Aug 18, 2008

The world's top 25 soccer clubs, Aug. 18, 2008

And so, it begins. The offseason, if we even had one, is now officially over. EPL clubs are back at it, the Champions League qualifiers are in the final round and the hottie interns have left the office to return to campus. The signs, in other words, are everywhere: summer is ending. But don't be sad. The first official Top 25 of the 2008-09 season is here to cheer you up. Behold:

1. (Preseason ranking: 1). Chelsea
The Soccer Source ranking committee certainly feels vindicated with its choice of Chelsea as the preseason number one. Blues lived up to their billing with a 4-0 thrashing of Portsmouth yesterday. Luiz Felipe Scolari seems to have built a winner. If Robinho comes, look out.
Next Up: Wigan Athletic on the road, Sunday.

2 (4). Inter Milan
Idle last week. Face AS Roma in the Italian Supercup Saturday.

3 (5). Juventus
Beat some club we can't pretend to have ever heard of (Artmedia Petrzalka, if you really care) in their Champs League qualifier. The return leg is Aug. 27, not that it will matter. Serie A opens at Fiorentina, Aug. 31.

4 (3). Manchester United
After barely beating Pompey in the Community Shield at Wembley, Aug. 10, the Red Devils suffered a letdown against Newcastle yesterday. The 1-1 tie wasn't disastrous and does not necessarily portend a bad season for Man U. So don't panic, United fans. At least not yet. Should this repeat itself once or twice more, however, we'll be singing a different tune. For now we're just going to drop them a little lower in the ranking.
Next Up: A Monday game at Portsmouth, Aug. 25, followed by Fulham that Saturday.

5 (6). FC Barcelona
Samuel Eto'o is staying in the Catalan capital at least for this season. On the field, the club looked sharp in dismantling Wisla Krakow 4-0 in the first leg of their Champions League qualifier. Not that we should have expecting anything different. Also beat Boca Juniors in dramatic fashion (two stoppage time goals) to win the Joan Gamper Cup.
Next Up: Return leg at Wisla on Aug. 27, followed by the La Liga season opener at CD Numancia, Aug. 31.

6 (2). Real Madrid
Lost the Spanish Supercup to Valencia Sunday. The La Liga season opener is against Deportivo La Coruna, Aug. 31.

7 (7). AS Roma
We told you Roma would make another signing before the start of the season! The addition of Julio Baptista greatly improves Roma's chances for the upcoming campaign.
Next Up: The Italian SuperCup with Inter Milan Sunday. Roma's first Serie A game is at home against Naples on Aug. 31.

8 (9). Arsenal
So far, so good. Arsene's men won convincingly (2-0) at Twente in the first leg of the Champs League qualifier on Aug. 13 and saw off West Bromwich Albion 1-0 in their Premiership opener. Granted the latter victory, coming as it did against a newly-promoted side, probably should have been a little bigger, but we're not going to go nitpicking at this early stage of the season. Three points, after all, are three points.
Next up: Fulham at Craven Cottage, Saturday.

9 (8). Olympique Lyon
After an impressive victory over Toulouse in the Ligue Un opener, Lyon suffered a minor setback last week, drawing Lorient 0-0 on the road. Yeah yeah, so it's early. Still, we're not going to pass on an opportunity to dock points.
Next Up: Host Grenoble Foot 38 Saturday. Yes, that really is the name of the team. Not only that, they're in first place in the French league at time of this writing, having taken the maximum six points from their first two games (the only French club to have done so).

10 (14). Valencia
The Soccer Source ranking committee received ample flack for putting Valencia in the preseason Top 25. If the SuperCup victory over Real Madrid won't shut up the peanut gallery, putting Valencia at #10 certainly won't do the trick either. Oh yeah, David Silva is staying with the club too. Have at it, b*tches!
Next Up: The Liga season opener against Mallorca at home, Aug. 31.
Quality Wins: Real Madrid (Supercup)

11 (12). Liverpool
Reds managed only a scoreless draw at Standard Liege in the Champs League qualifier last Wednesday, but they were without Stevie G and really shouldn't be expected to have any problems in the return leg. Won at Sunderland in their season opener.
Next up: Middlesbrough visit Anfield Saturday.

12 (13). Fiorentina
La Viola beat Slavia Prague in the first leg of their Champions League qualifier by a 2-0 score at home. The return leg is Aug. 26. The Serie A season kicks off with Juventus, Aug. 31.

