Gerrard in fine company among the 16 unbeaten clubs throughout Europe –


Top flights only, please. Steven Gerrard is in fine company.

Position: 1st in Serie A
Record: P8 W6 D2 L0 F19 A8
: Stefano Pioli
Top scorer: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (10)
Biggest win: 3-0 v Spezia (h)

Not since losing to Genoa in their final game before lockdown have Milan tasted defeat in Serie A. Nine wins and three draws at the end of 2019/20 have been parlayed into six victories and two stalemates to start this campaign, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic activating his cheat code while there’s no-one in the stands to call them out on it. Who’d have thought this would come from such an unpopular appointment?

Random former Premier League squad member: Ismael Bennacer, whose solitary appearance for Arsenal came in a 3-0 League Cup defeat to Sheffield Wednesday in October 2015.

Position: 2nd in Serie A
Record: P8 W6 D2 L0 F20 A9
Manager: Roberto De Zerbi
Top scorer: Francesco Caputo (5)
Biggest win: 4-1 v Spezia (a) and 4-1 v Crotone (h)

Pep Guardiola spoke fondly of 41-year-old coach Roberto De Zerbi’s “proactive” style in October 2018, the former attacking midfielder’s expansive approach having already caught the eye in Serie C with Foggia. Spells at Palermo and Benevento persuaded Sassuolo to appoint him in the hope he could follow in the footsteps of Stefano Pioli and Eusebio Di Francesco in helping the Neroverdi punch above their weight. This start alone, particularly the win away at Napoli without electric first-choice forwards Ciccio Caputo, Domenico Berardi and Filip Djuricic, speaks for itself.

Random former Premier League squad member: Pedro Obiang of ‘being confused with Angelo Ogbonna by West Ham co-owner David Gold’ fame is a good shout, as is Jeremie Boga and his one game for Chelsea. But how delightful it is to be reminded of Vlad Chiriches’ existence. He’s doing about as well as his old club. Which is very.

Position: 4th in Serie A
: P8 W4 D4 L0 F17 A6
Manager: Andrea Pirlo
Top scorer: Cristiano Ronaldo (8)
Biggest win: 4-1 v Spezia (a)

You’d be forgiven for thinking Spezia were bottom by about 427 points; they’re fairly comfortably mid-table. Juventus have made light work of them and Claudio Ranieri’s Sampdoria on the opening day but Andrea Pirlo’s first steps in senior management have most certainly been tentative. One of his four victories was a 3-0 walkover against Napoli, with that statement performance and result yet to come.

Random former Premier League squad member: Juan Cuadrado, who hopefully helps Cristiano Ronaldo tease Aaron Ramsey about his number of Premier League winner’s medals.

Atletico Madrid
Position: 2nd in La Liga
Record: P8 W6 D2 L0 F18 A2
Manager: Diego Simeone
Top scorer: Luis Suarez and Joao Felix (5)
Biggest win: 6-1 v Granada (h)

The only thing missing is a sly kick at a precocious David Beckham followed by a cupping of the collective cojones. Other than that, Diego Simeone has distilled his very essence and poured it directly into this Atletico Madrid campaign. Leaving aside a pretty listless Champions League start, the only goals they have conceded so far have both been in or after the 80th minute in straightforward wins. He really would be perfect for “attack, attack, attack” Manchester United.

Random former Premier League squad member: Ignoring the obvious ones, Manchester City legend Stefan Savic is a fun one.

Bayer Leverkusen
Position: 3rd in Bundesliga
Record: P8 W5 D3 L0 F16 A9
Manager: Peter Bosz
Top scorer: Lucas Alario (7)
Biggest win: 4-2 v Freiburg (a)

After missing out on Champions League qualification by two meagre points – a setback for which they enacted their revenge on Borussia Monchengladbach with a 4-3 win earlier this month – Leverkusen have bounced back well. From the embers of three consecutive draws have come five successive victories to still sit behind Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

Random former Premier League squad member: Aleksandar Dragovic played 16 whole actual games for Leicester. So yeah, him.

