Dec 17, 2007

The World's Top 25 Soccer Clubs, Dec. 17, 2007

A massive week for club soccer, with the conclusion of FIFA's Club World Cup, the end of the UEFA Champions League group stage and the Big Four showdown in the Premiership. How did it affect things in the Soccer Source Top 25? Read on and you'll find out:

1. (1) Inter Milan. The world's undisputed #1 team beat Eindhoven in a meaningless Champions League game, then won at Cagliari yesterday. Up next: Reggina in a cup tie and AC Milan in the derby match Sunday.

2. (2) Real Madrid. Beat Osasuna at the Benabeu yesterday and knocked off Lazio in mid-week CL action. Just how good is this team? We're due to find out, with a trip to Camp Nou lurking Sunday. Is that right? We get the Milan derby and the Clasico on the same day?!? Real visit Alicante for a cup tie at midweek first.

3. (3) Arsenal. Won their meaningless Champions League game with Steaua Bucharest and topped Chelsea in a cracking match at Emirates yesterday. I'm not convinced this is England's best team and considered having them swap places with Man United. After all, they managed only a 2-2 tie when the two teams played at Emirates Nov. 3 and Gunners tied their game at Anfield while the Red Devils won theirs yesterday...but we can play that game for awhile (Man U lost to Bolton; Arse beat them. Man U tied Reading but Arse won. On and on). Here's the bottom line: Arse lead Manchester by a point in the Prem standings and are still alive in all competitions so they're ahead of them in this list. Simple as that. Coming up: Blackburn Rovers in League Cup tomorrow and Spurs at Emirates Saturday. I am going to make a fearless prediction: Arsenal will not win the latter game.

4. (4) Manchester United. The game at Roma was meaningless; the win at Anfield impressive. Host Everton Sunday (no League Cup for the Red Devils)

5. (6) Barcelona. Beat Stuttgart in meaningless CL game and won at Valencia Saturday. Up next: Real Madrid's visit Sunday. I'm assuming that game is going to be on GolTV, which New York City residents don't get. Grrr.

6. (7) FC Porto. Beat Besiktas in Champions League to assure passage to the Round of 16 in that tournament, then topped some Portuguese team in bwinLIGA Saturday. Now have a 10-point lead over second-placed Benfica and zero losses in the bwin. Yeah, I'd say that one's over. Play some Portuguese team Sunday and are then off until Jan. 6.

7. (5) Chelsea. Played Valencia to a scoreless tie at Stamford Bridge, followed by the loss at Emirates. Didn't play badly though and easily could have tied or won the game (they have Peter Cech to thank for that one). Also dealing with injuries--Drogba and now Terry. Next up: Host Liverpool in the League Cup Wednesday followed by a trip to Blackburn Sunday.

8. (8) Roma. Tied Man U in meaningless CL game and at Torino in more meaningful Serie A match Saturday. Are now a distant second (seven point deficit) to Inter, but they might be playing for second place anyway. Play at Turin again in an cup tie Wednesday followed by Sampdoria at home on the weekend.

9. (10) Olympiakos. A huge week: Won both games, the first against Werder Bremen in the CL, the second against AEK Athens to move into first place in Greece's SuperLiga.

10. (9) Juventus. Beat Lazio Saturday. This is where I say Juve need to win all their league games because they don't play in Europe at all. So Juve need to win all their league games because they don't play in Europe at all. There, I said it. Twice actually. It's true though. The victory over Lazio was impressive but we'll never have a true gauge of how good this team is on a European scale. They haven't exactly made matters easier for us by tying all the other top teams in Serie A: at Roma (2-2 on Sept. 23), at Fiorentina (1-1 on Oct. 7), to Inter (1-1 on Nov. 4) and AC Milan (0-0 on Dec. 1). Host Siena Sunday.

11. (12) AC Milan. The official club champions of the world! Beat Boca Juniors yesterday to clinch that crown. Are only 13th in Serie A but have three games in hand on everybody else and had few problems in the Champions League, where they easily won their group. Up next: Catania in Italian cup action, followed by Inter Sunday. That latter game will be huge. I'm assuming it will be on Fox Sports World. If not I'm going to have to hurt somebody. Just kidding.

12. (11) Olympique Lyon. After showing Rangers who's boss at mid-week managed only a scoreless tie to Nice Saturday and were outplayed for large portions of it. Now things get interesting: travel to second-placed AS Nancy Saturday. If they win, they're seven points clear and will probably not be caught. If they lose, it's down to a one point lead and anybody's to take. But Nancy have dropped some points in recent weeks.

13. (14) Atletico Madrid. The rojiblancos beat Grenada (not the country) in a midweek Spanish cup tie, then managed only a scoreless draw at Recreativo Huelva yesterday. Are still third in the Primera, but now only on goal difference as Villareal won yesterday. They're still a pretty good team and still deserving of this spot in my book. They have a chance to vindicate me this week, with Panathinaikos paying a visit Thursday and a clash with fifth-placed Espanyol Barcelona looming Sunday. They're on break after that, until the return match against Grenada (not the country) Jan. 2.

14. (13) Liverpool. Beat up on Marseille to advance in the Champs League then lost to Man U at home. Have dropped 10 points behind Arsenal (and are behind Man City, even) and appear to be out of contention. Travel to Stamford Bridge for the league cup Wednesday, followed by Pompey at Anfield.

15. (15) Lanus. Have not played since they clinched the Apertura crown over a week ago. Season's over but Argentine champs are deserving of this spot. Clausura season kicks off Feb. 10 with a tough game against Independiente (that tidbit comes courtesy of our friends at Hasta El Gol Siempre).

