fourth Round/Capital One Cup (Eliminated by Hull City), Third Round/FA Cup (Eliminated by #9 Tottenham Hotspur)

LAST WEEK’S RESULTS: 2-2 DRAW/West Bromwich Albion (Barclays Premier League), 1-0 WIN/Watford (Barclays Premier League)

Playing with fire has become a regular occurrence at the King Power Stadium, but luckily this week for Leicester City, it was their title challengers that were burned.  After starting off the mid-week fixtures with a draw against West Brom, Leicester could have potentially lost their pole position in the Barclays Premier League title race.  Instead, both #9 Spurs and #12 Arsenal were both defeated leaving the Foxes breathing a double sigh of relief at the top.  That gap got even bigger at the weekend as the North London duo played to a 2-2 draw as Leicester won at Vicarage Road against a game Watford side.  While their peers face European and cup challenges as well as league ones, Leicester can just focus on extending their lead this weekend at home versus Newcastle.

Real Madrid Small 8. REAL MADRID (Spain)                    LAST WEEK: 9

2015-16 RESUME: 3rd/La Liga (60 PTS, +54 GD), Round of 16/Champions League (2-0 lead over #20 AS Roma after first leg), Round of 32/Copa Del Rey (Eliminated by Cadiz for fielding ineligible player)

LAST WEEK’S RESULTS: 3-1 WIN/Levante (La Liga), 7-1 WIN/Celta Vigo (La Liga)

Amidst the constant chatter of Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure at various points in the future, Real Madrid dominated the present.  A combined ten goals went in the net for Los Blancos this week as they put three past Levante in the mid-week before slamming home a seven burger past Celta Vigo.  Real Madrid are finally clicking as a unit and it couldn’t have come at a better time.  They take a 2-0 first leg advantage to the Bernabeu this evening as Top 25 debutants #20 Roma come to Madrid looking for a miracle.  Sadly, there is as much chance of them finding it as there is of Las Palmas causing a stir at the weekend.  Madrid can’t let up though as #14 Sevilla and a trip to #1 Barcelona lurk just around the corner in the weeks to come.

Spurs Small 9. TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (England)                    LAST WEEK: 7

2015-16 RESUME: 2nd/Barclays Premier League (55 PTS, +27 GD), Round of 16/Europa League (vs #6 Borussia Dortmund), Third Round/Capital One Cup (Eliminated by #12 Arsenal), Fifth Round/FA Cup (Eliminated by Crystal Palace)

LAST WEEK’S RESULTS: 1-0 LOSS/West Ham United (Barclays Premier League), 2-2 DRAW/#12 Arsenal (Barclays Premier League)

Mauricio Pochettino has been offered a new contract at Spurs.  While long term job security for their much desired coach is a worthwhile priority to have, their short term goals took a big hit this past week.  Spurs drop two spots in the Top 25 after a loss to West Ham in the mid-week kept them from going top of the table.  To make matters worse, Harry Kane’s goal of the season candidate was only worth one point as Tottenham could not put away the 10 man Gunners in the North London Derby.  Just one point from two games has now left Spurs five behind #7 Leicester City in the table.  They should get three points at the weekend against Aston Villa, but it will be on a short week following a pivotal Europa League match in Germany against #6 Borussia Dortmund.

Manchester City Small 10. MANCHESTER CITY (England)                    LAST WEEK: 11

2015-16 RESUME: 4th/Barclays Premier League (50 PTS, +21 GD), Round of 16/Champions League (3-1 lead over Dynamo Kiev after first leg), Fifth Round/FA Cup (Eliminated by Chelsea). 2015-16 Capital One Cup Winners

LAST WEEK’S RESULTS: 3-0 LOSS/Liverpool (Barclays Premier League), 4-0 WIN/Aston Villa (Barclays Premier League)

City continue to climb the Top 25 as the Capital One Cup Champions return to the top ten for the first time since Volume One.  They had a bit of a hangover from their big win as Liverpool extracted a measure of revenge in a decisive 3-0 win over Manchester City at Anfield.  However, the Citizens channeled that disappointment against Aston Villa as they pounded the hapless Villans to the tune of 4-0 at the weekend.  Manuel Pellegrini will hope his side can make easy work of another relegation bound squad again this weekend as they travel to Norwich City.  It should be a much needed road win before they come home to host Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League and Manchester United in the Premier League next week.

