Sep 7, 2008

The world's top 25 soccer clubs, Sept. 7, 2008

The rankings are back after a one week delay, due to an executive member of the ranking committee being on holiday. With the national teams taking center stage this weekend it allowed us some time to catch up. While the top quarter of the table didn't change much, there was ample movement in the middle third. Several clubs were dropped from the list altogether, either for failing to qualify for the Champions League (Schalke, Galatasaray) or Copa Sudamericana (Gremio) or for pathetic performances in their domestic league openers (AC Milan, Ajax). Here it is:

1. (Last week: 1). Chelsea
Yes, Luiz Scolari's side squandered their first points and gave up their first goal of the season in a 1-1 tie with Spurs at the Bridge on Aug. 30. And yes, Robinho escaped their grasp, opting for the nouveau riche shores of Manchester City, while their biggest challenger for the No. 1 spot (in our estimation at least) added a guy by the name of Dimitar Berbatov. Still, this is we think the best club in the world right now and for the immediate future.
Next Up: Speaking of the devil, Blues travel to Man. City on Saturday, Sept. 13 before hosting Girondins Bordeaux in the Champions league that Tuesday.

2 (4). Manchester United
Lost the UEFA SuperCup match with Zenit St. Petersburg. That may have hurt a wee bit, but the addition of Berbatov eases the pain greatly. In fact, that's really the only reason they're moving up to No. 2.
Next Up: Some tough matches await Sir Alex' men. A trip to Anfield is on the docket first, Saturday, Sept. 13. Then Villareal visits Old Trafford on Tuesday, Sept. 16 before a trip to No. 1 Chelsea on Saturday, Sept. 20.

3 (3). Juventus
Tied Fiorentina 1-1 after leading 1-0 at the half. The game was in Florence and the equalizer came in the 89th minute, so we'll give Juve a pass on this one.
Next Up: Udinese in Serie A action, followed by Zenit St. Petersburg in the Champs League on Wednesday, Sept. 17. It's a home match and the Russian club are already in their midseason, so it will be a good test for Claudio Ranieri's side.

4 (2). Inter Milan
Managed only a tie at Sampdoria on Aug. 30 but some good news from the transfer front: Portuguese international Ricardo Quaresma is on his way. Jose Mourinho is paying FC Porto close to €19 million for the winger's services.
Next Up: Catania Calcio at the San Siro on Sept. 14, followed by Panathinaikos in the Champions League opener, Sept. 16.
Quality Win: Roma (Supercoppa)

5 (7). Olympique Lyon
The French champs won at St. Etienne (not quite a quality win, but close as the "verts" are in the UEFA Cup) and are still unbeaten and unscored upon.
Next Up: Host fourth-placed Nice on Sept. 13, then Fiorentina in the Champions League on Wednesday, Sept. 17. The second will go down as a quality win if they pull it of.

6 (5). Real Madrid
A tough fortnight for Real, who lost Robinho to Man. City and their Liga opener at Deportivo La Coruna.
Next Up: Things get easier with CD Numancia and BATE Borisov (CL) at the Bernabeu Sept. 14 and 17, respectivly. Then at Racing Santander, Sept. 21.
Quality Win: Valencia (Aug. 24) in Supercup.

7 (11). Arsenal
Arsene Wenger's team had no problem with Newcastle United, beating the now Kevin Keegan-less club 3-0 at Emirates. So at least it appears Gunners won't have to worry about a relegation fight this season (as some of their more pessimistic fans might have feared after the loss to Fulham). Also beat up on Twente in the Champions League qualifier, 4-0. Are Twente really that much worse than Standard Liège? We'll let somebody else ponder that one. Neither victory is a huge deal, but with everybody in front of them losing or otherwise dropping points they shouldn't have dropped, Gunners moved back into the Top 10.
Next up: Three road games, with the first two posing potential problems: Blackburn (Sept. 13), Dynamo Kiev (Sept. 17) and Bolton (Sept. 20).

8 (6). FC Barcelona
Hold that thought about Numancia being an easy game for Real. The newly-promoted side beat Barca 1-0. Not good.
Next Up: Racing Santander (Sept. 14) followed by Sporting Lisbon in UCL action Sept. 16. Both games are at Camp Nou. The second one could be interesting but Barca should get it together by then.