13 (10). Bayern Munich
The Klinsmann era is off to a bit of an auspicious start. First Bayern allowed three goals to a team called Rot Weiss Erfurt in the German cup. Luckily, the German champs scored four to advance to the next round. In the Bundesliga season opener Friday, they squandered a 2-0 lead against Hamburg SV before eventually splitting the points in a 2-2 final.
Up Next: A game at Borussia Dortmund, always a tough place to play (especially after they won their first game at Leverkusen) Saturday, followed by Hertha Berlin Aug. 31.

14 (11). Atletico Madrid
The rojiblancos lost the first leg of their Champions League qualifier at Schalke, Aug. 13. The 1-0 score isn't a backbreaker though, but it will be extremely disappointing if Atletico don't qualify for their first Champions League foray since 1996. The return leg is Aug. 27. La Liga opener is Aug. 31 at home to Zaragoza.

15 (15). Villareal.
Idle last week and next week. Season opens Aug. 31 at Osasuna.

16 (24). Schalke 04
It's early, but Schalke are looking tough, winning their first three games (two against halfway decent competition) by a combined score of 7-0. The first win came against Homburg (not to be confused with Hamburg) in the German cup Aug. 9. OK, big deal. But the second victory was arguably the most impressive of the three, coming against Atletico Madrid in the first leg of the Champions League qualifier. Finally, in the Bundesliga opener, the Gelsenkirchener saw off Hannover by a 3-0.
Next up: Some tough road games. First it's Werder Bremen Saturday, followed by the return leg at Atletico a week from Wednesday. So stay tuned...
Quality Wins: Atletico Madrid (CL Qualifier)

17 (17). AC Milan
Idle last week and next week. Season opens with Bologna at the San Siro, Aug. 31.

18 (-). Gremio Porto Allegre
The Imortal Tricolor make their Top 25 debut at the impressive 18th spot thanks in part to not having lost a game since July 6. They also happen to sit first in the tough Campoenato Brasileiro, with a five point lead over second-placed Cruzeiro Belo Horizonte. Last week they beat defending champs (and preseason #23) Sao Paolo, 1-0. They play at Flamengo Friday, before hosting the return leg of the Copa Sudamericana qualifier against Internacional (first leg was 1-1).

19 (19). Ajax Amsterdam
Idle last week. Season opens at Willem II, Aug. 30

20 (-). Olympique Marseille
L'OM looks to be poised for a successful season, after winning the first leg of their Champions League qualifier on the road at Brann Bergen. They also beat up on Auxerre, 4-0.
Next Up: At Le Havre Saturday. Return leg in the CL Qualifier goes down Wednesday the 27th.

21 (21). Shakhtar Donetsk
Beat Dynamo Zagreb in the first leg of the Champs League qualifiers by a 2-0 score, then stumbled to a 2-2 draw at Metalist Kharkov, whoever that is.
Next Up: Another Ukrainian league game, followed by the return leg at Zagreb.

22 (20). Galatasaray
Gala were fortunate (not lucky, fortunate) to come away with a 2-2 draw in the first leg of their Champions League qualifier against Steaua Bucharest. Advancing to the group stage will be tough now. If it doesn't happen, look for them to miraculously disappear from the Top 25. They did beat Kayserispor in the Turkish Supercup yesterday.
Next Up: Denizlispor at home Saturday in the Turkish league opener.

23 (18). FC Porto
Lost the Portuguese Supercup against Sporting Lisbon. League season opens Sunday at home to Belenenses Lisbon.

24 (22). Fenerbahce
Fener came from two goals back to tie Partizan Belgrade in the first leg of their Champions League qualifier. Unlike Galatasaray, Fener plays the return leg at home and is thus better placed to advanced to the group stage.
Next Up: At some Turkish team in the league opener Sunday.

25 (-) Club San Luis
San Luis make their debut on the Top 25 not only due to the new rule stipulating that at least one team from UEFA, CONMEBOL and CONCACAF must be in each week's ranking. This team is good. How good? How about 13 points from five games in the Mexican Clausura? We'll get a better idea of how good they are a week from Wednesday when they host Deportivo Quito in the Copa Sudamericana.

Dropping Out:
Tottenham Hotspur (16), Sao Paolo (23), Club America (25)

Also receiving consideration:

Steaua Bucharest, Panathinaikos, Dynamo Kiev, Aalborg, Aston Villa, Tigre, River Plate, Atlante, Santos Laguna, Sporting Lisbon

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