Jan 14, 2008

The World's Top 25 Soccer Clubs, Jan. 14, 2008

Italy's Serie A returned to action last week, meaning that the Bundesliga is the only major European league (at least the ones that I follow) still on its winter break. The Germans will be back in action soon enough. In the meantime, there was plenty of other stuff that went down. Here's how it affected the rankings:

1. (1) Inter Milan. Won at 18th-placed Siena to maintain their unbeaten Serie A record. Up next: a cup tie versus Reggina Thursday followed by Parma at San Siro Sunday. Expect Inter at the same spot next week.

2. (4) Manchester United. Thoroughly dismantled Newcastle to take back first place in the Premiership Saturday. Figure their strong form to continue when they visit Reading Saturday.

3. (2) Real Madrid. Lost at Mallorca in first leg of Copa del Rey at midweek (but it was only by a 2-1 score that they will be able to make up in the return leg at Bernabeu Wednesday. Still, the margin for error at these very top spots is extremely slim, so they dropped down a spot). Yesterday beat Liga cellar-dwellars Levante 2-0 on a brace by van Nistelrooy. The Madrid derby goes down Sunday. Now THAT should be interesting.

4. (3) Arsenal. Two ties last week, both at Emirates, both in games they were expected to win. Were outplayed by Spurs in midweek League Cup but managed a 1-1 tie, then played Birmingham City to an identical score Saturday.

5. (5) Chelsea. Beat Everton in the league cup last Tuesday, then off Spurs 2-0 at Stamford Bridge yesterday. Up next: Trips to Birmingham City and Everton for the return leg.

6. (6) Roma. Won at Atalanta Bergamo yesterday. Next up: Torino in midweek cup tie. Catania at the home on the weekend.

7. (7) Barcelona. Tied Sevilla 1-1 at midweek copa game, then beat up on Murcia in liga action Saturday. The return leg against Sevilla is Wednesday at Camp Nou. Sixth-placed Racing Santander visit Sunday.

8. (8) FC Porto. Beat up on Sporting Braga by 4-0 on Saturday. Face some Portuguese minnow in a cup game Wednesday, followed by the showdown against third-placed Sporting Lisbon Sunday.

9. (11) AC Milan. Beat up on Napoli, 5-2. Seven goals in a Serie A game? Believe it. The rossoneri are still only 12th in Serie A, but with three games in hand. Win all three and they move up to sixth. So yeah, I think they belong here. They're also the reigning Club World Champions, remember? Next up: A trip to Catania for the Italian cup, followed by a tough road game at Udinese Sunday.

10. (12) Olympique Lyonnais. Beat Toulouse 3-2. Next up: Le Mans in a French cup game, then a trip to Lens Sunday. Lens is usually a tough place to play, but this year the Sang et Or (I think that means blood and guts? Or maybe it's blood and gold) are placed 18th of 20 clubs.

11. (9) Juventus. Managed only a tie at Catania Saturday. Up next: Host Empoli in cup game tomorrow and seventh-placed Sampdoria in Serie A Sunday.

12. (10) Olympiakos. Tied third-place Panathinaikos at home yesterday. A rematch will take place Wednesday, this time in a cup match.

13. (15) Atletico Madrid. Managed only a scoreless tie against Valladolid at home at midweek (Copa game), then rebounded nicely by beating Valencia yesterday to reclaim third place in the liga. Up next: Return leg versus Valladolid followed by #3 Real Madrid.

14. (13) Espanyol Barcelona. Grabbed a 1-1 tie at Bilbao in midweek Copa del Rey game. Then lost at Almeria yesterday to drop back down to fourth place. The return leg of the Bilbao series is Wednesday, followed by a trip to Valladolid Sunday.

15. (14) Fenerbahce. Turkey's Champions League representative for the Round of 16 tied Istanbul BB in a league cup game Saturday. Up next: a midweek cup game followed by a weekend league game, both against teams I cannot pronounce, much less tell you anything about.

16. (16) Bayern Munich. Idle until Jan. 29 (German cup game). Bundesliga returns to action Feb. 1, with Hansa Rostock on the docket. A top-of-the-table cracker with Werder Bremen looms Feb. 10. Set your calendars for that one.

17. (25) Club America. Yes, the Aguilas are the top-ranked non-European squad this week. The significant jump in their ranking comes virtue of their performance in the Interliga, where they won both games last week, the second a penalty shootout classic against Cruz Azul, to advance to the Copa Libertadores. It looks like they will be in River Plate's group? Can anybody confirm? The Mexican Clausura season also returns to action this week, with America hosting Puebla (I think they're newly-promoted, yes?) Sunday.

18. (23) Fiorentina. Won at Parma yesterday. Host Ascoli Calcio in cup game Wednesday, followed by Torino in Serie A action Saturday.

19. (19) 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). Will play in the Copa Libertadores where they will face Ecuadorian side Olmedo in a play-in series Jan. 31 and Feb. 5. If they win, they're in to the group stage where they will face Estudiantes, Uruguay's Danubio and Deportivo Cuenca from Ecuador.

20. (18) Villareal. Lost at Recreativo Huelva in Copa match Wednesday, then beat Deportivo yesterday. Up next: Return leg of Copa del Rey, then Valencia pay a visit on the weekend. Things don't get any easier after that, with a trip to the Bernabeu looming Jan. 27.

21. (20) Arsenal de Sarandi. The Copa Sudamericana champs will face Venezuelan side Mineros de Guyana in a home-and-home play-in for the Copa Libertadores. Games will take place Jan. 29 and Feb. 5. Assuming they advance from that (how could they not? Well, strange things happen in the Copa Lib) they will be in Group 8 with Fluminense, Paraguay's Libertad and Liga de Quito (even I know that's Ecuador).

22. (21) Werder Bremen. Idle until a cup tie at Borussia Dortmund Jan. 29.

23. (17) Liverpool. Their tie at Middlesbrough was their fourth in a row and third to an inferior opponent. Also played Luton Town to a 1-1 score at midweek. Last week it was Wigan; the week before that Man. City. Reds have only two wins in their last eight games and one of these was against Derby (in a match they probably should not have won). Why are they still in the Top 25? I don't know, but if this keeps up they won't be for very long. Next games are the return leg to Luton Town at Anfield and Aston Villa a week from today. I think the latter game will give us a good gauge of just how good (or bad) Liverpool are right now.

24. (22) AS Nancy-Lorraine. Tied Caen Saturday. Travel to Lens for cup game Wednesday, followed by fifth-placed Nice at home Sunday.

25. (24) Sao Paulo. Idle. The Brazilian champs have a direct pass into the Copa Libertadores group stage, where they face Paraguay's Sportivo Luqueño, Colombia's Atlético Nacional and a qualifier.

Dropping out: None.

Also receiving consideration (in order of consideration received): AEK Athens, Udinese, Everton, PSV Eindhoven, Glasgow Rangers, Celtic, Ajax Amsterdam, Bordeaux, Boca Juniors, Racing Santander, Sivasspor, Atlas, Racing Club, Galatasaray.

To follow

1 comment:

  1. Yes, Club America is in the same group as los pollos feos (River).