Some more diversity of games than the steady stream of English/Scottish stuff we've had in the past two weeks: Spanish, Portuguese and Greek leagues returned to action with Turkish and French cups getting underway. Mexican teams were even back at it in the Interliga competition. Very few surprises, however, so the impact on the Top 25 was insignificant. But read on anyway.
1. (1) Inter Milan. Idle. Back in action Sunday with a trip to 18th-placed Siena. A nice way to work off the Christmas bacon.
2. (2) Real Madrid. Beat Alicante in a Copa del Rey match Wednesday and Real Zaragosa in the Primera Division yesterday. Bernd Schuster's team maintain their seven point lead over Barca. Next up: Mallorca Wednesday in another cup tie followed by Levante Sunday.
3. (3) Arsenal. Beat West Ham at midweek and Burnley in FA Cup yesterday. Next up: Tottenham in the League Cup and Birmingham City in Saturday Premiership action. Both games are at Emirates. Will Spurs manage to vanquish the Baby Gunners? We'll see.
4. (4) Manchester United. Beat Birmingham City early in the week, then won at Villa Park Saturday. Newcastle visit Old Trafford Saturday. That shouldn't be terribly difficult
5. (5) Chelsea. Beat their neighbors from Fulham on New Year's s day, after being a goal down at halftime. Then beat Queens Park Rangers by only a 1-0 score. Up next: Everton in the league cup tomorrow. Spurs visit in a week's time.
6. (6) Roma. Idle last week. Play at Atalanta Bergamo Sunday.
7. (7) Barcelona. Managed only a tie against Alcoyano in a Spanish cup tie Wednesday, but it didn't matter because they had won the first leg. Won at Mallorca Saturday. Next up: A more difficult cup tie against Sevilla Wednesday, followed by Real Murcia Saturday. The return leg against Sevilla is Jan. 16.
8. (8) FC Porto. Won their bwinLIGA game yesterday by a 1-0 score. Is it just me or do the "Dragons" not look as intimidating as they did earlier in the season? Their lead over Benfica is back up to nine points. Sporting Braga visit Sunday with third-placed Sporting Lisbon looming Jan 27.
9. (9) Juventus. Idle but back in action Saturday at Catania.
10. (10) Olympiakos. Came from behind against Iraklis Saloniki Saturday and reclaim first place in the Super Liga, which they promptly held on to after second-placed AEK Athens lost at fourth-placed Asteras Tripolis yesterday. Olympiakos face third-place Panathinaikos Sunday. That's a lot of top-of-the-table action in one week. Also a lot of teams ending in "kos" and "lis." Forgive me for the cheap joke. I'm ignorant. Then again, how important is Greek history and culture to Western civilization anyway?
11. (11) AC Milan. Next game Sunday, when Napoli visit San Siro.
12. (12) Olympique Lyonnais. Had no problems with Creteil in French cup game Saturday, beating the minnows 4-0. Ligue Un returns to action Saturday with l'OL hosting Toulouse.
13. (16) Espanyol Barcelona. Knocked off Deportivo in a cup tie at midweek. Then the Periquitos beat Villareal Saturday to remain with a point of their cross-town rivals. That would be second-placed Barcelona. A midweek trip to Bilbao looms Wednesday for a Copa del Rey game, followed by Almeria Sunday. Too bad these guys aren't in Europe. They will be next season.
14. (13) Fenerbahce. Played Kayserispor (fifth-placed in the Turkcell Super Lig--Fener are second behind Silvasspor) to a nil-nil draw in a Turkish cup game over the weekend. Next up: Istanbul BB (whoever that is) in a league game Saturday.
15. (18) Atletico Madrid. Tied Grenada (not the country), which was good enough to advance in the Copa Del Rey, then saw off Deportivo yesterday to move into fourth place in the Primera. The Copa continues Wednesday with Valladolid before a visit by Valencia Sunday.
16. (15) 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. (14) Liverpool. Tied both games they played this week, one more embarrassing than the next. At least Wigan are a Premiership side (and have even been playing like one since Steve Bruce took over). But Luton Town? That's just pathetic. Sorry, Reds fans. Oh well. At least they didn't lose either game. Next up: Visit Middlesbrough Sunday.
18. (17) Villareal. Beat Las Palmas in the Copa del Rey before losing to Espanyol Saturday. Next up: Recreativo Huelva in Copa match Wednesday, followed by Deportivo on Sunday.
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 game. If they win, they're in to the group stage where they will face Estudiantes, Uruguay's Danubio and Deportivo Cuenca from Ecuador.
20. (20) Arsenal de Sarandi. The Copa Sudamericana champs will also play-in match for the Copa Libertadores, where they will face Venezuelan side Mineros de Guyana. Assuming they win 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). The top two teams from each group advance to the Round of 16. None of these games have been scheduled yet.
21. (21) Werder Bremen. Idle until a cup tie at Borussia Dortmund Jan. 29.
22. (23) AS Nancy-Lorraine. Beat Stade Reims in the French cup yesterday. Travel to Caen when league returns to action Saturday.
23. (22) Fiorentina. Play Parma Sunday.
24. (24) Sao Paulo. Idle. The Brazilian champs have a direct pass into the Copa Libertadores group stage, where they face Bolivia's San Jose, Colombia's Cucuta Deportivo and Chivas de Guadelajara.
25. (-) Club America. The Aguilas returned to action last week in the Interliga, winning both games. (If you didn't know what this is, it's a money-making scheme for the Mexican league that doubles as the play-in tournament for that country's Libertadores participants). Eight teams participate, first in round-robin action, followed by two finals that decide the two participants in the Copa Libertadores. America are in a good position to become one of the four finalists, with six points from two games (wins over Morelia and Toluca).
Dropping out: AEK Athens
Also receiving consideration (in no particular order): Manchester City, Leverkusen, Udinese, Glasgow Rangers, Celtic, Valencia, Bordeaux.