Feb 11, 2008

The World's Top 25 Soccer Clubs, Feb. 11, 2008

The plot thickened this week as several top teams were put to the test. Most passed by the slimmest of margins, while not impressing (Chelsea, Bayern). One did not even get that far. Read on.

1. (1) Inter Milan. Saw off Catania Calcio yesterday, winning 2-0 on second half goals by Esteban Cambiasso and David Suazo. Up next: Livorno Saturday, then the Champions League resumes with a trip to Anfield on Tuesday, Feb. 19. I don't expect Fernando Torres' men to thwart these guys like they did Chelsea, mainly because Zlatan Ibrahimovic presents a problem they (or anybody outside Serie A except for Inter's CL opponents) have faced before. But we're getting ahead of ourselves as that game is not for another week.

2. (2) Arsenal. Idle last week. Play Blackburn today, then their FA Cup date with Man. United Saturday. Fun times ahead.

3. (4) Real Madrid. Beat up on poor Valladolid yesterday. Play at Real Betis Sunday. Their Champs league date with AS Roma is on tap a week from tomorrow.

4. (6) Barcelona. Managed to tie Sevilla Saturday, but would have lost had Sevilla converted some of their numerous chances in the first half. Then again, if my grandmother had wheels she'd be a bicycle. A point at Sevilla is no great crime, but Real and the Liga crown are slowly slipping from their grasp. Still, since the home loss to their arch rivals Dec. 23, Frank Rijkaard's men are unbeaten, a streak of 11 games. Face Zaragoza Saturday. The UCL resumes a week Wednesday with a trip to Celtic Park.

5. (3) Manchester United. Sir Alex' men obviously could not cope with the pressure of being #1 in this poll two weeks ago. Since then they were outplayed by Spurs and barely salvaged a point in the game's final seconds, then straight up lost to their crosstown rivals yesterday. Can repair some of the damage against Arsenal Saturday, but this is a bad time of the season to hit a run of poor form. Travel to Lyon for their UCL Round of 16 first leg a week from Wednesday.

6. (7) Roma. Saw off Reggina Saturday. Now things get interesting. Face Juventus Saturday, then host #3 Real Madrid when the UCL returns to action. Then it's Fiorentina a week Sunday before a game at Inter Feb. 27. I don't think any team in any league has faced a stretch of games like that this season. At least we should definitely be able to tell if Roma are any good.

7. (8) AC Milan. Beat Siena yesterday on a brilliant strike by teenager Alberto Paloschi (Pato who?) to move up to fifth in Serie A. Play their remaining game in hand Wednesday when they face Livorno, before traveling to Parma Saturday. Then the big test: a trip to the Emirates for the Champions League knockouts...

8. (5) Chelsea. Some scoreless ties are highly entertaining affairs that feature all sorts of drama and intrigue as well as superb play. Blues' game versus Liverpool yesterday was not one of those. Give Reds credit for a scrappy defensive performance. Excellent teams find ways of dealing with such bulwarks, especially at home. To be fair, Chelsea very well might have, if Didier Drogba had been available for the game but you know what they say about conditional statements (see Barcelona). Up next for Blues: Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup Saturday.

9. (9) Fenerbahce. Beat some mid-table Turkish side yesterday. Face a relegation-threatened side Friday before Sevilla pays a visit Wednesday, Feb. 20 for the first leg of the Champs League knockouts.

10. (10) FC Porto. Trounced some Portuguese minnow in the Taca de Portugal. The upcoming games are tougher: at fifth-placed Maritimo Funchal Sunday, followed by the first leg of their Champs league knockout round with Schalke on Tuesday, Feb. 19.

11. (11) Juventus. Beat Udinese on the road yesterday, which is impressive. Roma is on the docket Saturday. Win that and they close the gap with the second placed Giallorossi to a point as well as proving they belong in the Top 10.

12. (13) Olympiakos. Beat Panionios Athens by an impressive 4-0 score yesterday to take back second place in the Greek Super League. Up next: last-placed Ergotelis in another Super League encounter, then #8 Chelsea visits for the first stage of the Champions League knockout round.

13. (12) Bayern Munich. Played second-placed Werder Bremen to a 1-1 tie yesterday. From what I saw of the match (admittedly not much because I was trying to watch Chelsea-Liverpool at the same time. I shouldn't have bothered with that one), Werder got the better of the first half, before Bayern turned it around in the second. Ottmar Hitzfeld's side were without Franck Ribery and had the winning goal nullified on a questionable referee's decision. They travel to Aberdeen Thursday for the first leg of their UEFA Cup match-up, then visit Hannover Sunday.

14. (15) Villareal. Won at Murcia Saturday. This week, a UEFA Cup match-up with Zenit St. Petersburg takes place Wednesday, followed by Racing Santander Sunday.

