FIFA 14 Team Rankings: My Top 5 List of the Best Squads to Play With as the Season Heats Up
The FIFA franchise is a truly global sports game brand and in my opinion the best, and best-selling, soccer (sorry to any Europeans, I'm going to call it football from here on out) simulation there is. I'm a huge fan of both the sport and the games, and as the very tight races for league titles around the world heat up, I will rank the top 5 teams to play as in the latest solid, if not revolutionary, entry FIFA 14.
The rankings are a combination of the in-game ratings, how players actually play in the game regardless of their rating, and my humble opinion. Without further ado:
1. Real Madrid C.F.
The ratings for the historically successful and wealthy Real Madrid are absurd, as they should be, and the team is only getting better in real life. They just thrashed Schalke 1-6 in the Champions League and are leading La Liga right now in a tight race. Yes, Bayern is probably the best team in the world in reality, but the way Madrid plays in FIFA puts them at the top.
They have the game's best player in Cristiano Ronaldo (the first or second best player in the world in real life, depending on who you ask), who can run past anyone and score from more or less anywhere on the pitch. His speed, dribbling and shooting can single-handedly blow games open like no other player in FIFA. Goalkeeper Iker Casillas is basically superhuman in this game, always pulling off incredible saves and frustrating opponents. Add to that the strong stable of defenders featuring Sergio Ramos and Marcelo, most-expensive-transfer-ever Gareth Bale on the flank and a solid midfield and this is the indisputable best team in the game in my estimation. The players are fast, technically sound and hard to beat defensively: playing as Madrid is a definite advantage in this game.
2. FC Bayern Munich
The aforementioned best team in the world, winners of last year's German Bundesliga title, German DFB-Pokal Cup and the European Champions League are just shy of Madrid's all around quality (and don't have Ronaldo). What they do have is a ridiculous array of skilled, speedy dribbling wingers in Robben, Ribery and Shaqiri, plus world-class talents in Kroos, Goetze and Mueller. Add to that the steel and ball-retention abilities of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez, and you have what sounds like (and is) an all-star team. Writing it all out, it's honestly more than a little insane how good the squad is.
The all-around midfield quality propels them ahead of most teams in this game, and the defense is solid with versatile fullback Lahm in front of who is probably the world's best goalkeeper, and one of the highest rated in the game in Manuel Neuer. Teams shouldn't be able to outscore you, and will have a very hard time scoring on you, if you play with the German and European champions.
3. FC Barcelona
This had been football's best team since the 08-09 season, winning two Champions League and four La Liga titles in that time by dominating and exhausting opponents with their unique brand of patient, controlled, and pass-heavy play. They've been displaced by Bayern at the summit and didn't reach the same heights in Europe last season, getting thrashed by the German side, but make no mistake: they're still very, very good. It's hard to emulate their style in FIFA without focusing on it a lot, but it shouldn't matter too much because of the quality of their players.
Barcelona possess, in my opinion, the world's best footballer Lionel Messi (I really do personally like Ronaldo more as a player, but it's hard to argue against Messi), whose super quick feet and incomparable finishing are always a threat. I don't find him as easy to dominate with as Ronaldo, but he's supported by a truly amazing midfield of Inietsa, Xavi, Busquets and Fabregas. If you like to pass, players won't be able to get the ball off you. Complemented by speedy wingers Pedro and Sanchez, and expensive wonderkid Neymar, you can score for days with Barcelona. Their defense is a little weak as in real life, but at least Pique is very good at the back and keeper Valdes is good enough.
4. Manchester City FC
While I certainly don't dislike this team as much as their neighbors Manchester United, nor the resurgent Liverpool, as a Chelsea supporter they're not my favorites due to being title rivals and also very, very good. They've spent quite a bit of money over the last three and four years, but have a great squad to show for it. City only won the league once (in a crazy, last-day goal-difference win) since their spending spree began and they've crashed out of Europe early every year, but for roster purposes in FIFA they're one of the best. Hey, I know Chelsea have spent a ton too, though not as much, but they have a whole lot more to show for it.
An embarrassment of riches at the striker position is this team's trademark, with the world class Argentinian Sergio Aguero supported by Dzeko, Negredo and Jovetic, all very good goal-scorers. It's a pretty unfair lineup, especially compared to the relative lack of quality striking options at Chelsea and Arsenal (the other two title contenders this season). Their midfield includes one of the best on the planet in the human battering ram Yaya Toure, and a collection of quick playmakers to complement him. They might lack a defensive midfielder with a good work rate, but have one of the best defenders, Kompany, and good enough goalkeeping to be a very difficult team to score against. City are a quite popular FIFA 14 team due to their all-around quality, with no real holes in the roster.
5. Juventus F.C.
I debated this last spot for a while, thinking any of PSG, Dortmund or Chelsea (I know, I know but the squad is solid!) could be argued here. Ultimately, the two-time running Italian champions, with a third title looking pretty much set, deserve the final spot. There aren't really any weaknesses here and in FIFA 14, their players are all quite good. There used to be a striker problem in Turin, but the acquisitions of Fernando Llorente and Carlos Tevez fixed that as both are very good. Gianluigi Buffon has indisputably been a top two goalkeeper for more than a decade, with four Serie A titles and a World Cup win with Italy under his belt. He's older now, but makes some ridiculous saves in FIFA and won't disappoint you if your defense skills fail.
The rest of the team is great, with a mix of youth and experience exemplified perfectly by midfield duo Paul Pogba and Andrea Pirlo. They're a little light out wide, but have serviceable options with good playmaking and defensive central midfielders, and very strong centerbacks, particularly Chiellini. Juventus is a good bet to use as an all-around team, but it's of course up to you to play well!
Those are my rankings, and though they're far from definitive, I think they're fair and hope you'll agree. Check back for more FIFA-related content from me in the future.