Feb 4, 2008

The World's Top 25 Soccer Clubs, Feb. 4, 2008

First of all, congratulations to the New York Giants, winners of last night's Super Bowl XLII. A great triumph for the city of New York (our first championship since 9/11) and an event that unfortunately had more than indirect effects on the delay of this week's Top 25. But speaking of the real football, there were several changes to the rankings (again) this week. Let's get to it:

1. (2) Inter Milan. The sojourn away from first place was a short one for Roberto Mancini's men, who won a huge game at Juventus during the midweek to advance in the Coppa Italia and then beat Empoli at home yesterday. With Roma losing, Inter's Serie A lead is now eight points. They're still unbeaten in Italian competition. Play at Catania Calcio Sunday, then Livorno home a week from Saturday. After that, the Round of 16 Champions League match-up with Liverpool ensues. The first leg is at Anfield on Tuesday, Feb. 19.

2. (4) Arsenal. How quickly the tides can turn! Last week's also-rans are this week's big winners, thanks to convincing wins (at Newcastle, admittedly not exactly fierce competition) and Manchester City (a tougher side, especially at home). Up next: Blackburn a week from today, followed by their FA Cup date with Man. United Feb. 16. Now that is one to look forward to!

3. (1) Manchester United. Not so quick with all the coronations. Sir Alex' men had no problem with Pompey at midweek but then stumbled pretty badly at White Hart Lane on the weekend. Spurs outplayed them and should have won the game (Robbie Keane, learn to shoot from point-blank range, please). Carlos Tevez' heroics salvaged a tie for the Red Devils, which was not enough to keep first place in the Premiership--or the Top 25. Up next: the Manchester derby on Sunday.

4. (3) Real Madrid. Lost at Almeira Saturday and saw their Primera lead cut by a third, to six points. Still, a letdown was inevitable after victories over Villareal and Atletico Madrid. This is still the best team in Spain, probably by a wide margin. Up next: Valladolid visit the Bernabeu Sunday. Play at Real Betis a week after that before their Champs league date with AS Roma on Tuesday, Feb. 19.

5. (5) Chelsea. Beat Reading at midweek, then dropped points at Fratton Park--a tough place to win so it did not affect their rank (the fact that the team immediately behind them had a crappy week helped as well). Liverpool visit the Bridge Sunday. Should be a good one. First leg of CL matchup with Olympiakos looms Feb. 19.

6. (7) Barcelona. Beat Villareal in the return leg of the Copa del Rey matchup to advance, then topped Osasuna on a late goal by Xavi. Travel to Sevilla Saturday.

7. (6) Roma. Topped Sampdoria at midweek to advance in the Coppa Italia, then went down, hard, at Siena yesterday. The 3-0 loss might have come as a result of "looking ahead" to the trio of crackers coming up later this month at Juventus (Feb. 16), versus Fiorentina (Feb, 24) and at Inter Feb. 27. First it's another "lesser" team, 18th-placed Reggina Saturday.

8. (13) AC Milan. Won both games they played last week, both on the road, both by 1-0 scores. The second was a massive victory over Fiorentina that was stolen late in the second half by teenage phenom Alexandre Pato (quite possibly the game of the week). The Brazilian was subbed on in the 66th minute and scored 11 minutes later. A huge victory for the rossoneri that vaults them into fifth place and (perhaps) salvages their Serie A campaign. Play at Siena Sunday.

9. (9) Fenerbahce. Idle last week. This team is also still alive in the Champions League, where they will face Sevilla in the first knockout round.

10. (12) FC Porto. Trounced Uniao Leira 4-0, to rebound from their loss at Sporting Lisbon the week prior. Face some lesser Portuguese team in cup action this weekend, followed by another lesser team in league play the week after, then the first leg of their Champs league knockout round with Schalke Feb. 19.

11. (10) Juventus. Lost to Inter, but gave them a good fight, then tied Cagliari at home Sunday. That's not enough to stay in the top 10. Face Udinese Sunday. #7 Roma loom the following week.

12. (14) Bayern Munich. Won both games they played last week, neither against particularly impressive opposition (some amateur club in a cup tie and relegation-threatened Hansa Rostock in the first Bundesliga match of the year. A greater challenge looms Sunday: second-placed Werder Bremen.

