Aug 26, 2008

The World's Top 25 Soccer Clubs, Aug. 25, 2008

This week's Top 25 is delayed because we wanted to wait for the outcome of the Manchester United - Portsmouth game. It's largely more of the same, though (which can be expected at this early stage of the season). But because we know how badly you want it, we're going to give it to you now rather than withhold gratification any longer:

1. (Last week: 1). Chelsea
Okay, so Shevchenko left. Big deal. He wasn't playing much and besides Robinho is much better. On the field there have been no blemishes thus far for Luiz Scolari's squad; two games, two victories, no goals surrendered, first place in the EPL.
Next Up: Tottenham Hotspur at the Bridge, Sunday. Poor Spurs are about to go 0-3. How long before their fans begin calling for Ramos' head?

2 (2). Inter Milan
Beat AS Roma for the Supercoppa, but needed penalties to do so.
Next Up: At Sampdoria in first Serie A game, Saturday.
Quality Win: Roma (Supercoppa)

3 (3). Juventus
Idle last week.
Next Up: Return leg against Artmedia Petrzalka (whoever that is) in UCL qualifier. (Juventus won the first leg 4-0). Serie A opener at Fiorentina, Sunday.

4 (4). Manchester United
Won at Pompey, 1-0. We told you there was nothing to worry about, Man U fans! Plus Berbatov appears to be on his way as well. But for now Chelsea is still better in our eyes. By the way the two teams meet on Sept. 21 at the Bridge.
Next Up: Arse-beaters Fulham, Saturday.

5 (6). Real Madrid
Rebounded from loss in first leg of Supercup (we thought it was a one game final. Silly us) with impressive 4-2 win over Valencia to take the trophy.
Next Up: La Liga season opener against Deportivo La Coruna, Sunday.
Quality Win: Valencia (Aug. 24) in Supercup.

6 (5). FC Barcelona
Idle last week.
Next Up: Return leg of Champs League qualifier at Wisla Krakow on Wednesday (don't expect much of a contest; Barca won the first leg 4-0), followed by the La Liga season opener at CD Numancia on Sunday.

7 (9). Olympique Lyon
The French champs knocked off Grenoble by a 2-0 score last week and are still unbeaten and unscored upon.
Next Up: At St. Etienne, Sunday.

8 (7). AS Roma
Lost the Italian Supercup to Inter Milan last week on penalties.
Next Up: Serie A opener against Naples, Sunday.

9 (11). Liverpool
Reds are one of only two Premiership teams with a perfect record after two games (the other is obviously #1 Chelsea). Which sounds impressive until you realize the two victories were over Sunderland and Middlesbrough, with the latter coming in stoppage time thanks to the heroics of Stevie G.
Next Up: Liverpool will be put to the test this week, with the return leg against Standard Liege at Anfield tomorrow (Wednesday) night. The first leg was 0-0 so Reds will need to win. Failure to qualify will be an unmitigated disaster. We don't expect Rafa Benitez' men to allow it to happen, but we've been wrong before, especially when it comes to Liverpool. Also play at Aston Villa Sunday.

10 (12). Fiorentina
Idle last week.
Next Up: The return leg against Slavia Prague in the UCL qualifier. La Viola beat the Czech side 2-0 at home in the first leg and we don't expect many problems in the return. Then an early test with Juventus, Sunday.

11 (8). Arsenal
Arsene Wenger's team succumbed to Fulham, who lost the previous week to Hull City. Does this mean Gunners are relegation fodder? Yes! Just kidding, of course it doesn't. But the club has not looked very good at all so far. Sure it's (very) early but we're wondering if maybe, just maybe Wenger overdid this whole youth movement thing.
Next up: The return leg against Twente in Champions League qualifiers (Arsenal won the first leg on the road by a 2-0 score), followed by unbeaten Newcastle at Emirates, Saturday.

12 (13). Bayern Munich
Jurgen Klinsmann's team is a bit like a reverse Liverpool: they've had disappointing results so far, but against top competition (while Liverpool has won, but unconvincingly and against crap teams). First they squandered a 2-0 lead at home to Hamburg in the Bundesliga opener. Last weekend they tied Dortmund 1-1 but came back from an early deficit with 10 men. That type of effort will get noticed and not only by the Soccer Source ranking committee.
Up Next: Host Hertha Berlin Sunday, then a road trip to Cologne followed by another tough one at home to Werder Bremen.

