Nov 5, 2007

The World's Top 25 Clubs, Nov. 5, 2007

And we're back. A crazy week with lots of action, including games where teams from last week's Top 25 faced off and, more often than not, tied. But not all ties are equal, as we shall see:

1. (2) Inter Milan. Their tie at Juventus was the right outcome from the balance of play, according to's report of that top-of-the-table clash in Serie A. A tie that moved them to the top spot in the rankings, where they displaced Arsenal. This despite the fact that both teams won and drew twice this week? Yes. Arsenal was playing at home and came closer to losing their game to Man U. (trailing twice) than Inter came to losing theirs at Stadio Olimpico. And Juventus hadn't given up a goal at home since Sept. 16. The Nerazurri also beat Genoa 4-1 at midweek, who might not be an elite squad but are at least in the top flight, unlike Sheffield Wednesday, whom Arsenal beat in their midweek game. Oh yeah, I was also sick of staring at Arsenal in the top spot and my friends at NYSpurs were threatening to excommunicate me. Up for Inter this week: home to CSKA Moscow in Champions League and to Lazio in Serie A.

2. (1) Arsenal. It was quite a game at Emirates Saturday, and the Gunners showed surprising fight in battling back twice from a goal down. But points squandered at home--even if it's to the third-best team in the world--are not looked upon kindly by the Committee that ranks these teams (a Committee that, I should add, consists of one person: me). Up next: Slavia Prague and Wigan. I think Sheffield Wednesday has a tougher week than that.

3. (3) Manchester United. Played well at Emirates but gave up the late goal, which, like the first was a result of sloppy defending. That keeps them at third. Up next: Dynamo Kiev and Blackburn, both at home.

4. (7) Chelsea. The Premiership's third-placed team has come a long way since Jose Mourinho walked out the door in September. Yes, I know the midweek win against Leicester was anything but impressive, but consider this: The Blues won every game they played (in all competitions) in October and have not given up a Premiership goal since Sept. 23. Up this week: At Schalke in the Champions League tomorrow and Everton at home on the weekend.

5. (9) Olympique Lyon. Moved up by virtue of their perfect record (two victories) last week. Granted, neither was against what you would call a quality opponent; the midweek Coupe de la Ligue game was against second division Caen and yesterday's victory was over Valenciennes, who don't exactly evoke memories of the 1970 Brazilian national team either. Still, results count and l'OL now have six victories in a row, dating to their humiliating 3-0 home defeat to Rangers back on Oct. 2.Up next: Stuttgart and Marseille, both at home.

6. (6) Barcelona. I chastised them for their midweek draw at Valladolid, so why aren't they moving down in the rankings? Two reasons: 1) Their competitors fared worse and 2) They rebounded nicely with a 3-0 victory against Betis at Camp Nou yesterday. Jar Jar scored three goals last week. Face Gers at midweek CL and then travel to Getafe.

7. (4) Bayern Munich. I have spoken at length how this team would be subject to intense scrutiny due to not having qualified for the Champions League. A scoreless home draw to newly-promoted Eintracht Frankfurt is the kind of result the Committee was sure to penalize. Indeed, the Bavarians have dropped out of the top 5 for the first time. Up next: Bolton at home (Thursday) and VfB Stuttgart on the road (Saturday). The latter game could be trouble, as VfB have won three in a row after a disastrous start to the season.

8. (5) Real Madrid. Los Merengues faced two tough road games last week, at Valencia and Sevilla. How did they do? Very good in the first (a 5-1 victory) and quite poorly in the second (a 2-0 loss to Sevilla). Which adds up to a three spot drop in the standings. It could have been worse. Up next: At Olympiakos for a tough CL game, followed by Malaga at home. They'll get back to the top five if they win both.

9. (10) Juventus. Showed they belonged in battling back to tie Inter yesterday. Will they give Inter a run for their money in the Serie A this season? They're certainly up for the task. Unfortunately, the lack of quality competition outside Serie A will hurt them over the long run (the team didn't qualify for Europe at all after spending all of last year in Serie B). Travel to Parma Sunday.

10. (8) FC Porto. After making quick work of Leixoes to start the week, they finally slipped up last Friday. Their 1-1 home draw to Belenenses was the first time this season they gave up points in league play. Up next: Marseille at home for the CL and some Portuguese team over the weekend.

11. (15) Olympiakos. The Greek club won both its games last week, the first a 1-0 triumph over Larisa that sealed the Super Cup on Halloween. I'm not sure what the Super Cup is, but the team apparently rested its starters, according to (you can't get these things from ESPN, folks). Then beat PAOK Salonika over the weekend. Up next: Mighty Real Madrid, the only team to have beaten them this season (at Bernabeu. This time they're playing in Piraeus). This just in: reports that Olympiakos' Argentine midfielder Cristián Raúl Ledesma will miss the game along with two starting defenders.

