Dec 24, 2007

The World's Top 25 Soccer Clubs, Dec. 24, 2007

Happy holidays and welcome to the year's penultimate Top 25 List. All is quiet in Latin America, but it was quite a weekend in Europe, with the Real-Barca and Inter-Milan games both taking place today. How did that affect things? Let's see to find out:

1. (1) Inter Milan. Beat Reggina in a cup tie and overcame AC Milan in the derby match yesterday. Yes, they were a bit lucky to win that game (hopefully they have time to send Dida a Christmas card?), but these guys are for real. Next up: Siena, Jan. 13 and the return match at Reggina five days after that.

2. (2) Real Madrid. Tied Alicante in a cup match at midweek before shocking Barca at Camp Nou. Now seven points clear in La Liga and looking dominant. Next up: The return leg at Alicante (Jan. 2) and Real Zaragosa (Jan. 6).

3. (3) Arsenal. Beat Blackburn Rovers in extra time in the League Cup, then overcame Spurs in the North London derby Saturday despite being outplayed. The result of latter match forces a certain individual who predicted a tie or Spurs win to eat his words. So here I am and I'm ready to chow down. Yes, I made that prediction. Yes, it was wrong. That will show me. I will never again predict any kind of success for Spurs, especially against Arsenal. Gunners face Pompey on Boxing Day (Wednesday) then Everton Saturday. Both games are on the road.

4. (4) Manchester United. Beat Everton yesterday. The bad news now is they face three games in six days. The good news? The teams all suck. Away matches against Sunderland (Wednesday) and West Ham (Saturday) next on the docket, following by Birmingham City at Old Trafford on New Year's day. Okay fine, West Ham isn't that bad but the other two are.

5. (7) Chelsea. Topped Liverpool in the League Cup Wednesday then saw off Blackburn yesterday. Next up: Aston Villa (Wednesday) and Newcastle (Saturday) at Stamford Bridge, followed by a trip to Craven Cottage Jan. 1.

6. (8) Roma. Lost first leg of cup tie at Torino Wednesday, before beating Sampdoria Saturday. Next up: Bergamo Jan. 13, the return leg against Torino three days afterwards and Catania Jan. 20.

7. (5) Barcelona. Lost to Real in yesterday's clasico and are now seven points behind their hated rivals. Not only that but cross-town Espanyol are only a point in arrears. When was the last time Espanyol was ahead of Barca in the Liga? No clue, but I reckon it's been a little while. Barca play Alcoyano in a Spanish cup tie Jan. 2, followed by a trip to Mallorca Jan. 6 and Murcia at Camp Nou a week afterwards.

8. (6) FC Porto. Lost their first bwinLIGA game Friday, going down to ninth-placed Nacional Funchal (58th minute goal by some guy named Marcelo Lipatin, if you care about these things). Now idle until Jan. 6. Sporting Lisbon looms Jan 27.

9. (10) Juventus. Saw off Siena yesterday and sit solidly in third place, only one point behind Roma but eight behind Inter. Off until Jan 12 trip to Catania.

10. (9) Olympiakos. Managed only a scoreless draw at home to 10th-placed Larisa yesterday and were promptly knocked from their first-place perch as AEK Athens (a team they beat last week) won their game. Next up: Greek Superleague matches Saturday and Jan. 5. Third-place Panathinaikos looms Jan. 13.

10. (11) AC Milan. Lost both games it played last week, to Catania in the Italian cup action and Inter yesterday (in a game they actually led--for 18 minutes in the first half). So why aren't I moving them down? Simple: The cup tie is played over two legs and the rossoneri played their neighbors (the best club team in the world) closely yesterday, losing only on a howler by goalkeeper Dida. Up next: Naples Jan. 13 and the return leg at Catania three days later.

11. (12) Olympique Lyon. Tied second-placed Nancy Saturday. Next game at Creteil Jan. 6 in a cup match before Ligue Un returns to action Jan. 12.

12. (17) Fenerbahce. Beat seventh-placed Trabsonspor Saturday and are now tied for first with Silvasspor in the Turkcell league. Next up: Kayserispor (who?) in a cup tie Jan. 6.