Benfica Small 11. BENFICA (Portugal)                    LAST WEEK: 15

2015-16 RESUME: 1st/Primeira Liga (61 PTS, +49 GD), Round of 16/Champions League (1-0 lead over Zenit St. Petersburg after first leg), Fourth Round/Taça de Portugal (Eliminated by #18 Sporting Lisbon)

LAST WEEK’S RESULTS: 1-0 WIN/#18 Sporting Lisbon (Primeira Liga)

One down, one to go.  Benfica took care of one big piece of business this past week.  They overtook Primeira Liga leaders Sporting Lisbon by going to the Estadio Jose Alvalade and coming away with a 1-0 victory.  They’ll hope to take care of another big piece this week by advancing to the quarter-finals of the Champions League in Russia against Zenit St. Petersburg.  From there, European glory and a potential third straight Primeira Liga crown are within reach.

Arsenal Small 12. ARSENAL (England)                    LAST WEEK: 10

2015-16 RESUME: 3rd/Barclays Premier League (52 PTS, +16 GD), Round of 16/Champions League (2-0 deficit to #1 Barcelona after first leg), Fourth Round/Capital One Cup (Eliminated by Sheffield Wednesday), Fifth Round/FA Cup (0-0 vs Hull City, replay 3/8), 2015 FA Community Shield Winners

LAST WEEK’S RESULTS: 2-1 LOSS/Swansea City (Barclays Premier League), 2-2 DRAW/#9 Tottenham Hotspur (Barclays Premier League)

The descent into so-called “Full Arsenal” mode continued this past week for the Gunners.  They were beaten at home by Swansea City after going ahead.  Matters looked to be getting worse against #9 Spurs at the weekend after Francis Coquelin’s idiotic second yellow put them a man down.  Nevertheless, Alexis Sanchez earned his side a point with his first BPL goal of 2016.  But the hits just keep coming for Arsenal.  This next week’s worth of games is another double dip with an FA Cup replay against Hull and then, Barca.  Yikes.

Villarreal Small 13. VILLARREAL (Spain)                    LAST WEEK: 12

2015-16 RESUME: 4th/La Liga (53 PTS, +14 GD), Round of 16/Europa League (vs Bayer Leverkusen), Round of 16/Copa Del Rey (Eliminated by Athletic Bilbao)

LAST WEEK’S RESULTS: 0-0 DRAW/Celta Vigo (La Liga), 1-0 LOSS/Las Palmas (La Liga)

On the brink of breaking into the top ten, Villarreal instead broke themselves this past week with two poor results in La Liga.  A 0-0 draw against a Celta Vigo side with one of La Liga’s worst defenses was a bad start.  The end was even worse as Las Palmas came to the Madrigal and left with three points.  With four games from hell in the coming weeks, two versus Bayer in the UEL as well as #14 Sevilla and #1 Barcelona in the league, the Yellow Submarine could sink even further.

Sevilla Small 14. SEVILLA (Spain)                    LAST WEEK: 13

2015-16 RESUME: 5th/La Liga (45 PTS, +10 GD), Group Stage/Champions League (Eliminated- 3rd Place, Group D), Round of 16/Europa League (vs #24 Basel), Finals/Copa Del Rey (vs #1 Barcelona)

LAST WEEK’S RESULTS: 1-0 WIN/Eibar (La Liga), 1-1 DRAW/Getafe (La Liga)

Sevilla are still searching for an elusive road win in La Liga.  After beating Eibar at home in the mid-week to move back up to fifth in the table, Sevilla could not keep Getafe off the board at the weekend.  Ever Banega gave them hope with a late laser of a free kick, but it was not meant to be.  They’ll hope for better road success in the Europa League as they travel to Switzerland to face #24 Basel this week.  The Andalusians can take solace though that their game on Sunday against #13 Villarreal is at home.

Napoli Small 15. NAPOLI (Italy)                    LAST WEEK: 17

2015-16 RESUME: 2nd/Serie A (61 PTS, +35 GD), Round of 32/Europa League (Eliminated by #13 Villarreal), Quarter-Finals/Coppa Italia (Eliminated by #2 Juventus)

LAST WEEK’S RESULTS: 3-1 WIN/Chievo Verona (Serie A)

After weeks of falling down the Top 25, Napoli moves up two spots this week with a win.  They are still just three points behind #2 Juventus in the race for the Scudetto, and while it may be disappointing, their lack of extracurricular activities may give them a leg up in Serie A.  They only have to go to Palermo this week while Juve have Sassuolo ahead of Bayern Munich in the UCL.

