Mar 3, 2008

The World's Top 25 Soccer Clubs, March 3, 2008

It's been a very busy week for the Soccer Source crew (that would be me) for reasons that are utterly unimportant to you so I won't waste your time with them. Instead, I will delve right into what you came here for: the top 25...

1. (1) Manchester United. Won at Craven Cottage, as might have been expected, to close the gap with l'Arse to a single point. Face Lyon in the return leg of their Champions League round tomorrow and Pompey (also at Old Trafford) on the weekend.

2. (6) Real Madrid. Beat Recreativo Huelva Saturday to take a nice jump in the standings (the Top 25, not the Liga, which they already lead by five points). Now things get serious with Roma on the docket for Wednesday's Champions League Round of 16 return. Real only need to win 1-0 to advance. But Roma are in good form. Real also face Espanyol Barcelona at the Bernabeu Saturday. Depending on how things go this week they could be the top team in the world (according to this list) next week or barely top 10. We'll have to wait and see...

3. (2) Arsenal. Were fortunate to salvage a tie against Villa Saturday. But this was the second weekend in a row that they've dropped points when they weren't supposed to. Up next for Gunners: The Champions League rematch with AC Milan tomorrow. They'll need to score some goals to advance, which doesn't look very likely the way things have been going. But the CL is a different animal, as Liverpool has proven several times.

4. (3) Inter Milan. Just when you thought they had clinched the Serie A title after the midweek draw with Roma, Inter lost at Napoli yesterday--their first Serie A loss this season. OK so it probably won't matter anyway (even though Roma did win. More on them later). The nerrazurri face 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).

5. (5) Roma. After a disappointing tie with Inter at midweek, the gialorossi took out their frustration on Parma with a 4-0 victory. The Serie A championship is probably out of reach but the Champions League could still happen. They'll need to withstand Real Madrid Wednesday though.

6. (4) Barcelona. Faced a challenging week and did not exactly pass with flying colors. First, the home draw against Valencia in the Copa del Rey, which leaves Barca in a tough position for the return leg. The loss to Atletico Madrid, meanwhile, cost them crucial points in the Primera race. But that Ronaldhino goal sure was nice. No rest for the weary though: Celtic visits Camp Now tomorrow, then it's third-place Villareal who pays a visit.

7. (9) Chelsea. Trounced West Ham Saturday (Lampard, Ballack and the Cole brothers scored). Solidly in third place but probably not going higher than that. Olympiakos visits Wednesday. Chelsea need to win that to advance. Their weekend game is quite a bit easier, against Barnsley in the FA Cup.

8. (8) FC Porto. Beat some Portuguese team in a cup game then managed only a tie at Boavista on the weekend. It probably won't make a difference though as Porto are cruising toward another league title (12 point lead at press time). Host Schalke Wednesday and need to win by two goals to advance. That won't be easy. If they fail the inevitable drop from this high perch will follow. But let's wait until then, shall we?

9. (10) Bayern Munich. Beat crosstown rivals 1860 Munich in the DFB Pokal at midweek, but needed overtime to do it. Then won at Schalke on the weekend. UEFA Cup Round of 16 first leg with RSC Anderlecht is on Thursday.

10. (7) AC Milan. Tied both games last week, at Catania and at home to Lazio. That's not good, especially with Arsenal visiting tomorrow. Also play Empoli Sunday. Travel to Roma a week Saturday for what could be a good one.

11. (14) Olympique Lyonnais. Won at Lille Saturday. The UCL return leg at Old Trafford is tomorrow. Do Lyon have a chance? Probably not, but they'll play the game anyway. And who knows, they "only" need to win...

12. (16) Liverpool. Beat Bolton Wanderers yesterday. Play at home twice this week, against West Ham Wednesday and Newcastle. Inter awaits a week from tomorrow.

13. (20) Fiorentina. La Viola won both Serie A games last week, the second of which was a thrilling come-from-behinid victory over Juventus. Now it's Everton in the UEFA Cup Round of 16 Thursday followed by a trip to Siena Sunday.

