Mar 10, 2008

The World's Top 25 Soccer Clubs, March 10, 2008

First of all, please check out the new ASN, which (along with my real job and basic human needs such as sleep) is what has been keeping me from my Soccer Source duties. As for the Top 25, it was a very telling week, with the UEFA Champions League proving the worth of many rankings, while debunking others. Onwards...

1. (3) Arsenal. L'Arse take the top spot by virtue of their stellar Champions League victory at AC Milan. We'll forgive their transgression with Wigan yesterday, even though it may end up costing them the Premiership. For those keeping score, this its the third weekend in a row that Gunners have failed to defeat an inferior opponent. I have for some time argued that Wigan are not that bad of a side, but I don't exactly see them in the Champions League anytime soon. Also from the records department: this is Arsenal's first appearance atop the list since Oct. 29. Gooners host Middlesbrough Saturday.

2. (4) Inter Milan. The nerrazurri beat Reggina Calcio in their final warm-up to the crucial Champions League return leg against Liverpool (which, lest we forget, they need to win by two goals. Unless Liverpool score one in which case they need to win by three). So this could be the last time we see Inter this high up in the standings. Also host Udinese Sunday.

3. (5) Roma. A massive victory over Real Madrid last Wednesday catapults the gialorossi into top five status. And why not? Luciano Spalletti's men have won all but one of their last six games (and that was at Inter Milan, which they tied). Do they have what it takes to win the Champions League? Perhaps. It depends on who they are drawn with in the quarterfinals. I just hope it isn't Man Utd. for obvious reasons. This week, Roma take on AC Milan at home, Saturday.

4. (1) Manchester United. Had no problems with Lyon in the return leg of their Champions League round, then were put to the sword by Pompey on Saturday. So much for the treble. Up next: Derby County, Saturday. Any chance they'll score 10 goals? Any chance they won't?

5. (2) Real Madrid. Bye bye Champions League. Has it really been six years since Real last won that competition? At least things are looking good in the Primera, where they beat Espanol. A trip to Deportivo La Coruna is next, Saturday.

6. (9) Bayern Munich. Destroyed RSC Anderlecht in their UEFA Cup match then saw off Karlsruhe (it's pronounced Karls-rooh) to open up a seven point lead in the Bundesliga. Things are looking rosy for Bayern, who very well might still win a treble and are looking like the team to beat in the UEFA Cup. The return leg against Anderlecht is Wednesday followed by Karl Marx Stadt (I think that's what Cottbus' cold war name was. Could be wrong).

7. (12) Liverpool. Just like that Rafa Benitez' men are a top 10 side. A few short weeks ago many pundits (including, it should be admitted, this one) had them written off as also-rans or worse. This week they produced two impressive victories against West Ham and Newcastle. Okay, neither exactly reminds of the 1970 Brazil side but considering what the rest of the "Big Four" pulled this weekend it's pretty good. Inter is on tomorrow. Reading visit Anfield Saturday.

8. (6) Barcelona. As expected, Celtic did not present much of a problem. Villareal did, however, and after losing at home Barca are eight point in arrears of Real. Plus Lionel Messi is out for a month. But they're still alive in Europe, which is something their hated rivals from the Spanish capital cannot claim. Play at Almeira Sunday.

9. (7) Chelsea. Had no problems with Olympiakos to advance to the UCL quarterfinals, then lost against Barnsley in the FA Cup. That may have been their best chance at silverware this season, though they are "only" eight points behind Arsenal with a game in hand in the Premiership. That game is Derby County Wednesday. Travel to Sunderland Saturday as well.

10. (16) Fenerbahce. A massive come back against Sevilla has Zico's men in the Champions League quarterfinals for the first time since...I don't even know when. Also beat some Turkish team to keep pace with the leaders (Besiktas and Galatasaray) in the Turkcell Liga. We'll see who they're drawn with in the UCL quarters. This could get interesting...

11. (11) Olympique Lyonnais. The return leg at Old Trafford went as expected but then rebounded with a nice 4-2 victory over second-placed Girondins Bordeaux in Ligue Un. A crucial victory that may just put them on track for (yet) another league title. Now have a six point lead. Play at Monaco this weekend.

12. (10) AC Milan. Lost at home to new #1 Arsenal, then beat Empoli yesterday. Travel to Roma Saturday for what could be a good one.