15. (16) Olympique Lyonnais. Beat Sochaux at home Saturday. Up next: Le Mans, then Man. United in the Champs League elimination. Second-placed Bordeaux (they trail l'OL by four points) visits March 8, potentially to settle matters in Ligue Un, though a lot can of course happen between now and then...

16. (17) Arsenal de Sarandi. The Copa Sudamericana champs advanced to the group stage of the Copa Libertadores by beating Venezuelan side A.C. Mineiros last week, then won their Clausura opener against Atletico Huracan, 2-0. Travel to Colon de Santa Fe Sunday. Their first Copa Lib game isn't until Feb. 20 when they face Paraguay's Libertad.

17. (14) PSV Eindhoven. Managed only a tie with Michael Bradley's Heerenveen, with Bradley himself scoring the equalizer. Their Eredivisie lead is nine points, which may be insurmountable at this point (10 match days remain, though isn't there some kind of weird play off in the Netherlands now?). Up next: Helsingborgs in UEFA Cup Wednesday, followed by Willem II in the Eredivisie.

18. (18) Sao Paulo. Tied Sao Caetano Thursday before beating Santos yesterday in the Paulista, where they are still unbeaten and now in second place. Face Marilia Sunday.

19. (20) Lanus. Argentina's Apertura champs also won their Copa Lib qualifier to join a group with Estudiantes, Uruguay's Danubio and Ecuador's Deportivo Cuenca. Group play kicks off Thursday, with Danubio. Oh Lanus also won their Clausura season-opener, against Independiente and travel to Atletico Huracan Sunday for Round Two.

20. (21) Panathinaikos. Put AE Veria to the sword Saturday, their fourth straight win and fourth straight game without conceding a goal. Now things get interesting, with an intriguing first leg of their UEFA Cup match-up with Glasgow Rangers on the docket for Wednesday. Also face a Greek league team Sunday.

21. (22) Club America. The Aguillas beat Tecos in their only action last week. Host Monarcas Wednesday before paying a visit to Atlas Saturday. Their Copa Libertadores group may be the toughest of the lot: River Plate, Chile's Universitad Catolica and Peru's Universidad San Martin. The first game is against the Chilean side on Thursday, Feb. 20.

22. (23) Glasgow Rangers. Beat Falkirk Saturday. Now face #20 Panathinaikos at Ibrox Wednesday in a game that should hopefully tell us more about the quality of both clubs. Also play Kilmarnock Sunday in SPL action.

23. (24) Atletico Madrid. Won at Racing Santander yesterday, which is an impressive result given that team's position in La Liga (fifth). Now face Boston Wanderers in the UEFA Cup Thursday, then host Bilbao Sunday.

24. (-) Werder Bremen. Diego and the gang return to the Top 25 after a three week absence. Their re-entry is well-deserved as they outplayed #13 Bayern Munich for large stages of their clash yesterday. More importantly, with a deficit of only three points against their Bavarian rivals, Werder (it's pronounced Vare-dare) are still in a position to recapture the Bundesliga title they last won in 2004. Up next: Sporting Braga in the first stage of the UEFA Cup Wednesday, then Nurnberg at home Saturday.

25. (-) Chivas de Guadelajara. The boys from the Jalisco make their return to the Top 25 after a long absence (Oct. 22 to be exact). It is well-deserved as Chivas is the only unbeaten team in the Mexican Clausura (three wins and one tie to lead their group). Beat Atlas Saturday on a brace by Omar Bravo in their only action for the week. Face Santos Laguna next (Wednesday at the Jalisco) followed by a trip to Tigres. In case you're wondering: These guys are also in the Copa Libertadores, where they have been drawn with Brazil's Santos, Bolivia's San Jose and Colombia's Cucuta Deportivo. Their first match in that competition is a week from tomorrow against San Jose.

Dropping out: Espanyol Barcelona (19), Fiorentina (25).

Also receiving consideration (in rough order of consideration received): Heerenveen, Galatasaray, Liverpool, Celtic, Schalke 04, Sevilla, River Plate, Atlante, Bordeaux.

Photo taken from deportistadigital.com without permission.


  1. I disagree a little. I agree with number one at the moment but how can Bayern be so far down and Lyon? As well I don't really see any of the Mexican league teams making top 50. I'd take the bottom team in Italy, Spain, and England over the top teams in Mexico. Just my point of view that the football not only is it slow and reminiscent of the 1950's pace but the shape and defending is awful. But aside from that well done.


  2. Bizarrely, Olympiakos's embarrassing loss last week at Apollon Kalamaria seems to have been stricken; superleaguegreece.net lists the teams as having played only 19 games and the result as "pending" (I didn't see the game, so I don't know if anything was debatable about it). Of course, that doesn't change the fact that not being defeated by relegation fodder is an integral part of the code of conduct for top clubs, but still.

  3. Aha. The Oly-Apollon match is due to be replayed after the result was appealed because Apollon supposedly fielded an ineligible player. http://goal.com/en-us/Articolo.aspx?ContenutoId=579666