13 (14). Atletico Madrid
Idle last week.
Next Up: The ever important return leg of their UCL qualifier with Schalke. The rojiblancos lost the first leg 1-0. La Liga opener is Sunday at home to Zaragoza.

14 (15). Villareal.
Idle last week. Season opens Sunday at Osasuna.

15 (10). Valencia
Okay so maybe Valencia aren't quite top 10 material yet. They were beaten pretty soundly by Real Madrid in the Supercup return leg.
Next Up: The Liga season opener against Mallorca at home, Sunday.
Quality Win: Real Madrid (Supercup first leg)

16 (16). Schalke 04
Schalke have impressed early, beating Atletico Madrid in the first leg of the Champions League qualifier and Hannover in their Bundesliga opener. Fred Rutten's men faced a tough task last week against Werder Bremen on the road. But they were up for it, and very nearly won the game but took an equalizer five minutes from full time to end with a 1-1 draw. Still not a bad result and certainly not bad enough to see their ranking lowered, least of all when all of these other teams didn't even play any games.
Next up: The return leg at Atletico tomorrow. Bochum visits Saturday. Then the Revierderby (if you don't know what that is kindly look it up or better yet stop pretending to know about soccer).
Quality Win: Atletico Madrid (CL Qualifier)

17 (17). AC Milan
Idle last week but who cares about that. Sheva's back!
Next Up: Season opener with Bologna at the San Siro on Sunday.

18 (20). Olympique Marseille
L'OM knocked off Le Havre by a 1-0 score Saturday and are actually in first place in the French League (on goal difference, but still).
Next Up: Return leg in the CL Qualifier goes down Wednesday at Brann Bergen, whom they beat 1-0 in the first game. Then Sochaux, home, Saturday.

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

20 (22). Galatasaray
The defending Turkish champs beat Denizlispor at home in the Turkish league opener on Saturday.
Next Up: The crucial must-win (or score more than two goals and tie) return leg in the UCL qualifier with Steaua Bucharest, tomorrow. Also Kayserispor, whom they beat in the Turkish Supercup, Sunday.

21 (25). Club San Luis
San Luis now have 16 points from six games in the tough Mexican Apertura after beating Tigres 1-0.
Up Next: A crucial test against Deportivo Quito in the Copa Sudamericana tomorrow.

22 (-). Sporting Lisbon
Knocked off Portuguese champs Porto in the Supercup then won their season opener.
Next Up: Sporting Braga on the road, Sunday.

23 (18). Gremio Porto Allegre
The Imortal Tricolor had a rough week, losing at Flamengo Friday, before a 1-1 draw at Clube Nautico Capibaribe (if you've never heard of them don't feel bad; we haven't either. Turns out they're in the relegation zone of the Campeonato Brasileiro). So why are these guys still in the Top 25? There weren't any viable candidates to replace them! They're still first in the Campeonato and should still make a strong showing in the Copa Sudamericana.
Next Up: Speaking of which, they host the return leg of their Copa Sudamericana qualifier against Internacional on Friday (the first leg was 1-1 but we're not sure if CONMEBOL plays with the goofy away goals rule. We thought only UEFA did that). Also host Vasco da Gama Sunday.

24 (-). Boca Juniors
The boys from the Bombonera make their long-anticipated return to the Top 25 by virtue of a 2-0 start to the Apertura season. They also hold a 3-1 edge over Arsenal de Sarandi in the Recopa Sud from the first (away) leg. Last week they beat defending champs Lanus 2-1 on a goal by Cristian Chavez.
Next Up: The return leg versus Arsenal, Thursday. Then visit Atletico Huracan on Sunday.

25 (21). Shakhtar Donetsk
Lost at Poltava to slip to ninth in the Ukranian league. But it's early. We're sticking with these guys (for another week at least).
Next up: UCL return leg at Zagreb tomorrow. Shakhtar are in good shape having won the first leg 2-0. Also a Ukranian league game Saturday.

Dropping Out:
Porto (23), Fenerbahce (24)

Also receiving consideration:

Celtic, Standard Liege, Girondins Bordeaux, Steaua Bucharest, Partizan Belgrade, Panathinaikos, Dynamo Kiev, FC Kopenhagen, Tigre, Cruz Azul, Atlante, Santos Laguna, Blackburn, Rapid Vienna, Rubin Kazan, Metalurg Donetsk, Cruzeiro Belo Horizonte, Palmeiras, Colon de Santa Fe.

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