9 (13). Atletico Madrid
A pair of 4-0 victories has the rojiblancos in the top 10 for the first time ever. In the first, they beat up on Schalke 04 in the Champions League qualifier, overcoming a 1-0 deficit from the first leg in impressive fashion. In the second, they made mincemeat out of Zaragoza. Both victories came at home but we're not going to let that stop us from moving Javier Aguirre's side into these heights.
Next Up: Valladolid and PSV Eindhoven, both on the road. The second one could prove troublesome, in which case you can rest assured Atletico will be removed from their precarious perch.
Quality win: Schalke in UCL qualifier over two legs.

10 (8). AS Roma
Like No. 4 Inter, Roma was unable to get past a draw in their Serie A opener. Unlike Inter, the game in question (against Napoli) was at home. So yes, this one hurt their ranking more.
Next Up: Some cannon fodder games, against Palermo (away) and CFR Cluj (home) in Serie A and CL action, respectively.

11 (12). Bayern Munich
Jurgen Klinsmann's team finally booked a victory in the Bundesliga after two tough draws, seeing off Hertha Berlin by a 4-1 score.
Next Up: A tough trip to Köln (you'll know them as Cologne) looms Sept. 13, followed by a potentially tricky visit with Steaua Bucharest in the Champions league.

12 (9). Liverpool
Reds got lucky against Standard Liège in their Champions League qualifier, needing overtime to get past the scrappy Belgian club. Then played a scoreless tie at Aston Villa. Villa Park is never an easy place to play but we're going to dock points anyway. Were active on the transfer front as well, signing Albert Riera from Espanyol Barcelona for €10 million (who says Tom Hicks is cheap?) With Torres out three weeks and Stevie G still nursing a sore groin, they'll need the help.
Next Up: Host No. 2 Man. United Saturday then face Olympique Marseille in the Champions League. It gets easier after that with Stoke at Anfield on Sept. 20.

13 (10). Fiorentina
Had no problems in their UCL qualifier with Slavia Prague as expected. The group stage will not be so easy, however, as La Viola have been drawn into what we view is the second-most-difficult group, with No. 11 Bayern Munich, No. 5 Olympique Lyon and Steaua Bucharest. Needed an 89th minute goal by Alberto Gilardino to salvage a tie with No. 3 Juventus in their Serie A opener. A three-slot deduction is admittedly harsh, but there was nowhere else to put them.
Next Up: At Napoli (Sept. 14) and at Lyon (Sept 17), then Bologna at home Sept. 20.

14 (15). Valencia
Valencia broke the pattern of underperforming Spanish clubs in the Liga opener by actually beating their opponents--impressively, at that, by 3-0. Okay, so Mallorca may not scare many clubs. Still a win is a win and Valencia have a share of first place
Next Up: At Almeira and Martimo Funchal (whoever that is) in the UEFA Cup.

15 (14). Villareal.
Another Spanish side that didn't perform as expected, though a tie at Osasuna is far more forgiveable than, say, a loss to a promoted club.
Next Up: Host Real-beaters Deportivo La Coruna, then visit Old Trafford for their Champions League opener. It doesn't get any easier, in other words.

16 (18). Olympique Marseille
L'OM booked solid home wins over Sochaux and Brann Bergen (the latter to break into the Champions League for the second year running) and are actually in first place in the French League (on goal difference, but still).
Next Up: Visit Bordeaux, then host No. 12 Liverpool. A lot could go wrong, in other words.

17 (22). Sporting Lisbon
Beat Sporting Braga on the road, their second win in as many games in the Portuguese lead. With everybody ahead of them losing games, it allows Sporting to move into the top 20 for the first time ever. Don't look now but are tied for first in Portugal with a two point advantage over perennial champs Porto. Is this the year the Portuguese crown passes to a new club?
Next Up: At No. 8 FC Barcelona in the Champions League, Tuesday, Sept. 16. Now that should be interesting.