Fiorentina Small 16. FIORENTINA (Italy)                    LAST WEEK: 14

2015-16 RESUME: 4th/Serie A (53 PTS, +18 GD), Round of 32/Europa League (Eliminated by #9 Tottenham Hotspur), Round of 16/Coppa Italia (Eliminated by Carpi)

LAST WEEK’S RESULTS: 4-1 LOSS/#20 Roma (Serie A)

Things are getting dicey for the Viola as they fall two more places this week in the Top 25.  While they are still ahead of them on here, they are now a full three points behind #20 Roma in the Serie A table after getting throttled 4-1 in Rome this past week.  Fiorentina need to stop the bleeding against Hellas Verona this week or they may get passed by more teams in both this countdown and in Italy.

PSV Small 17. PSV EINDHOVEN (Netherlands)                     LAST WEEK: 19

2015-16 RESUME: 1st/Eredivisie (65 PTS, +43 GD), Round of 16/Champions League (0-0 vs #4 Atletico Madrid after first leg), Quarter-Finals/KNVB Cup (Eliminated by FC Utrecht), 2015 Johan Cruyff Shield Winners

LAST WEEK’S RESULTS: 3-0 WIN/FC Groningen (Eredivisie)

PSV continue to reign in the Netherlands as they prepare for #4 Atletico Madrid in the Champions League.  They easily bested Groningen 3-0 despite neither of their top two scorers, Luuk de Jong and Gaston Pereiro, adding to their tallies.  Expect another big goal day against a miserable Heerenveen defense before a defensive clash with Atletico.

Sporting Lisbon Small 18. SPORTING LISBON (Portugal)                    LAST WEEK: 16

2015-16 RESUME: 2nd/Primeira Liga (59 PTS, +34 GD), Round of 32/Europa League (Eliminated by Bayer Leverkusen), Fifth Round/Taça de Portugal (Eliminated by Braga), 2015 Supertaça Cândido de Oliveira Winners

LAST WEEK’S RESULTS: 1-0 LOSS/#11 Benfica (Primeira Liga)

The Portuguese Primeira Liga usually comes down to winning games against the Big Three, and Sporting may have cost themselves their chance at a title by not doing so last week.  The 1-0 loss to #11 Benfica takes their fate out of their hands.  They should be Estoril this week, but they are going to need Benfica to screw up royally as Sporting’s schedule is much rockier down the stretch with trips to Porto and Braga still to come.

Celtic Small 19. CELTIC (Scotland)                    LAST WEEK: 22

2015-16 RESUME: 1st/Scottish Premiership (63 PTS, +48 GD), Group Stage/Europa League (Eliminated- 4th Place, Group A), Semi-Finals/Scottish Cup (vs Rangers), Semi-Finals/Scottish League Cup (Eliminated by Ross County)

LAST WEEK’S RESULTS: 0-0 DRAW/Dundee (Scottish Premiership), 3-0 WIN/Greenock Morton (Scottish Cup)

Celtic continue to shoot themselves in the foot in Scottish Premiership, but aren’t being made to pay for it.  The league’s highest scoring side couldn’t put one past Dundee for a second consecutive draw SPFL play.  They were however able to beat Greenock Morton in the Scottish Cup quarter-finals setting up the much anticipated match with blood rivals Rangers in the semis.

Roma Small 20. ROMA (Italy)                    LAST WEEK: UNRANKED

2015-16 RESUME: 3rd/Serie A (56 PTS, +30 GD), Round of 16/Champions League (2-0 deficit to #8 Real Madrid after first leg), Round of 16/Coppa Italia (Eliminated by Spezia)

LAST WEEK’S RESULTS: 4-1 WIN/#16 Fiorentina (Serie A)

The final Champions League place holders in Serie A, Roma, make their debut on the Top 25 this week at number 20.  The Giallorossi have been on fire in Serie A, winning seven in a row since their loss to #2 Juventus.  They would probably trade some of that success though for some luck in this afternoon’s game against #8 Real Madrid in the UCL.  Turning over a 2-0 deficit in Madrid will be an arduous task.