13. (18) Bayern Munich. Beat up on Aris Saloniki at home in meaningless midweek UEFA Cup match. So why did they move up this much? The teams ahead of them all had mediocre (or worse) weeks. Ottmar Hitzfeld's men are now off for a month-and-a-half break. Face some minnow in the German cup Jan. 29, followed by Hansa Rostock Feb. 1 and a top-of-the-table cracker with Werder Bremen Feb. 10. Set your calendars for that one. Maybe by then I'll have GolTV? Unlikely. Bayern face Aberdeen in the UEFA Cup. There is a German phrase for that: eine lösbare Aufgabe (suffice it to say I don't think the Scottish side will win that match-up).

14. (14) Liverpool. Lost League Cup match at Stamford Bridge Wednesday, but rebounded nicely against Pompey yesterday. Like all Premiership teams they face three games in a weeks' time frame. In this case, Liverpool has one tough match, at Man City Dec. 30, flanked by two easy ones (Derby County on Boxing Day and Wigan Jan. 2). The Man City game looks to be significant, as Reds are one point in arrears of the fourth-placed Citizens in the EPL.

15. (13) Atletico Madrid. The rojiblancos beat Panathinaikos Thursday but lost to Espanyol at home yesterday. Face Grenada (not the country) in return leg of Spanish cup tie the day after new year's, followed by Deportivo and Valencia Jan. 6 and Jan. 13, respectively. Face Bolton in UEFA Cup.

16. (15) Lanus. Have not played since they clinched the Apertura crown. Clausura season kicks off Feb. 10 with a tough game against Independiente (that tidbit comes courtesy of our friends at Hasta El Gol Siempre).

17. (16) Arsenal de Sarandi. The Copa Sudamericana champs will play in the Copa Libertadores.

18. (19) Werder Bremen. Idle last week and will remain so until a cup tie at Borussia Dortmund Jan. 29. Out of the Champs League but face Portugal's Braga in the UEFA Cup Round of 32.

19. (20) Villareal. Won a tough UEFA Cup road game at AEK Athens Thursday but only tied Recreativo Huelvo at home yesterday. Face Zenit St. Petersburg in the next round of the UEFA Cup. (Yes I realize the Spanish teams are ordered differently here than they are in their domestic league. Will take care of that next week).

20. (-) Espanyol Barcelona. Won at Atletico Madrid yesterday and are now third in the Primera. Don't look now, but the Periquitos have not lost since Sept. 22 (16 games, if my count is correct). But are not in Europe. A date with Villareal looms Jan. 6.

21. (-) Fiorentina. The Viola make their return to the Top 25 (first time since Nov. 26) after thrashing last-place Cagliari, 5-1 (six goals in a Serie A match? Believe it). Also won their UEFA Cup tie last week. Face Rosenborg in the Round of 32 in what promises to be an interesting match-up. Fifth in Serie A; off until Jan. 13 (Parma).

(-) AS Nancy-Lorraine. The French side make their return to the list for the first time since Oct. 14. Not in Europe, but second in Ligue Un and very much alive after matching mighty Lyon Saturday. Next up: Stade Reims in the French cup Jan. 6 and a trip to Caen Jan. 12.

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

24. (25) Hamburg SV. Managed only a tie at Basle but it was in a meaningless UEFA Cup game. They'll have another Swiss side (F.C. Zurich) to deal with in the Round of 32. Now on break until Jan. 30, when they face lower-division Rot-Weiss Essen (if I'm not mistaken they were an original Bundesliga club? Or am I imagining this?). Then two tough matches: a Nordderby against Hannover 96 (Feb. 2) and fourth-placed Leverkusen (Feb. 9).

25. (-) Bordeaux. The Girondins make their debut on the list after beating Sochaux and Panionios Athens. Currently third in Ligue Un. Are through to the Round of 32 in the UEFA Cup where they face Anderlecht. Next game: some French minnow in a cup tie Jan. 6, followed by Auxerre Jan. 12.

Dropping out: Atlante (22), Schalke (23), Boca Juniors (24)

Also receiving consideration (in no particular order): Manchester City, Leverkusen, Udinese, AEK Athens

To follow

No comments:

Post a Comment