14. (13) Olympiakos. Won their a cup game against Iraklis Saloniki last Wednsday, then managed to only draw Asteras Tripolis in the Super League. The second result cost them, as Panathinaikos now have a point lead as well as a game in hand over Olympiakos. Travel to Stamford Bridge Wednesday then play some Greek team on the weekend.

15. (18) Werder Bremen. Beat Borussia Dortmund to keep pace with the behemoths from Bavaria. Travel to Ibrox for what promises to be an interesting UEFA Round of 16 first leg Thursday. Then face Stuttgart on the weekend.

16. (11) PSV Eindhoven. Lost at Utrecht Sunday. Yeah, not good. With Ajax winning their game, PSV's lead is down to six in the Eredivisie. They'll play Ajax Sunday. First have to travel to White Hart Lane Thursday for their UEFA Cup round.

17. (12) Fenerbahce. Lost at Galatasaray in a cup game Wednesday then played a scoreless tie with Ankarasomething and dropped to third in the Turkcell--but only a point behind first-placed Besiktas (Galatasaray is second). The return leg with Sevilla is tomorrow followed by some other Turkish team Sunday.

18. (19) Arsenal de Sarandi. The Copa Sudamericana champs beat Banfield in Clausura action Saturday. Now it's a very interesting trip to Fluminense in Copa Lib action tomorrow.

19. (22) Glasgow Rangers. Won both games SPL games last week, at Hearts Wednesday and Aberdeen Saturday. Now it's Werder Bremen in the UEFA Cup Round of 16, which kicks off at Ibrox Thursday. Also host Hibs in a cup tie Sunday.

20. (21) Chivas de Guadelajara. The only unbeaten team in the Mexican Clausura remained that way by playing a scoreless tie against Cruz Azul over the weekend. But things are about to get interesting, with a trip to Brazil's Santos in the Copa Libertadores. Also host Toluca Saturday.

21. (-) Boca Juniors. Don't look now but they haven't lost since AC Milan beat them in Tokyo. This week knocked off Gimnasia La Plata. In a three-way tie for first in the Copa Lib, which is theirs on goal difference. Host Atlas on Thursday in what promises to be a madhouse at the Bombonera. If it's still standing on the weekend, Boca will host Independiente Saturday as well.

22. (25) Hamburg SV. Lost at Wolfsburg in the DFB Pokal (cup) at midweek but came back with a nice victory against Eintracht Frankfurt Saturday. Face Bayer Leverkusen in the UEFA Cup Thursday followed by a Sunday Bundesliga game at Nurnberg.

23. (-) Caracas FC. Who??? Caracas FC, that's who. The Venezuelan side have quietly (at least to you) won every game they've played this year. That includes two in the Copa Libertadores, one of which was a massive upset over San Lorenzo last month. The other team to win two games in the Copa Lib this year? None. There isn't one (in fairness a few teams do still have that second game in hand). Caracas face a massive test this week, playing at Brazil's Cruzeiro Belo Horizonte tomorrow.

24. (15) Juventus. Lost to Fiorentina after a scoreless game at Torino at midweek. I almost took them off the Top 25 but decided against it at the last minute. They probably still belong here, though they didn't look like they did in the last 20 minutes of yesterday's game. Travel to Genoa Sunday.

25. (17) Lanus. Their Copa Lib game with Estudiantes ended in a scoreless stalemate, then lost to Club Olimpo. Since the Argentine TV commentators proclaimed them the best team in South America I don't think they've won a game (all against South American teams). Currently eighth in the Clausura. Face Banfield Sunday

Dropping out: Sao Paulo (23), Bayer Leverkusen (24)

Also receiving consideration (in rough order of consideration received): Everton, River Plate, Sevilla, Bordeaux, Ajax Amsterdam, Flamenco, Velez Sarsfield, Toluca, Villareal, Santos Laguna, Besiktas, Atletico Madrid.

Keep an eye out for: River Plate, whom I knowingly omitted despite putting their hated rivals at #21. (Several reasons for this, not least of which the fact that they lost to Boca in the Torneo Verano or whatever that tournament is called and the fact that River lost their first Copa Libertadores game. Yes they rebounded nicely against America last week but the damage was done). River face Estudiantes Sunday and travel to Universidad Catolica for their next Copa Lib match a week from tomorrow.

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