16. (17) Arsenal de Sarandi. The Copa Sudamericana champs had their season finale with Gimnasia La Plata cancelled. Their first Clausura game is against Huracan. Both these teams will (I think) play Copa Libertadores games before that. More on the Copa Lib when the qualifiers are drawn Dec. 19.

17. (22) Fenerbahce. A huge week for the Istanbul side, who made their debut in this list last week. Advanced to Champs League Round of 16 by winning at CSKA Moscow and saw off some Turkish league side yesterday. Are third in Turkcell league, a mere point behind cross-town rivals Galatasaray. Host seventh-placed Trabsonspor Saturday.

18. (16) Bayern Munich. Played Hertha Berlin to a scoreless tie on the road Saturday. Face Aris Saloniki at home in UEFA Cup Wednesday. A month-and-a-half break ensues after that. Hard to believe I had these guys in the #2 spot in the inaugural version of the Top 25 list...

19. (18) Werder Bremen. Lost at Olympiakos to bow out of Champions League but saw off fourth-placed Bundesliga side Leverkusen (by a 5-2 score, no less) on Saturday. Are now tied on points with Bayern. Idle until cup tie at Borussia Dortmund Jan. 29.

20. (21) Villareal. Beat Getafe yesterday. Now face AEK Athens in Thursday UEFA Cup action, followed by Recreativo Huelvo Sunday.

21. (19) Sao Paulo. Brazilian champs were idle and remain so for the foreseeable future--I'm assuming until Libertadores qualifiers some time next month.

22. (20) Atlante. The Cancun side beat Mexico City's UNAM Pumas to win the Mexican Apertura championship but that was over a week ago already. When does the Clausura start? Anybody know?

23. (-) Schalke 04. The Gelsenkirchen side make their debut on this list thanks to their advancement in the Champions League. Their group, consisting of Chelsea, Valencia and Rosenborg Trondheim (whom they defeated last week) was not an easy one, either. The only German team still alive in the Champs League also beat Nurnberg Saturday, though not without problems. Think of Schalke as the German AC Milan; a solid squad that has so far held its own with some of the best teams in Europe but has been a disappointment in their domestic league. And yet the gap between them and the league leaders is seven points. Now idle until Jan. 30 when they face Wolfsburg in the German cup. VfB Stuttgart looms Feb. 3.

24. (-) Boca Juniors. Martin Palermo and gang return to the Top 25 for the first time since Nov. 19, due to a successful Club World Cup where they advanced to the final and even held their own against AC Milan yesterday morning. Idle until Feb. 10 (Rosario Central at the Bombonera).

25. (25) Hamburg SV. Tied at Karlsruhe (it's pronounced Karls-rooh). Travel to Basle for meaningless UEFA Cup game Thursday. Then the break. Yes I know they're ahead of Schalke in the Bundesliga, but Schalke have had to deal with a Champions League schedule.

Dropping out: Celtic (23), Rangers (24)

Also receiving consideration (in no particular order): Fiorentina, AS Nancy, Ajax Amsterdam, Manchester City.

I feel vindicated after reshuffling the top of the list last week, as the two higher-rated Premiership teams won their games yesterday. So why isn't Man City on the list? They aren't in Europe and ever since beating their crosstown rivals way back on Aug. 18 they have not defeated any good teams. The last time they played one, Oct. 27, they got shellacked 6-0 by Chelsea. So City are not one of the 25 best teams in the world. They may be by season's end, but that depends how they do between now and then. (Yes, breaking into the top four in the Premiership would make them good enough). They'll have a first chance against Liverpool Dec. 30.

Two teams that advanced in the Champions League didn't make the list: Sevilla, who actually won their group, and Celtic. Why? Celtic have played like crap lately and will probably not have a chance to advance to the CL quarterfinals, unless they draw Sevilla. The Andalusian side only won their group because Arsenal was able to stop caring about it early on. The group was easily the weakest (Steaua Bucharest and Slavia Prague were the other two teams). Sevilla are a mess, with Juande Ramos up and quitting on them for Daniel Levy's money and the Antonio Puerta tragedy earlier in the season. The defending UEFA Cup champs may yet get their sh*t together (they have showed promise, beating Real Madrid and Valencia) but they've got a ways to go.


  1. You're making a fatal error in predicting Celtic's downfall. Mind you, it took some ET magic from the best player in the world to see them off last year. Aidian McGeady is heating up, scoring a hat trick recently. And he's Irish. Can't stop him. You certainly can't use their narrow road defeat to Milan against them, can you?

    Fact of the matter is no team wants to draw Celtic and have to visit Parkhead for a leg. They're a dangerous side that's only going to get better.

  2. I've got some real issues with this week's list. Including Schalke and then ranking them ahead of Hamburg is in no way justified. Yes, Schalke are still in the Champions League, but Valencia have been crap and Schalke benefited from Rosenborg beating Valencia twice. They weren't that convincing and just had a bit of luck. Their league performance has also been a mixed bag with lots of draws and only a few really positive performances. I don't see a reason to include them in the list. Especially ranking them ahead of Hamburg. Saying they had a CL schedule to manage doesn't count as an argument IMHO. Hamburg had it worse. They played their UEFA Cup matches on Thursday and had to play just two days later in the league twice. That's more difficult to handle than CL Tuesdays and Wednesdays. While Hamburg got an easy group, they also lead it with a perfect record of three wins without conceding a goal. Their match this week isn't meaningless either, because it will decide who wins the group and thus gets an easier draw in the next round.

    Looking forward to see Schalke dropped next week. ;-)

  3. ...and the USL Vancouver Whitecaps nowhere to be seen on the list. I wish one of those clubs would play a friendly here.