Sep 29, 2008

The world's top 25 soccer clubs, Sept. 29, 2008

Neither wind nor rain nor stock market crashes nor presidential debates could keep the Top 25 ranking committee from convening for its weekly session. Sure, we're a bit late (we know you like to have these things in your inbox Monday morning so you can kick off the "work" week in fashion) but we make up for it with an extremely high quality edition of the rankings--even by our absurdly high standards. All self-fellatio aside, here they are:

1. (Last week: 1). Chelsea
Okay, so this one's a no-brainer. Blues won both games they played last week, at Pompey in the League Cup and at Stoke in Premiership action by a total score of 6-0. Can anybody beat this team? Somebody will. Eventually. We think. For now, everybody, even other bloggers who keep these lists (exhibit A, exhibit B), agree that Chelsea is the best team in the world at present.
Next Up: A trip to Roma beaters CFR Cluj in the Champions League, followed by surprising third-place Prem side Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge.

2 (4). Real Madrid
Beat the crap out of Sporting Gijon at Bernabeu Wednesday (final score: 7-1), then won at Real Betis Saturday.
Next Up: A trip to Zenit St. Petersburg for a Champions League match tomorrow, followed by Espanyol Barcelona at home Sunday.
Quality Win: Valencia (Aug. 24) in Spanish Supercup.

3 (3). Juventus
Say this about Juve: they're unbeaten so far this season. Of course they also only have three victories (not counting Champions League qualifiers) and have scored five goals in six games. Hey, that's Italian soccer for ya, folks! Still, a lot of clubs would likely trade with Juve's record. Like, all but two of them.
Next Up: BATE Borisov visit for a UCL game, followed by Palermo, also at home.
Quality Win: Zenit St. Petersburg (1-0, Sept. 17).

4 (2). Inter Milan
Inter had no problem with their first game last week, a 1-0 victory over Lecce at home on Wednesday. Then things went awry in the Milan derby, with Inter going down by the 1-0 score that seems to decide every Serie A game. From the looks of it, the victory by AC Milan was quite impressive. This is not the last you'll be hearing of AC Milan this week...
Next Up: Werder Bremen visits for matchday two in the Champions League next week. Also host Bologna Saturday.
Quality Win: Roma (Supercoppa)

5 (5). Olympique Lyon
Beat Nancy Saturday, 2-1. Lyon are unbeaten so far on the young season, which would be impressive if they played in a real domestic league.
Next Up: Visit Bayern Munich tomorrow in a Champions League tie. Then visit Stade Rennes Sunday.

6 (6). Manchester United
Beat Middlesbrough in the League Cup at midweek, then saw off Bolton at Old Trafford. Got a bit lucky with that one, as the ref gifted Cristiano a penalty. But Wayne Rooney is off the schneid now, after scoring as a second half substitute.
Next Up: Visit Aalborg in the CL, then play at Blackburn Saturday.

7 (9). Villareal.
The Yellow Submarine remains unbeaten in all competition after a perfect week (two victories, over Racing Santander and Sporting Gijon, three goals scored, zero against). But when are we going to see more of Jozy Altidore?
Next Up: Celtic visit for midweek Champions League action. Then another home game against Real Betis.

8 (7). FC Barcelona
Barca also won both games last week, the first against Real Betis and the second in the Barcelona derby (at Espanyol) Saturday. But they got a bit lucky in the second one and didn't really impress so we've docked them a place in the standings.
Next Up: It's off to the Ukraine and Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League. Then a home game against Atletico Madrid.

9 (12). Valencia
The first-placed team in Spain defended their turf with two hard-fought victories (Malaga and Deportivo La Coruna) last week. They aren't in the Champions League though, so they'll need to stay at or (very) near to the top of La Liga to stay this high in the Top 25.
Next Up: The return leg of their UEFA Cup tie against Martimo Funchal at home. Valencia won the first, 1-0, so this shouldn't be a problem. Then at Valladolid.

10 (11). Liverpool
Okay, so the League Cup win over Crew Alexandra wasn't pretty, but the Merseyside derby victory was more impressive.
Next Up: Host PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League, then travel to Man. City Sunday.
Quality Win: Manchester United, Sept. 13

11 (8). Arsenal
What to make of Arse's embarrassing home loss to Hull on Saturday? Besides the fact that it was a complete embarrassment? Gunners seem to be all flash and little substance. Which is due to happen with clubs this young. We warned against this happening since the preseason. At this point we'll be surprised if Arse see the Top 10 again this season.
Next Up: Host Porto in the Champions League. They'll need the three points there after drawing Dynamo Kiev on Matchday 1. Visit Sunderland Saturday.

12 (10). Atletico Madrid
Won at Getafe, Wednesday, then got beat by Sevilla at home.
Next Up: Olympique Marseille at home on Wednesday, then visit No. 8 Barcelona at Camp Nou Saturday. That should be interesting. The second one. Marseille are crap.
Quality win: Schalke in UCL qualifier over two legs.

