Nov 12, 2007

The World's Top 25 Clubs, Nov. 12, 2007

Lots of action last week, as the Champions League, UEFA Cup and Copa Sudamericana all held full slates of games. There were several upsets, especially in Saturday's domestic action. How did that affect things? Let's take a look:

1. (1) Inter Milan. Retained the top spot by virtue of their defeat of CSKA Moscow in midweek Champions League action. Their weekend Serie A clash with Lazio was cancelled due to the tragic death of a fan. This team is one of very few unbeaten teams left. Up after the internationals break: Atalanta, on Nov. 24. Not sure when the Lazio game will be replayed.

2.(3) Manchester United. Beat up on Dynamo Kiev and had no problem with Blackburn, both at home. Two games, two victories. Took over first place in the Premiership, though Arsenal has a game in hand. Next game Nov. 24 at Bolton.

3. (2) Arsenal. A disappointing scoreless draw at Slavia Prague was still enough to see them through to the round of 16 in the Champions League. As that was their only game, they lose a spot to Man U, who won both of their games. Play at Reading later today.

4. (8) Real Madrid. Played a tough scoreless draw at Olympiakos in their CL game, then won a shootout with Mallorca, 4-3 in La Liga yesterday (brace by Robinho). Next up: Murcia, Nov. 25.

5. (10) FC Porto. One of only three unbeaten teams left among CL participants. Blew a 2-0 lead to Estrella Amadora (I've never heard of them either) yesterday and had to settle for a 2-2 tie--only the third time they've given up points in the Portuguese league this season (the first was the week before last). Had no such problems against Marseille in the CL at midweek.Their next game is the crucial visit to Anfield Nov. 28.

6. (4) Chelsea. Drew both games, at Schalke and at home to Everton, the latter thanks to a last minute equalizer by Tim Cahill. In case you missed it, Cahill did his best Taylor Twellman imitation on that goal. Next up: At Derby, Nov. 24. That should be tough (not).

7. (12) Villareal. Won both games last week, including a come-from-behind victory against Sevilla yesterday. Are now second in La Liga behind mighty Real. Up this week: Las Palmas in Copa del Rey.

8. (6) Barcelona. Made quick work of Gers in CL, then stumbled and lost against Getafe in La Liga. Next up: Alcoyano in the Copa del Rey tomorrow.

9. (9) Juventus. Somehow managed to come back and tie at Parma yesterday. With 15 minutes to go, Juve were still down 2-0. Nicola Legrottaglie got one back and then both teams lost a man to red cards before Vincente Iaquinta leveled the score at minute 82. Next game is Nov. 25 (home versus Palermo).

10. (17) Club America. Had arguably the best week of all top 25 teams (at least the ones outside England) by winning the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana semifinal at Millonarios and then winning at Monterrey for the first time this decade in their Mexican league fixture. Up next: Return leg against Millos tomorrow night (be there) followed by Morelia Thursday in a home and home playoff to get into the playoffs. Yes, you heard that right. By the way, there is apparently no truth to the rumor that Man United has made an offer for America's keeper Guillermo Ochoa. Or at least not a concrete offer. So says this Spanish-language report, quoting Ochoa's dad (I think, that's what it says, at least). And oh yes, I definitely think America belongs here. They've been on quite a run recently and appear to be peaking at the right time.

11. (5) Olympique Lyon. Had no problem with Bayern beaters Stuttgart in the Champions League, then stumbled and lost to Marseille at home. It doesn't get any easier, with a trip to fourth-placed Rennes Saturday.

12. (7) Bayern Munich. A tough week. First they blow a gimme and tie Bolton at home, then go down in flames to Stuttgart. They were so impressive early on. Now? Not so much. Host Wolfsburg Nov. 24.

13. (19) Werder Bremen. Won both games, at Lazio (2-1) and at home to Karlsruhe (it's pronounced Karls-rooh). Off until Nov. 24 (at Energie Cottbus).

14. (20) Liverpool. Pummeled Besiktas Istanbul 8-0 and then did away with Fulham thanks to a late surge. Play at Newcastle next, Nov. 24.

15. (14) Roma. Drew 2-2 at Sporting Lisbon and had their Serie A game canceled due to the violence ahead of the Inter-Lazio game. Travel to Genoa and Kiev after the internationals break.