18 (24). Boca Juniors
The boys from the Bombonera make their first ever foray into the top 20. It is well deserved, after winning the Recopa Sud against Arsenal and notching three wins in three games in the Apertura (with a 9-1 goal difference to boot). After River Plate rose from the ashes to win the Clausura is it now Boca's turn?
Next Up: Host Independiente (Sept. 14), visit Argentinos Juniors (Sept. 17), then host CA Tigre (Sept. 21). Will face either Libertadores champs LDU Quito or Bolivar in the Copa Sudamericana Round of 16. (Quito won the first leg, 4-2. The second will be played Sept. 18).

19 (-). PSV Eindhoven
After winning the Dutch SuperCup in convincing fashion (2-0 over Feyernoord Rotterdam), PSV trounced Utrecht by a 5-1 score in their Eredivisie opener. While a blowout victory over a team that is better known for a 16th century peace treaty than just about anything else is not the most impressive feat ever, it does work in PSV's favor. So does what is in our estimation the most difficult Champions League group, featuring fellow top 25 clubs No. 9 Atletico Madrid, No. 16 Olympique Marseille and No. 12 Liverpool.
Next Up: Host Sparta Rotterdam (Sparta? What does Rotterdam have to do with ancient Greece?) in Eredivisie action before taking on Atletico Madrid in their CL opener, also at home. The latter game should give us a better idea of the quality of this team.

20 (-). Zenit St. Petersburg
While they are only in seventh place in the Russian league, the team from the city once known as Leningrad finally got their dues with the Soccer Source ranking committee by virtue of two items: First, their victory over Man. Utd, even though it came in a glorified friendly. Second, the acquisition of Danny shows they have the ability--and the willingness--to spend with the big boys. Will they hold onto Arshavin? They are for now.
Next Up: The CL opener with No. 3 Juventus looms Wednesday, Sept. 17.

21 (-). Fenerbahce
The Turkish side reached their first objective, the group stage of the Champions League, after a tough series with Partizan Belgrade. Their group, with Arsenal, Porto and Dynamo Kiev, is the third-hardest in our estimation. Domestically they are 1-1, most recently beating Istanbul BB.
Next Up: Some Turkish club followed by a trip to Porto on Wednesday, Sept. 17 for the opening match of the Champs League.

22 (-). Atlante
The defending Apertura champions did what no other team has done since the start of the season, which is defeat San Luis. They did it at home, winning 1-0 and lead Group 1 of the Mexican league, but only by one point over Clausura champs Santos.
Next Up: A trio of games against Mexico City clubs. Cruz Azul home (Sept. 14), America away (Sept. 21) and UNAM Pumas home (Sept. 28). No Sudamerica action for these guys.

23 (21). Club San Luis
San Luis finally lost a game, going down to No. 22 Atlante by a 1-0 score. More importantly, they won the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana play-in against Deportivo Quito by 3-1. Will it be enough for the return leg? We'll have to wait and see.
Next Up: America home Sept. 14, followed by the return leg against Quito Thursday, Sept. 18.

24 (25). Shakhtar Donetsk
Had no problem with Dynamo Zagreb in their UCL qualifier but continue to tread water domestically, with a 2-2 tie to Metalurg Zaporozhye (we think that's what they're called) in their last Ukrainian league game. Are 11th after seven games in said league.
Next up: Visit FC Basel in CL opener

25 (-). Manchester City
Yes, we're going there. The officially richest soccer club in the world makes its first appearance on the Top 25 list since the original edition, largely for no reason but this one. Sure, the Robinho transfer helps, so will the other players Mark Hughes is sure to sign with the dripping-with-oil millions supplied by Abu Dhabi United Group Investment and Development Limited. On the pitch, the club appears inspired, beating up on Sunderland by a 3-0 score in their most recent outing.
Next Up: We'll get a closer look at Robinho and the resurgent City when they host No. 1 Chelsea on Sept. 13.

Dropping Out:
Schalke 04 (16), AC Milan (17), Ajax Amsterdam (19), Galatasaray (20), Gremio Porto Allegre (23)

Also receiving consideration:

Steaua Bucharest, FC Basel, Panathinaikos, Dynamo Kiev, FC Kopenhagen, Tigre, Cruz Azul, Cruzeiro Belo Horizonte, UNAM Pumas.

Artwork taken from without permission.

No comments:

Post a Comment