Oct 21, 2007

The World’s Top 25 Clubs, Oct. 22 2007 Edition

With Barcelona going down to Villareal Saturday, the top spot was up for grabs. As much as it pained me to do this as a Spurs fan, I had to give the Arse (last week's second-ranked team) their due. Arsene Wenger's men are unbeaten in all competitions this year, with their sole blemish a 1-1 draw at Blackburn way back on Aug. 17. Fortunately for Spurs fans (who haven't had much to celebrate this year) Arsenal have a tough schedule coming up. Here's this week's list (for a chronology of past weeks' go here):

1. (2) Arsenal. Okay, so the team they beat this week (Bolton) are now dead last in the Premiership. Still, this team is deserving of top dog status. For now. Things could look completely different in a week's time. They face Slavia Prague at Emirates in the Champions League Tuesday and then travel to Anfield over the weekend. The first game shouldn't present much of a problem. The second is a different story. Not to get ahead of ourselves, but a week after that they host Man U. Stay tuned...

2. (4) Inter Milan. Also had an easy game this week, which they won at 19th-placed Reggina. Appear to be the cream of Serie A--where they are unbeaten--perhaps even by a wide margin. Face a potentially difficult week as well, traveling to CSKA Moscow for their CL game Tuesday and facing fifth-placed Palermo at San Siro Sunday.

3. (3) Bayern Munich. Had no problems with Bochum, despite giving up an early goal. Already six points clear in the Bundesliga. Can we call that race now? Up this week: Start of UEFA Cup group play, followed by a trip to Dortmund. In years past, that could have been a tough game for the Bavarians. But Dortmund are a mess and Bayern are firing on all cylinders. Just how good is this team? We unfortunately may never know for sure, due to their absence from the Champions League.

(6) Manchester United. Beat up on Aston Villa, who was supposed to be a decent team, on Saturday. Travel to Dynamo Kiev and are then home to Middlesbrough this week, before traveling to Emirates a week after. Kiev is usually a tough trip, though the Ukrainian side has fallen a ways since their glory days. I don't see much of a chance of Man U slipping up this week.

5. (1) Barcelona. The loss to Villareal, now second in La Liga, was no great crime on the surface, but the Catalans were reportedly outplayed on several levels. They were without Jar-Jar though and more disconcertingly will be without Deco for five weeks. Travel to #15 Rangers for mid-week Champions League action, followed by ninth-placed Almeira at Camp Nou. They could fall further...

6. (9) Juventus. Another team that is not going to be proving itself against the continent's best, due to their lack of European competition this year. But they're looking good domestically, having just beaten Genoa. Currently second place in Serie A and may give Inter a run for their money in the title chase.

7. (5) Real Madrid. Lost to Espanyol but still top in La Liga. Face #12 Olympiakos at home in the CL, followed by Deportivo, who used to be good but aren't this year. Olympiakos could be a problem though. We'll see.

8. (7) FC Porto. Idle this week. At Marseille in mid-week CL game. Shouldn't be a problem. These guys are good.

9. (10) Manchester City. Beat Birmingham on Elano's fourth goal in three games. Too bad they aren't in Europe, but next week will be a test anyway: Sven's men travel to Stamford Bridge Saturday.

10. (11) Chelsea. Suddenly looking more like their former selves. Face Schalke at home, followed by juggernaut versus #9 City. Not much to worry about in the former match but the latter will be a good test for both teams. If they win, Chelsea should break into the top ten for the first time this season.

11. (16) Villareal. Knocked Barcelona out of the top spot with impressive home win. Face Fiorentina in tough UEFA Cup draw at mid-week followed by challenging trip to Zaragoza. They've flip-flopped in the poll so far, starting at eighth, dropping to 16th and now moving up to 11th. Expect more volatility ahead...

(12) Olympiakos. Made quick work of Panionios in the Greek Super League, where they continue to sit second behind AEK Athens. We'll know how good they are this week, when they travel to Bernabeu.

13. (15) Liverpool. Scratched out tough win in Merseyside derby but now have their work cut out for them: At Besiktas Istanbul for Champs League, followed by #1 Arsenal at Anfield. If they win both, they'll be top ten for sure, and deservedly so. But I'm not counting on those results.

14. (14) PSV Eindhoven. Beat some crap Dutch team this week and face Fenerbace at home in mid-week Champions League play.

15. (18) Rangers. Impressive in old firm victory. Now things get interesting. Host #5 Barca Tuesday, then travel to Dundee United (fourth place in the SPL) Sunday. Update: ESPNsoccernet reports that Jean-Claude Darcheville and Brahim Hemdani will miss tomorrow's Barca game for 'Gers.

16. (19) Valencia. Won at Deportivo this week and face Rosenborg in CL Wednesday, followed by Sevilla at home.