13. (8) Olympiakos. Lost at Apollon Kalamaria to drop to third in the Greek Super League. That's just ugly. Face Panionios Athens Sunday.

14. (23) PSV Eindhoven. Two huge victories last week effectively decided the Dutch Eredivisie in PSV's favor. The first came at AZ Alkmaar, the second at juggernaut Ajax Amsterdam. Eredivisie lead is now eight points (over Michael Bradley's Heerenveen, whom they face Saturday). Play Helsingborgs in UEFA Cup a week from Wednesday.

15. (11) Villareal. Lost to Barca to exit the Copa del Rey at midweek, then managed only a tie to Mallorca yesterday to drop to fourth in La Liga. Travel to Murcia Saturday, followed by UEFA Cup match-up with Zenit St. Petersburg Feb. 13.

16. (16) Olympique Lyonnais. Beat some French minnow in a cup game yesterday. Face Sochaux at home Saturday. Second-placed Bordeaux visits March 8, potentially to settle matters in Ligue Un, though a lot can of course happen between now and then...

17. (21) Arsenal de Sarandi. The Copa Sudamericana champs beat Venezuelan side Mineros de Guyana 2-0 in their Copa Libertadores qualifier, leaving them well-positioned to advance to Group 8 where they would join Fluminense, Paraguay's Libertad and Liga de Quito of Ecuador. The return leg is tomorrow. The Argentine arse then host Atletico Huracan in the first match day of the Clausura.

18. (19) Sao Paulo. Won one and tied one in the Paulista championship, where they are still unbeaten, albeit also only in third place. Not that it matters much, the tournament is basically a warm-up. They have two more Paulista games this week, against Sao Caetano Thursday and Santos Sunday. The latter should at least be a bit more interesting...

19. (20) Espanyol Barcelona. Beat Getafe to retake third place in the liga on goal difference. Host Recreativo Huelva Sunday, followed by Sevilla a week later.

20. (17) Lanus. Lost first leg of Copa Libertadores qualifier to Olmedo by 1-0 score. The return leg is tomorrow. The Apertura champs kick off the Clausura season Sunday with a tough game against Independiente.

21. (-) Panathinaikos. The Shamrock (their logo is a four-leaved clover. I swear I'm not making this up) make their debut on the Top 25 after beating Asteras Tripolis to move into first place in the Greek Super League. Face AE Veria Saturday, followed by the first leg of their UEFA Cup match-up with Glasgow Rangers a week from Wednesday.

22. (-) Club America. The boys from the Azteca return to the Top 25 after the briefest of absences. Beat Apertura runners-up UNAM Pumas yesterday to take first place in their Clausura group (which also features Apertura champs Atlante). Face Tecos Friday.

23. (-) Glasgow Rangers. Walter Smith's men make their return to the Top 25 after a long absence (since Dec. 10 if you care about these things). Top-of-the table in the SPL (by four points over their friendly rivals from the other side of town) and alive in all domestic competitions. Last week saw off Hearts in a league cup match and played Hibs to a scoreless tie in the F.A. Cup (I assume they replay these?). Up next: Falkirk Saturday, followed by #21 Panathinaikos at Ibrox the following Wednesday.

24. (18) Atletico Madrid. Bowed out of Copa del Rey on goal difference to Valencia, then managed only a tie at home against Murcia. Face Racing Santander Sunday, followed by Boston Wanderers the following Thursday in UEFA Cup action.

25. (15) Fiorentina. Lost to #8 AC Milan yesterday despite dominating for periods. Also lost to Lazio to bow out of Coppa Italia. So they're really hanging on to the top 25 by the skin of their teeth. Up next: Atalanta Bergamo Saturday. An intriguing UEFA Cup match-up against Rosenborg Trondheim follows a week from Thursday.

Dropping out: Boca Juniors (22), AEK Athens (24), Atlante (25).

Also receiving consideration (in rough order of consideration received): Galatasaray, Liverpool, Ajax, Independiente, Celtic, Sevilla, River Plate, Heerenveen.

1 comment:

  1. The out of the CL Rangers in over their crosstown rivals? Rangers were even forced to a draw vs Hibs in the cup match you mentioned!

    Celtic > Rangers