Title-winning sides are built on solid defences and a foundation on which to secure results, with some miserly backlines currently frustrating forwards across Europe’s major leagues.
We’ve picked out some of the most uncompromising defences across Europe’s top five leagues during the 2020/21 season so far, here are the five sides to have conceded the least amount of goals.
Paris Saint-Germain – 17
Paris Saint-Germain have dominated domestically in France over the past decade, winning seven of the past eight league titles including the last three in succession.
After reaching the Champions League final last season hopes were high for another season of success, though the capital club have come under renewed threat this season and currently sit third in Ligue 1’s title race.
PSG – who replaced head coach Thomas Tuchel with Mauricio Pochettino last month – remain just four points adrift of the league leaders, however, and can boast the fifth-best defence in Europe’s major leagues after conceding just 17 goals in their 26 league fixtures.
With the likes of Marquinhos and Presnel Kimpembe marshalling the backline and the irresistible talents of Kylian Mbappe and Neymar further forward, PSG will be confident of clawing back the deficit and reemphasising their status as French football’s dominant force.
Sevilla – 16
Spanish football has often been a two-horse race in recent years, but Sevilla have joined Atletico Madrid in attempting to unsettle the country’s big two in 2020/21.
Julen Lopetegui’s team are currently third and the form team in the division after six consecutive wins, whilst they boast the joint-best defensive record in La Liga after conceding only 16 goals from 23 games.
Sevilla’s success has been built on a partnership between Diego Carlos – who has starred since being signed from Nantes – and Jules Kounde, the latter earning rave reviews and attracting interest from Europe’s biggest clubs.
Kounde is a brilliant one-against-one defender and possesses the dynamism and determination to match almost any opponent, with his pace providing Sevilla with a get-out card whenever subjected to the threat of a counter-attack.
The 22-year-old stands amongst the most complete centre-backs in his age bracket and brings an assuredness in possession, attempting and completing more take-ons than any defender in Spain’s top tier this season.
Lille – 16
Lille are the surprise league leaders in France in what is shaping as fascinating three-way tussle for the title, Christophe Galtier’s side currently three points clear of Lyon and a four ahead of defending champions Paris Saint-Germain.
Lille have been one of the shrewdest transfer market operators on the continent and have continued to impress despite allowing marquee names in Victor Osimhen and Gabriel Magalhaes to depart during the summer, the latter having impressed at centre-back before a big-money move to Arsenal.
The club’s recruitment team secured the signing of towering 21-year-old Sven Botman during the summer and it has proven an inspired purchase, the defender averaging 3.5 aerials won per game and attracting reported interest from both Tottenham and Liverpool.
Teammate Jose Fonte – who has played alongside some exceptional centre-back partners throughout his career – recently praised the youngster’s instant impact after arriving from Ajax and admits he is unsurprised by the alleged interest from the Premier League.
Atletico Madrid – 16
Atletico Madrid’s staunch rearguard has been a hallmark of the club’s success under Diego Simeone, and the capital club look set to challenge for major silverware once more following a superb start to the season.
Atleti currently lead La Liga’s title race by three points and have a game in hand on nearest challengers Real Madrid, their title challenge built on a strong start that included eight clean sheets from their opening 10 fixtures.
An organised and determined defensive line is marshalled by the superb Jan Oblak in goal, who has won the division’s Zamora Trophy – awarded to the goalkeeper who has the lowest goals-to-games ratio – in four of the past five seasons.
Despite wobbling recently, including a run of seven games without a clean sheet, Atletico have conceded just 16 goals this season and have the joint-second best defensive record across Europe’s major leagues in 2020/21.
Manchester City – 15
Manchester City have emerged as the odds-on favourites to win a third Premier League title in four seasons in 2020/21, enjoying a blistering run of form over the past two months to open up a 10-point advantage over Manchester United at the summit.
Pep Guardiola’s juggernaut have won 18 consecutive games in all competitions with 14 of those fixtures coming in the Premier League, their water-tight defence the best in Europe’s major leagues having conceded just 15 goals this season.
The defensive frailties of last season have been replaced by a side for who keeping clean sheets has become almost mundanely routine, the summer signing of Ruben Dias having transformed the side with the Portugal international a contender for the PFA Player of the Year award.
Alongside him John Stones has enjoyed a stunning renaissance to rise from unwanted asset to one of the Premier League’s most reliable defenders, with City having failed to concede a single open-play goal when Stones, Dias and goalkeeper Ederson have all been on the pitch this season.
City have kept 13 clean sheets in their past 17 league fixtures and their new-found solidity will have raised hopes the club can finally conquer Europe after the Champions League capitulations of recent seasons.