Before their match with England this evening, Ukraine boss Oleg Blokhin warned his opponents, "the best team does not always win in football."

The Ukrainian coach is hoping for an upset, but while the best team may not win one particular battle, it invariably wins the war.

The England example is unfortunate - they are far from the world's best team but their FIFA ranking places them third - and while they may lose to Ukraine tonight, they will likely still qualify for the World Cup.

In a bid to quantify football FIFA's world rankings system has subjected itself to riducle, not least because England's trajectory seems firmly fixed upwards, even if their on-pitch performances continue to stagnate.

But still, to rank nations is fun, to boast over rivals always enjoyable, so it only makes sense to take this concept and apply it elsewhere.

A new club ranking system seeks to take FIFA's international model and apply it to club football - to find Europe's "best team". The Euro Club Index follows a slightly different formula to the idiosyncratic international rankings, but it's aim is still the same - to rank all of Europe's club from across the continent's top divisions.

The statistical method weights recent matches more heavily than older fixtures, and seeks to predict the outcomes of future ties by taking into account past results over an eight-year period.

Using the data, the Euro Club Index aims to assess the probability of each club winning their respective domestic leagues, with some surprising results. But more of that later.

What does not take much statistical analysis to figure out is that Barcelona are Europe's current best team.

Their success over the past few years has been astounding - three consecutive La Liga titles and two Champions League titles in three years prior to last season.

Like Spain at international level, Barcelona may lose the odd match, but over the course of a season their win percentage will be much higher, and they place themselves more consistently in positions to win trophies - in semi-finals and finals.

Blokhin's right, the best team does not always win, but Barcelona prove they do so with unerring regularity.

As a result they sit atop the Euro Club Index, almost 100 points clear of La Liga rivals Real Madrid.

In third and fourth place sit last year's top Premier League clubs, Manchester United and Manchester City respectively.

Last season's Champions League finalists find themselves in fifth and sixth, although Chelsea sit beneath Bayern Munich, despite their penalty shootout victory.

The only other English side in the top 10 is Arsene Wenger's Arsenal, who sit ninth, just below Borussia Dortmund and FC Porto, and marginally ahead of Atletico Madrid and Shakhtar Donetsk.

But the really interesting part of the data relates to the Index predictions.

The ECI index formula attempts to calculate the probability of different match results - win, loss or draw - and extrapolates the results by creating league predictions.

Based on the first three matches of the season, and from prior performances from previous campaigns, the Euro Club Index gives Manchester United the best chance of winning the Premier League title this season - a 32.9% likelihood.

European champions Chelsea have a 27% chance, while reigning Premier League holders Manchester City have a 24.3% chance.

The small chance that any other of the big three win the title is reflected in that fact that Arsenal - in fourth - have just an 8.9% probability of winning a first league trophy since 2004.

In the Champions League it would seem Barcelona already have one hand on the trophy. Tito Vilanova's side have 42.2% probability according to the rankings, while Manchester United have just a 6.7%, and Manchester City a 3.2% chance.

Reigning European champions Chelsea have just a 2.4% likelihood of defending their title.

The Euro Club Index also reflects the duopoly of La Liga. In Spain, Barcelona have almost a 70% chance of winning, Real Madrid a 24.4.% probability, leaving the remaining 18 clubs to scrap over 5% between them.

The predictions make for interesting reading, and you can find them here, but as Blokhin so readily said "the best team does not always win in football."

It's an unpredictable game, otherwise all those punters down the bookies each Saturday would all be millionaires by now. Barcelona, or Manchester United, or Chelsea may win every other week, but not every week.

And that unpredictably, that small chance that the underdog could upset the odds, is what makes it worth watching.

Top 10 rankings - Euro Club Index

1. Barcelona

2. Real Madrid

3. Manchester United

4. Manchester City

5. Bayern Munich

6. Chelsea

7. FC Porto

8. Borussia Dortmund

9. Arsenal

10. Atletico Madrid

Topics:
Arsenal
European News
Football
Manchester City
Chelsea
Premier League
UEFA Champions League
Manchester United