13. (13) Fiorentina. A nice victory over Everton in the UEFA Cup Round of 16 had La Viola all prepped to make a significant move into the Top 10. Then they lost to Siena yesterday. The return leg at Everton is Wednesday then it's FC Genoa Sunday.

14. (8) FC Porto. Were not able to beat Schalke, who were widely viewed as the very worst of the 16 teams left in the Champions League. They're undoubtedly one of the eight left now. As for Porto, they have disgraced me and I will not forgive them for it. Won their second game this week against some Portuguese team. They have a massive lead in the bwinLIGA but that's small consolation at this point.

15. (16) PSV Eindhoven. Won at White Hart Lane in the UEFA Cup. Their second game last week, a top-of-the-table Eredivisie clash with Ajax, was canceled. The return leg with Spurs is in two days followed by some Dutch team Sunday.

16. (19) Glasgow Rangers. A good week for Gers, who beat Werder Bremen in the first leg of their UEFA Cup Round of 16 match and saw off Hibs yesterday.

17. (21) Boca Juniors. Beat up Mexican side (and sometimes contender for Top 25 spots) Atlas in the Copa Libertadores, winning 3-0 to go top in their group. Then came back to tie Independiente in the Clausura. Play at Atletico Huracan Saturday. The next Copa Lib game is a week Thursday at Colo Colo Santiago.

18. (14) Olympiakos. Went down in flames at Stamford Bridge to make me look like an idiot. Thanks, guys. Did win their Greek Super League game to stay in contention for that title.

19. (-) Fluminense. The Rio de Janeiro side make their debut on the list thanks to a 6-0 beatdown of reigning Copa Sudamericana champions Arsenal de Sarandi (themselves a top 25 side--top 20 in fact--going into the game). Are also unbeaten in the Carioca-Copa Rio, which is a warmup tournament nobody seems to care about much. Play two games there this week before a trip to Paraguay's Liberdad for their next Copa Lib encounter a week from Wednesday.

20. (24) Juventus. Beat Genoa on the road to hold on to their Champions League spot. Not bad for a newly-promoted side. Host Naples Sunday.

21. (-) Estudiantes. The La Plata side make their debut on this list thanks to a good showing in the Copa Libertadores (where they beat Danubio Montevideo) and Argentine Clausura (a scoreless tie at River Plate).

22. (-) River Plate. Only played once since their victory over Club America in the Copa Lib (see above) but are still unbeaten in the Clausura. Things get interesting this week with a trip to Universidad Catolica in Wednesday Copa Libertadores action and Racing Club at home Saturday.

23. (20) Chivas de Guadelajara. Lost at Brazil's Santos in the Copa Libertadores (their first loss off 2008) but rebounded with a nice win over Toluca.

24. (15) Werder Bremen. Were beaten at Ibrox in the first leg of the UEFA Cup, then lost at VfB Stuttgart 6-3 to finish a very bad week.

25. (-) Schalke 04. I don't think I've ever heard of a team that is in "crisis" (Krisenmannschaft, as the German press refers to them) to make it to the Champions League quarterfinals, as Schalke did last week. Okay so it took them penalties and maybe Porto were not quite as good as some (i.e. me) had claimed but let's give them credit nonetheless. Schalke also won at Bielefeld and are now fifth in the Bundesliga. Host Duisburg (it's pronounced Doos-borg) Friday.

Dropping out: Arsenal de Sarandi (16), Hamburg SV (22), Caracas FC (23), Lanus (25)

Also receiving consideration (in rough order of consideration received): Sao Paulo, Everton, Santos, Ajax Amsterdam, Flamenco, Velez Sarsfield, Santos Laguna, Club San Luis.


  1. Chemnitz was re-dubbed Karl-Marx Stadt during the cold war.

  2. Le Arse top? Hmmm not sure i agree with that. Yes, it was a memorable victory for them away at the San Siro, but i would argue that AC Milan are a shadow of their former selves (jut look at their leaugue form).

    Its Arsenals recent league form thats got me worried too. Its fair to say that momentum in the Premier League is firmly with manchester United, and much as it pains me to say it, they are now favourites to take the title.

    So no, i don't think Arsenal should be top. And yet i can't say who should be. Barnsley maybe???