Position: 6th in Bundesliga
Record: P8 W3 D5 L0 F9 A5
Manager: Oliver Glasner
Top scorer: Wout Weghorst (4)
Biggest win: 2-0 v Schalke (a)

Their only wins have come against the teams currently 12th, 16th and 18th in the Bundesliga. Manager Oliver Glasner is supposedly on the brink due to an ongoing feud with the board over broken transfer promises. Yet it works. A nine-game unbeaten start to last season preceded a finish of 7th, which they would surely take again.

Random former Premier League squad member: It could be Kevin Mbabu of 2015/16 Newcastle. But how about Jeffrey Bruma, who played twice for champions Chelsea in 2009/10.

Sporting CP
Position: 1st in Primeira Liga
Record: P7 W6 D1 L0 F19 A4
Manager: Ruben Amorim
Top scorer: Pedro Goncalves (7)
Biggest win: 4-0 v Tondela (h) and 4-0 v Vitoria de Guimaraes (a)

Only Porto have been able to hold Sporting CP at bay domestically as the Lions seek to deliver their first championship crown since 2002.

Random former Premier League squad member: If Liverpool alumni Sebastian Coates, Rafa Camacho and Tiago Ilori don’t fancy your tickle, past top-flight loanees Luciano Vietto and Joao Mario ought to do the trick.

Position: 3rd in Eredivisie
Record: P9 W6 D3 L0 F22 A10
Manager: Dick Advocaat
Top scorer: Steven Berghuis (9)
Biggest win: 4-1 v Willem II (a)

Reckon Dick Advocaat must be the highest former or current Sunderland manager in the business, marginally ahead of Jack Ross at fourth-placed Hibernian. Five of Feyenoord’s Eredivisie wins have come against teams in the bottom eight, with Groningen in 8th their loftiest victims. Most impressive is that Advocaat is yet to suffer domestic defeat as manager; he was appointed upon Jaap Stam’s sacking after Feyenoord’s most recent loss, the 4-0 reverse at Ajax in October.

Random former Premier League squad member: Ex-Swansea pair Luciano Narsingh and Leroy Fer? Hmm. Steven Berghuis, goalscorer extraordinaire but Watford failure? Better. Joao Carlos Teixeira, supposed beneficiary of Brendan Rodgers leaving Liverpool? That’s the stuff.

AZ Alkmaar
Position: 7th in Eredivisie
Record: P8 W3 D5 F19 A12
Manager: Arne Slot
Top scorer: Dani de Wit and Albert Gudmundsson (3)
Biggest win: 3-0 v RKC Waalwijk (h) and 3-0 v Heerenveen (a)

Second to Ajax on goal difference and with momentum firmly behind them, AZ Alkmaar perhaps counted themselves unfortunate that the Eredivisie season was abandoned in March instead of postponed like the majority of Europe. Their equilibrium was impacted to the extent that this season began with five straight draws, but three wins on the spin suggest they are approaching form again.

Random former Premier League squad member: Ron Vlaar barely edges it ahead of Jordy Clasie on account of him looking like he had retired at Aston Villa about seven years ago.

Position: 1st in Super Lig
Record: P8 W6 D2 L0 F18 A3
Manager: Cagdas Atan
Top scorer: Davidson (6)
Biggest win: 6-0 v Hatayspor (h)

Credit to Cagdas Atan, the 40-year-old in the first post of his managerial career and coping rather well with the legitimately damaging loss of top scorer Papiss Cisse to title rivals Fenerbahce, who sit behind Alanyaspor on goal difference having played a game more.

Random former Premier League squad member: In any other world Juanfran, signed by Watford for £1.5m in 2015 to play zero games before leaving in 2017, would be the pick by a landslide. But former Liverpool striker Steven Caulker wants a word.