17. (13) Chivas de Guadelajara. Managed only a draw to Atlante, which cost them with all these other teams winning their games. This week will be telling: Return leg of Copa Sudamericana quarterfinal will take place at the Jalisco Thursday night followed by weekend trip to the Azteca and Club America. If they win out and some other things work out in their favor, they could reach the single digits next week. But that's a stretch.

18.(22) Sao Paulo. Beat third-placed Cruzeiro in Brazilian League action and are in driver's seat to win that championship. But things will be difficult in the Copa Sudamericana, where they have to travel to Bogota, Colombia and face Millionarios and a 1-0 deficit from the home leg.

19. (23) Olympique Lyon. Beat up on Monaco in Ligue Un and were able to create some space between them and second-placed Nancy-Lorraine, who only managed a 1-1 draw at Sochaux. Up next: At VfB Stuttgart, which should be easy considering how crappy the German side has been playing (they lost 4-1 to Hamburg this weekend).

20. (24) Club America. Impressive 2-1 win at Pachuca in this weekend's Apertura actoin. Now travel to Rio for Copa return leg with Vasco da Gama. The Mexico City side have a 2-o cushion from home leg, but that could disappear quickly. Then host Chivas Sunday.

21. (21) Dynamo Zagreb. Beat up on some Croatian team 5-0 yesterday. Aren't active in UEFA Cup until Nov. 8 (home to Switzerland's FC Basle).

(8) Celtic Glasgow. Old firm derby loss hurts, especially due to the margin of defeat. But they're still top of the SPL table on goal difference. Up next: on the road at Benfica.

23. (-) Espanyol Barcelona. Not only did they beat Real Madrid and move into fifth place in La Liga, but their players have been making noise for the national team as well. Albert Riera and Raul Tamudo both netted goals in Spain's recent Euro qualifiers. They were also both on the scorer's sheet Saturday. Too bad we won't be seeing these guys in Europe this year.

24. (-) Portsmouth. Harry Redknapp's side have been impressive this year and sit fifth in the mighty Premiership--right where my Spurs should be. Grrrrr. But Pompey appear destined for big things after 2-0 away win at Wigan. We'll see. No Euro action makes them tough to judge in medium term though: face West Ham, Blackburn and Newcastle (Carling Cup) next.

25. (17) Shakhtar Donetsk. Thanks to the club's English-language Web site I was able to discern that they lost their league game to Kryvbas over the weekend. Have their work cut out for them with trip to AC Milan at mid week. Fortunately, Milan has been crap lately, even losing this week to minnows Empoli. At home. On the other hand, they might be extra motivated and could lash the Ukrainian side. Does Donetsk belong? We shall see!

Dropping out: AS Nancy, Steaua Bucharest.
Also receiving consideration: River Plate, Santos (Mexico), Atletico Madrid, Werder Bremen, Lanus (Argentina), DC United, Fiorentina, Sporting Lisbon, Spartak Moscow, Galatasaray, Besiktas, Defensor Sporting (Uruguay).

The makeup of the top 25 didn't change much, but there was some movement in the ranks as you can see. Fans of Spanish and English (Premier) leagues will be happy to see an additional club (Pompey and Espanyol) joining the list. England continues to have the most clubs (now six) followed by Spain (five). Then there's a significant drop, with Mexico, Italy and Scotland all tied with two representatives each. I've admitted my personal bias against Italian clubs before, but I have tried to put that aside (honest) plus I seriously think Serie A has become very top-heavy. That said, Fiorentina narrowly missed out making the top 25. You'll also note the French and German leagues have as many representatives (one each) this week as Brazilian, Croatian, Dutch, Ukrainian, Portuguese and Greek leagues. I consider this a fairly accurate reflection of each leagues' current strength. From what I can tell, Ligue Un and Bundesliga are not any deeper than the aforementioned, although Werder Bremen are knocking on the door and could get in with a good showing this week. No Argentine clubs again, but River Plate inched closer with a victory and could make it next week if they have a good showing, especially in the Copa Sudamericana where they face Uruguay table toppers (and top 25 short-listed) Defensor Sporting. So actually, the Montevideo side could also make the list next week with a victory.


  1. Knock Celtic that far for losing and old firm game on the road? Mind you, they are still technically on the top of the SPL table. Granted, Rangers aren't doing bad in the CL, but I wager they wont stand up to Barca, Ibrox or not. I still think Celtic are a stronger side.

  2. Celtic's fall was due to a number of factors: 1) that margin of their defeat to Rangers, 2) strong play from the dozen or so teams behind them. They can get it back with a strong showing this week though.

  3. FC Porto will clearly show just how good they are this year. Undefeated this year at home.
    Playing at Marselha on Wed. for Champs League. Should win.