Jan 20, 2008

The World's Top 25 Soccer Clubs, Jan. 21, 2008

Welcome to the 20th edition of the Top 25. Lots of action this week so let's get to it:

1. (1) Inter Milan. Dismantled Reggina at midweek, then struggled to beat Parma yesterday, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic converting a penalty in the 88th minute to level matters before following up with the winner in the 92nd. I didn't see the game (was watching American football. Go Giants!) but ESPN Soccernet reports the penalty was controversial. Wouldn't be the first time in Italian soccer. Still, a win is a win is a win (is a win) and I'm not going to dethrone Inter for that (least of all without having seen the game). Travel to Juventus for midweek cup tie next, followed by trip to Udinese Sunday.

2. (2) Manchester United. Didn't play well against Reading but still won, 2-0, to maintain their Premiership lead (on goal difference). Play at White Hart Lane Sunday. Spurs have been playing better but I wouldn't expect United to lose that one.

3. (4) Arsenal. Beat up on the Fulhamericans (I've been calling them the Fulham Americans, but I like this better. I forget where I saw it but I can't take credit for making it up) Saturday. Play return leg of League Cup at White Hart Lane tomorrow, then visit Kevin Keegan for an FA Cup tie Saturday.

4. (3) Real Madrid. Lost at home to Mallorca to exit the Copa del Rey at midweek, then rebounded nicely by beating cross-town rivals Atletico, 2-0. Good thing, because a second loss in the week certainly would have cost them in the standings. But things don't get any easier, with third-placed Villareal visiting Bernabeu Sunday.

5. (5) Chelsea. Beat Birmingham City Saturday. Face now fourth-placed Everton in the return leg of a League Cup tie Wednesday before traveling to Wigan for an FA Cup game Saturday.

6. (6) Roma. Beat up on Torino in midweek cup tie, then saw off Catania yesterday. Up next: Sampdoria (first leg of cup tie) and Palermo (Serie A).

7. (7) Barcelona. Advanced in the Copa del Rey by virtue of a scoreless tie in the return leg of their match-up with Sevilla, then beat Racing Santander yesterday. This week's games are both doozies on the road: Villareal for the first leg of the next Copa round (Wednesday) and Bilbao for liga action (Saturday).

8. (8) FC Porto. Beat some Portuguese minnow in a cup game Wednesday. Now it's on to what could be a thrilling gamea at Sporting Lisbon Sunday.

9. (12) Olympiakos. Beat up on Panathinaikos in a cup tie at midweek, winning 4-0. Panathinaikos are third in the Greek Super League (Olympiakos are second to AEK Athens, though only on goal difference). Also beat some lesser Greek side in Super League action yesterday. Up next: Home against Aris Saloniki in league action.

10. (9) AC Milan. Bowed out of Italian cup by playing Catania to a 1-1 tie at midweek, then won a tough road game at Udinese yesterday. Travel to Atalanta di Bergamo for what I assume is a makeup game (the rossoneri have played three games less than everybody else because of their Club World Cup commitment) before hosting FC Genoa on the weekend. Win both and they move up to sixth. It's a start...

11. (15) Fenerbahce. Turkey's Champions League representative for the Round of 16 won both games they played last week against teams I cannot pronounce, much less tell you anything about. Another one of those lurks Wednesday, followed by first place Silvasspor Sunday. I sure would love to watch that game. Fat chance, I know (and I'm not willing to break the law to watch it streamed online. I would never do such a thing, cough, cough).

12. (11) Juventus. Beat Empoli in cup game then played Sampdoria to a scoreless tie. Up next: a two game series with #1 Inter in the Italian cup sandwiching a visit to Livorno Sunday.

13. (20) Villareal. The Yellow Submarine had a successful week, beating Recreativo Huelva in overtime to advance in the Copa del Rey, then trouncing Valencia on the weekend. The latter moves Manuel Pellegrini's men into third place in La Liga. Now they get to prove they belong--and then some: Barca visit Wednesday for first leg of Copa, followed by a trip to the Bernabeu Sunday. Win both games and I won't have a choice but to put Villareal in the top 10.

14. (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.

15. (13) Atletico Madrid. Played Valladolid to a scoreless tie on the road, which was good enough to advance to the next round of the Copa del Rey. Then lost the Madrid derby to Real. Face Valencia in the next round of the Copa, with the first leg taking place at Mestalla Wednesday. Then travel to Mallorca for liga action Sunday.

16. (18) Fiorentina. Beat Ascoli Calcio in cup game Wednesday, then beat Torino (with difficulties) Saturday. Visit Lazio for a cup game and Empoli for Serie A action this week.

17. (10) Olympique Lyonnais. Lost to Le Mans in a French league cup, then went down at Lens, who were placed 18th at the time. Ouch. That's just a bad week. Fortunately for l'OL, followers Nancy also lost (costing them their spot in the Top 25 but let's not get ahead of ourselves). Next up for Lyon: Lorient (Wednesday) and St. Etienne (Sunday) in league games. Their lead over the new second-placed team from Bordeaux is just three points...

18. (14) Espanyol Barcelona. Not a good week for the Periquitos. Exited the Copa del Rey to Bilbao on penalty kicks, then went down at Valladolid. Face Real Betis at home 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. (25) Sao Paulo. Beat Guratinquieta and Rio Preto in the Paulista 2008 (whatever that is). Next up: Ituano and Corinthians in the same competition.

21. (21) 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. (-) Everton. David Moyes' men make their debut on the list, thanks to wins over Manchester City and Wigan (OK, Man City was technically the week before last) that has them suddenly in fourth place in the English Premiership. Can show they belong by beating #5 Chelsea, whom they host in the League Cup Wednesday. That's the only action this week. Spurs visit Jan. 30.

23. (23) Liverpool. Beat up on Luton Town at midweek to advance in FA Cup. Face Aston Villa later today. Lose and they slip to seventh in the EPL and in all likelihood out of the top 25. Also face some crap team in the FA Cup Saturday.

(17) Club America. The Aguilas managed only a scoreless draw with Puebla (who I think are newly promoted) in the Clausura's opening weekend. Travel to Jaguares of Chiapas Saturday then face Pumas in a Mexico City derby a week from Sunday.

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

Dropping out: Nancy.

Also receiving consideration (in rough order of consideration received): AEK Athens, Bordeaux, Glasgow Rangers, Celtic, PSV Eindhoven, Ajax Amsterdam, Sivasspor, Chivas.

The biggest surprise is probably Olympiakos' entry into the top 10. But it really shouldn't be. Besides being the reigning European champions, Greek football has excelled in other ways. Witness Olympiakos' qualification out of their Champions' League group, for example; a group that included Real Madrid, Lazio and #25 Werder Bremen. Four of Olympiakos' players are on Otto Rehagel's squad and two of its Argentines (newly-acquired Fernando Belluschi and Cristian Ledesma) have been capped by the albicileste. Still, the Greek club's entry into the top 10 is also due to AC Milan and Juventus dropping points when they weren't expected to.
And how about Everton making their debut this week--one spot ahead of their cross-town rival, no less?!?

1 comment:

  1. The Paulista League (based on my limited knowledge) is the championship tournamnet for the largest state in Brazil. While it is primarily used to tune-up for the Copa Libertadores and Brasileiro, there are opportunities for very interesting games since many of the nation's premier clubs play in the league, such as Sao Paulo, Santos, Palmeiras and Corinthians.

    Puebla is a newly-returned team to the top Mexican division. They finished 14th in the Apertura after a (I think) three-year absence.