Position: 1st in Scottish Premiership
Record: P15 W13 D2 L41 F3
Manager: Steven Gerrard
Top scorer: James Tavernier (9)
Biggest win: 8-0 v Hamilton (h)

It really might happen. Rangers have scored three goals or more in six league games but the real strength of a team that has won their two most recent matches by scorelines of 8-0 and 4-0 is their defence. They have 13 clean sheets when no other team has more than six. They have conceded 4.7 shots per game with the next best side allowing 8.7. Their top scorer is right-back James Tavernier. Steven Gerrard is a genius.

Random former Premier League squad member: The ex-Newcastle defender is actually a candidate here. Gerrard, too. Scott Arfield is too good to overlook, mind. They all have the same number of Premier League winner’s medals.

Crvena zvezda
Position: 1st in SuperLiga
Record: P15 W13 D2 L0 F44 A7
Manager: Dejan Stankovic
Top scorer: Aleksandar Katai (7)
Biggest win: 6-0 v Vozdovac (h)

They started the season with a hat-trick of 3-0 wins, meaning they have been top since the opening weekend and, with a current nine-point cushion to Partizan in second, will likely remain there. That’s pretty much it.

Random former Premier League squad member: There is unfortunately no dice whatsoever here. Suppose that’s what you get with part-timers who were plumbers not long ago.

Shakhtar Donetsk
Position: 2nd in Premier League
Record: P10 W5 D5 L0 F24 A10
Manager: Luis Castro
Top scorer: Viktor Kovalenko (4)
Biggest win: 5-1 v FC Lviv (h)

A fifth straight Ukrainian championship could be headed to Shakhtar Donetsk sooner rather than later as a team that lost just once in 2018/19 and 2019/20 is yet to taste defeat this time around. Dynamo Kyiv quite foolishly opted to lose to their closest title rivals in exchange for a three-point gap at the top of the table.

Random former Premier League squad member: Does Olarenwaju Kayode qualify despite his distinct lack of games for Manchester City? If not, Yevhen Konoplyanka was linked with Liverpool often enough to practically play for them.

Position: 1st in Super League
Record: P7 W6 D1 L0 F15 A1
Manager: Pedro Martins
Top scorer: Youssef El-Arabi (5)
Biggest win: 4-0 v Atromitos (h)

And then we come to Greece, where things just get very silly. First is Olympiacos, who have not lost a regular league game since February 2019 and both dropped their only points and conceded their solitary goal of this season in a 1-1 draw with PAS Giannina in October.

Random former Premier League squad member: Yann M’Vila. Simple as that.

Position: 2nd in Super League
Record: P7 W6 D1 L0 F10 A3
Manager: Akis Mantzios
Top scorer: Bruno Gama (3)
Biggest win: 3-1 v Lamia (h)

Behind Olympiacos on goal difference are Aris, who have also won every game aside from their draw with Greek gods PAS Giannina. They are somehow only 10th.

Random former Premier League squad member: Xande Silva joined from West Ham on loan in the summer and has played once. He has nothing on Yohan Benalouane, who played 16 Premier League games for Leicester between 2015 and 2018 but failed to meet the minimum requirement of appearances for a title winner’s medal in between.

Position: 3rd in Super League
Record: P8 W5 D3 L0 F14 A5
Manager: Pablo Garcia
Top scorer: Karol Swiderski
Biggest win: 3-0 v OFI (h)

PAS Giannina can be beaten, however. PAOK had to wait until second-half stoppage-time to score the winner in a 2-1 victory at the weekend but they all count. Pablo Garcia’s charges lag a single point behind the joint leaders despite playing a game more. Those dastardly draws don’t help.

Random former Premier League squad member: Curse Chuba Akpom for returning to England with Middlesbrough in September. The joke’s on him, mind. Jose Angel Crespo played once for Aston Villa and even captains the double-headed eagle of the North – a quite sensational club nickname that Wikipedia has almost definitely made up – on occasion.

Matt Stead

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