13 (13). Zenit St. Petersburg
Beat Lokomotive Moscow to move up a bit in the Russian league.
Next Up: No. 2 Real Madrid pay a visit tomorrow.

14. (-) AC Milan
Yes, the rossoneri are back in the Top 25 for the first time since Aug. 25. It wasn't just the win over No. 4 Inter, either. Pato and gang previously beat unbeaten Lazio by a 4-1 score (which is like 10-1 outside of Italy) and saw off Regina at midweek. It's a long way back, but we're starting to like their chances.
Next Up: At FC Zurich tomorrow in return leg of their UEFA Cup tie (Milan won the first leg, 3-1) then at Cagliari Sunday.
Quality Win: Inter Milan (1-0, Sept. 28)

15 (17). Atlante
The defending Apertura champions beat division rivals UNAM Pumas 2-0 at home Sunday. They now lead the group by six points with a 5-1-4 record.
Quality Win: Club San Luis (Aug. 31)

16. (-) Sevilla
If we're not mistaken this is Sevilla's debut on the Top 25. They make it here by virtue of a 1-0 victory over No. 12 Atletico Madrid and because (drumroll please) they're unbeaten so far this year.
Next Up: At Red Bull Salzburg in the return leg of their UEFA Cup tie (Sevilla won the first leg, 2-0) followed by Atletic Bilbao at home.
Quality Win: Atletico Madrid (Sept. 28)

17. (20) Dynamo Kiev
Dynamo beat some Ukrainian team Friday and is first in the Ukrainian league on goal difference. Also unbeaten in 10 games.
Next Up: At Fenerbahce in the Champions League tomorrow.
Quality Win: Spartak Moscow over two legs (CL qualifier)

18. (21) Celtic
Beat up on Livingstone, 4-0, then had more difficulty with Aberdeen Sunday, but still won.
Next Up: It's off to Villareal in what could be a crucial Champions League game (depending on how badly Man U beat Aalborg in the other match in that group).

19 (13). Bayern Munich
This much is clear about the Bundesliga: It's a total mess. The first-placed team (Hamburg SV) have a goal difference of +2 (12 scored, 10 conceded in six games. 22 goals in six games? Believe it. Werder Bremen has 30 in six games). Where is Bayern in all this? Mid-table: Ninth with a 2-2-2 record and the identical goal differential (12 scored, 10 conceded) as first-placed Hamburg. Last week, Bayern lost at Hannover 96 after beating Nurnberg in a mid-week cup tie (after last week losing to Bremen, 5-2 at home).
Next Up: Host No. 5 Lyon tomorrow, followed by Bochum, also at home.

20 (14). Fiorentina
La Viola went down 3-0 at Lazio Wednesday, before rebounding with a 1-0 home victory over Genoa on Saturday. The former result hurts though. Yeah, Lazio are top of the table in Serie A now. But Fiorentina find themselves in the middle of the table, 10th, with a 2-2-2 record in all competition.
Next Up: Steaua Bucharest in Champions League action.

21 (15.) Sporting Lisbon
Lost at Benfica Saturday, their first loss in Portugal on the young season.
Next Up: FC Basel visits Wednesday for a Champions League game that is quickly shaping up as "must win". Then FC Porto visit next weekend. A tough round of games, in other words.

22 (16). AS Roma
Lost at Genoa Wednesday, then beat Atalanta Bergamo at home. Currently 10th in Serie A.
Next Up: A trip to Girondins Bordeaux for Matchday 2 of the Champs league followed by Siena on the weekend. No. 4 Inter Milan looms Sunday, Oct. 19.

23. (-) Lazio
Another storied European club that makes its first-ever appearance in the Top 25. Yes we're being Euro-centric this week. Enjoy it because it won't last. But Lazio are top of the table in Serie A and last week beat No. 20 Fiorentina--by a 3-0 score no less (insert joke about Italian league being low scoring here). As a team that didn't qualify for any European competition, Lazio is going to have to stay at or very close to the top of Serie A to maintain their grip on their Top 25 spot.
Next Up: Atalanta di Bergamo in the Italian Cup Wednesday, followed by Lecce at home Saturday.

24. (24) Palmeiras
Played a pair of 0-0 ties last week, the first at Sport Ancash Huaraz in Copa Sudamericana action, the second against a Brazilian opponent we don't care to look up. The important thing is Palmeiras are first in the Campeonato Brasileiro on goal difference.
Next Up: The return leg against Ancash Huaraz Thursday at home followed by Atletico Mineiro Saturday. Ouch, only two days rest? At least both games are home.

25 (22) Steaua Bucharest
Tied Roma-beaters Cluj last week. It was an away game so we'll ignore it. Steaua sit third in the Romanian league.
Next Up: At No. 20 Fiorentina tomorrow and some Romanian team Saturday.
Quality Win: Galatasaray over two legs in CL qualification.

Dropping Out:
Olympique Marseille (19), Shakhtar Donetsk (23), Panathinaikos (25)

Also receiving consideration:
Benfica, Aston Villa, Besiktas Istanbul, CA San Lorenzo, Werder Bremen

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