(21) Sao Paulo. The newly-crowned Brazilian champs beat Gremio in a meaningless game. There are two more games remaining in the domestic season, then the Copa Libertadores preparations can begin.

17. (24) Lanus. Made quick work of cellar-dwelling Rosario Central last Friday night. Are in pole position for the Apertura title, with a three point lead over Boca Juniors with three games to play. But now things get interesting: Play fifth-placed Argentinos Juniors Nov. 25 and Boca Dec. 2.

18. (11) Olympiakos. Played Real Madrid to a scoreless draw at home, then inexplicably lost their first Greek league game of the year Saturday. Up next: At Iraklis (who?) Nov. 25.

19. (13) Fiorentina. Beat up poor Elfsborg in the UEFA Cup but then lost to Udinese at home. Still second in Serie A, largely thanks to cancellations. Next: at Reggina, Nov. 25.

20. (25) Celtic Glasgow. Beat Benfica in midweek CL action and don't appear to play again until Shakhtar Donetsk visit Nov. 28.

(18) Dynamo Zagreb. Managed only a scoreless draw at home against Switzerland's FC Basle in their UEFA Cup game. Beat Osijek in their league fixture over the weekend. Their next UEFA Cup fixture is against SK Brann Nov. 29. Not sure about their next Croatian game.

22. (15) Benfica Lisbon. Rebounded from loss to Celtic with 6-1 shellacking of Boavista in the Portuguese league. Host AC Milan Nov. 28.

23. (-) Boca Juniors. The boys from the Bombanera make their first appearance on this list. It's well-deserved, after they saw off Velez Sarsfield 4-0 yesterday. Have moved up to second in the Apertura but will definitely be tested the last three weeks of the season: Copa Sudamericana semifinalist Arsenal Nov. 25, #17 Lanus Dec. 2 and Tigre (third in Apertura) to close the season Dec. 9.

24. (23) Hamburg SV. Tied Schalke in their Bundesliga clash. Have an easier game after the break, hosting Hansa Rostock.

(16) Rangers. Barca showed them whose boss last week. Next travel to Falkirk, Nov. 24.

Dropping out: PSV Eindhoven (22)
Also receiving consideration (in no particular order): Nancy, Chivas de Guadelajara, Santos Laguna, Ajax Amsterdam, Feyernoord, Portsmouth, Manchester City, Bordeaux, Toluca.

Some disappointing performances by top 10 teams last week, but with the second tier clubs unable to capitalize (although Villareal was one exception) the movement was less dramatic than it could have been. Barca are lucky to maintain their top 10 spot, but I simply could not find anybody worthy of replacing them. Even Juventus hung on to their ninth place from last week, despite not winning against an inferior opponent. Club America were the biggest movers, which makes sense considering they were one of the most impressive teams I saw play last week. Due to the split season in most Latin countries, those clubs face more big-game situations than their European brethren do at this stage of the season. For teams in continental competition there is even more pressure plus inadequate rest periods that require fielding a 'B' team for at least a game. Case in point: After facing Millos tomorrow, America have a Mexican league play-in game Thursday. That's one rest day, folks. Throw in day-long travel to road games in a different hemisphere with hostile (in the truest sense of the word) atmospheres and the possibilities for burnout only increase. So a team like America, which is able to succeed both domestically and continentally, deserves a lot of credit in my book. I'm not sure of this, but I think the four non-European clubs on this week's list is a record.

Notable too is Bayern Munich's fall from grace, which leaves no Bundesliga team in the top 10 for the first time this season. No Dutch clubs made the top 25 after PSV's poor week, though Ajax did come close (they're still unbeaten in the Eredivisie, but are out of European competition courtesy of #21 Dynamo Zagreb). There are actually several intriguing possibilities from the "also receiving consideration" category and two clubs that barely missed that cutoff: Rosenborg Trondheim and FC Basle. There are several teams from Greece, Turkey and Russia that are also positioned to move up. But with European leagues on break for a few weeks, expect to hear more from Latin American clubs first.


  1. I know there's always a minnow team that does well in Europe, and that their domestic season was pretty poor, but not even an honorable mention for Rosenborg? Beating Valencia again has to count for something.

  2. yeah it does count for something, but Rosenborg are fifth in the Tippeligaen. If they were any better they'd be in the top 25 for sure. That said, if they advance to the Round of 16 (and they are certainly in the driver's seat for that) I won't be able to keep them off I don't think...