12. (17) Villareal. Also won both games last week, the second a thrilling 4-3 victory at Atletico Madrid where they were down 2-0 after 25 minutes but came back to tie before halftime. Turkish international Nihat Kahveci then netted a brace in the last 20 minutes of the game to win it for Villareal--this after Atletico had gone ahead on 62 minutes. Very impressive. Up next: Some crap team in UEFA Cup, followed by Valencia at home. Should reclaim a top 10 spot if they win both.

13. (-) Fiorentina. Unbeaten in all competition this season, it is finally time to give La Viola their due. A perfect week helped: beat Napoli and Lazio by identical 1-0 scores (what else? this is Italy, after all). Now sit second in Serie A. Up next: Elfsborg in UEFA Cup and Udinese. Don't look now but they play Inter on Dec. 2 at the Artemio Franchi.

(11) Roma. Everything was going great until they played the second half of yesterday's home game against Empoli. For some reason Roma let a vastly inferior opponent back into the game and ended up tying 2-2. The Roma derby earlier in the week was more impressive for i Gialorossi (a 3-2 win versus Lazio), and kept them falling further. Up next: Sporting Lisbon on the road and Cagliari at home Sunday.

15. (12) Benfica Lisbon. Freddy Adu and Co. are quietly unbeaten in the Portuguese league where they now sit second, six points behind #9 FC Porto. Won their only league game against some crappy team but earlier were ousted from the cup--despite a goal by our hero. That first result cost them.

16. (20) Rangers. Gers won both games last week, which is more than you can say for most other teams on this list (one of the number of ways in which it can't be compared to college football: too many ties). Up next: At Camp Nou in Champions League action and then home to Falkirk. The former is this week's marquee match up. Gers have been inconsistent this year but have played Europe's best very tough. I'm looking forward to a close game.

17. (14) Club America. A topsy-turvy week for the Mexico City side. On the heels of their emotional (and impressive) Super Clasico win against Chivas, they promptly lost their next game to Atlante before rebounding with a 1-0 victory over Necaxa yesterday to salvage the week. Now things get interesting: The first leg of their Copa Sudamericana semifinal goes down Wednesday night when they host Colombia's Millionarios. America will be heavily favored, but that hasn't scared the Bogota side before: in the quarterfinals they beat newly-crowned Brazilian champion Sao Paulo.

18. (19) Dynamo Zagreb. Won both games last week, but neither to a team whose name I can pronounce much less recognize (then again that holds true for all Croatian teams except for Hadjuk Split and Osijek. Wait is Osijek even Croatian?). Face FC Basle in UEFA Cup this week.

19. (24) Werder Bremen. Won both their games last week without giving up a goal. Now travel to Rome to face Lazio in Champions League and surprising Karlsruhe (it's pronounced Karls-rooh, by the way)

(16) Liverpool. Disappointing draw at Blackburn now has the Reds seventh. Face Besiktas at Anfield for the rematch of a game they lost two weeks ago. Will the re-match be a re-peat? Fortunately for Liverpool, Besiktas has not played well lately either. Face Fulham, also at Anfield, Saturday.

21. (25) Sao Paulo. Beat America RN (not to be confused with the club ranked #17) to clinch the Brazilian league title. Unfortunately, their continental season is also finished after they were upset by Millionarios. Still a formidable side however and as Brazilian champ deserving of their spot.

22. (13) PSV Eindhoven. Finally lost their first Eredevisie game, going down 2-1 to Michael Bradley's Heerenveen. Up next: At Fenerbace for CL and against some Dutch club this weekend.

23. (-) Hamburg SV. Kevin Keegan's one-time team won twice last week to clinch their first-ever spot in Soccer Source's Top 25. Now second in Bundesliga behind mighty Bayern (whom they tied earlier this season). No UEFA Cup action this week but travel to Schalke Saturday. They'll earn next week's spot if they do well there.

24. (-) Lanus. The table toppers of Argentina's Apertura make their debut on this list, thanks to an impressive victory against fourth-placed Tigre. El Granate, as Lanus are known (according to their Wikipedia entry--I ain't just making stuff up!) now have a three point lead over Boca Juniors with four games to play. Several clubs are within striking distance of the leaders, however, and it will be sure to prove an interesting few weeks. Have an easy week, against cellar dwelling Rosario Central Friday night.

25. (22) Celtic Glasgow. I almost took them off the list, then remembered that they still lead the SPL and have done well in the Champions League, where they'll be in action again this week. They host Freddy Adu F.C., also known as #15 Benfica Lisbon in midweek CL action.

Dropping out: Besiktas (18), Valencia (21), Santos Laguna (23).
Also receiving consideration: Nancy, Fenerbace, Boca Juniors, Chivas, Santos, Ajax, Portsmouth, Galatasaray.

To follow.

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