Fenerbahce Small 21. FENERBAHCE (TURKEY)                    LAST WEEK: 25

2015-16 RESUME: 1st/Super Lig (56 PTS, +23 GD), Round of 16/Europa League (vs Braga), Semi-Finals/Turkish Cup (vs Konyaspor)

LAST WEEK’S RESULTS: 3-1 WIN/Amed (Turkish Cup), 3-0 WIN/Akhisar Belediye (Super Lig)

Fenerbahce tie with Benfica as the big risers of the week on the Top 25, moving up four spots to number 21.  The Turkish Super Lig leaders continued to impress domestically with a resolute 3-0 win against Akhisar Belediye.  They also advanced to the semi-finals of the Turkish Cup, 6-4 on aggregate, against Amed.  A Europa League first leg win in Turkey against Braga would be another spectacular chapter in Fener’s year.

Hertha Berlin Small22. HERTHA BERLIN (Germany)                   LAST WEEK: 21 

2015-16 RESUME: 3rd/Bundesliga (42 PTS, +7 GD), Semi-Finals/DFB-Pokal (vs #6 Borussia Dortmund)

LAST WEEK’S RESULTS: 2-0 WIN/Eintracht Frankfurt (Bundesliga), 2-0 LOSS/Hamburg (Bundesliga)

Hertha were able to stay third in the Bundesliga this past week, but drop one spot in the Top 25 after going 1-1.  Things started well enough with a resounding 2-0 win against Eintracht Frankfurt at home.  That good feeling would be snuffed out at the weekend as Hertha lost by that same margin on the road to Hamburg.  The final guaranteed Champions League spot is on the line this week as they play #23 Schalke on Friday night.

Schalke Small 23. SCHALKE (Germany)                   LAST WEEK: UNRANKED

2015-16 RESUME: 4th/Bundesliga (40 PTS, +5 GD), Round of 32/Europa League (Eliminated by Shakhtar Donetsk), Second Round/DFB-Pokal (Eliminated by Borussia Monchengladbach)

LAST WEEK’S RESULTS: 3-2 WIN/Hamburg (Bundesliga), 3-1 WIN/Cologne (Bundesliga)

The fourth position in the Bundesliga continues to be a revolving door as we get another Top 25 debutante this week with Schalke 04.  With two wins in the week against Hamburg and Cologne, Schalke leaped past Mainz and Borussia Monchengladbach, who occupied this space a week ago, into the final Champions League place in Germany.  They can get even higher this week as they take on the team directly above them in the Bundesliga, as well as our Top 25, in #22 Hertha Berlin.

Basel Small 24. BASEL (Switzerland)                   LAST WEEK: 20

2015-16 RESUME: 1st/Swiss Super League (53 PTS, +36 GD), Round of 16/Europa League (vs #14 Sevilla), Quarter-Finals/Swiss Cup (Eliminated by FC Sion)

LAST WEEK’S RESULTS: NONE

Basel was idle this week after their Swiss Super League game against AC Lugano was called after nine inches of snow fell in Lugano.  They are still 14 points ahead in Switzerland, with that game in hand now, and will be fully rested as #14 Sevilla make the trip to St. Jakob-Park on Thursday.

Monterrey Small 25. MONTERREY (Mexico)                    LAST WEEK: UNRANKED

2015-16 RESUME: 1st/Liga MX Clausura (21 PTS, +7 GD), 3rd/Clausura Copa Mexico Group 3 (8 PTS, +1 GD)

LAST WEEK’S RESULTS: 1-0 WIN/Tigres UANL (Liga MX Clausura)

Monterrey returns to the Top 25 as they continue to rule the roost in Liga MX.  They remain three points of Pachuca in the Clasura after downing fierce rivals Tigres UANL in the Clasico Regiomontano 1-0.  To keep themselves on the countdown, as well as in the Clasura Copa MX, they’ll need to get a big win against Pachuca this week and hope that several other teams lose just as big.

 

DROPPED OUT (in order of rank): #18 Corinthians (Brazil), #23 Borussia Monchengladbach (Germany), #24 Olympiacos (Greece)

ALSO RECEIVING VOTES (in alphabetical order): Ajax (Netherlands), Besiktas (Turkey), Club Brugge (Belgium), CSKA Moscow (Russia), Dynamo Kiev (Ukraine), FC Dallas (USA), Mainz (Germany), Manchester United (England), Monaco (France), Porto (Portugal), San Lorenzo (Argentina), Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine), Western Sydney Wanderers (Australia), West Ham United (England)