Dec 22, 2008

The world's top 25 soccer clubs, Dec. 22, 2008

Welcome to the year-end edition of the Top 25. With all but the English Premiership on hiatus this week, we will not have a new ranking until 2009. So happy holidays and happy new year! Now let's get to the rankings:

1 (1). FC Barcelona
This just in: Barca are awesome. They have passed every single test thrown at them this season, the most recent one coming at Villareal yesterday. Barca won the game 2-1 to expand their league lead to a whopping 10 points. It just does not look as though anybody can touch Pep Guardiola's men right now. But it's a long season and the bigger tests still await this spring. (Though don't expect Olympique Lyon, whom they're drawn with in the Champions League Round of 16, to present much of a challenge).
Next Up: Host Mallorca a week from Saturday. Face Atletico Madrid in the Copa del Rey the following Tuesday (Jan. 6).
Against Top 25 (when they were Top 25): Beat Atletico Madrid at home (6-1, Oct. 4), beat Sporting Lisbon at home (3-1, Sept. 16), beat Sporting Lisbon away (5-2, Nov. 26), beat Sevilla away (3-0, Nov. 29), beat Valencia at home (4-0, Dec. 6), beat Real Madrid at home (2-0, Dec. 13), won at Villareal (2-1, Dec. 21).

2 (2). Inter Milan
Jose Mourinho's side got a late goal from Maicon, his second of the game, to win at Siena Saturday. Maicon's goal was pretty blatantly offside but we'll ignore that for now. Besides, Siena had a chance to tie the game in stoppage time and they blew it. So no sympathy for them. Sorry, mates.
Next Up: Host Cagliari (it's pronounced "Calliardi". The "g" is silent) when Serie A returns to action on Saturday, Jan. 10. Face Genoa in the Coppa Italia the following Tuesday, also at home.
Against Top 25: Lost to AC Milan (1-0, Sept. 28), won at Panathinaikos (2-0, Sept. 16), tied at Fiorentina (0-0, Oct. 29), beat Udinese (1-0, Nov. 9), beat Juventus (1-0, Nov. 22) .

3 (4). Juventus
Claudio Ranieri's team beat Atalanta Bergamo yesterday to keep pace with Serie A leaders Inter Milan. They sit second, trailing by six points.
Next Up: Host Siena, Sunday Jan. 11.
Against Top 25: Beat Zenit St. Petersburg at home (1-0, Sept. 17) and tied on the road (0-0, Nov. 25), tied at Fiorentina (1-1, Aug. 31), tied at BATE Borisov (2-2, Sept. 30), beat Real Madrid (2-1 at home, Oct. 22 and 2-0 at the Bernabeu, Nov. 5), lost at Inter Milan (1-0, Nov. 22), beat AC Milan at home (4-2, Dec. 14)

4 (3). Liverpool
In the game of the week, Reds tied Arsenal 1-1 at Emirates yesterday. An acceptable result for Liverpool (though maybe not for Gunners. More on that later) but we can't help but wonder if they squandered a historic opportunity to grab three vital points on the one hand, while sounding the death knell for Arsenal's title chances on the other. Liverpool played the last half hour of the game with a man advantage, but barely attacked at all. It was disappointing especially after the fireworks of the first half. For now Rafa Benitez' club still sit top of the Premiership table, pending the outcome of the Chelsea v. Everton match later today.
Next Up: Host Bolton on Boxing Day (Friday) and travel to Newcastle Sunday.
Against Top 25: Beat Manchester United (2-1, Sept. 13), beat Olympique Marseille on the road (2-1, Sept. 16), tied Atletico Madrid (1-1 at Madrid, Oct. 22 and 1-1 at Anfield, Nov. 6), won at Chelsea (1-0, Oct. 26), tied at Arsenal (1-1, Dec. 21).

5 (7). Manchester United
Sir Alex' men beat Gamba Osaka (whoever that is) in the Club World Cup last Thursday and followed this up with a victory over LDU Quito (we have heard of them; they're the reigning Copa Libertadores champions) to capture the Club World Cup. The Soccer Source ranking committee likes silverware, even if it's largely meaningless stuff a team was expected to win. So we'll bump Man U. up a few spots as a result.
Next Up: Stoke City on Boxing Day.
Against Top 25: Lost to Zenit St. Petersburg (2-1), lost at Liverpool (2-1, Sept. 13), tied Villareal at home (0-0, Sept. 17) and away (0-0, Nov. 25), tied at Chelsea (1-1, Sept. 21), beat Celtic at home (3-0, Oct. 22) and tied at Celtic Park (1-1, Nov. 6), lost at Arsenal (2-1, Nov. 8).

6 (5). Bayern Munich
Idle last week.
Next Up: Nothing until Jan. 27, when they face Stuttgart for a cup tie. A big game at Hamburg takes place later that same week.
Against Top 25: Tied Olympique Lyon at home (1-1, Sept. 30), won at Steaua Bucharest (1-0, Sept. 17), beat Fiorentina at home (3-0, Oct. 22), tied at Fiorentina (1-1, Nov. 6), beat Hoffenheim (2-1, Dec. 5), beat Olympique Lyon on the road (3-2, Dec. 10).

7. (6). Chelsea
Next Up: Visit Everton later today. Host West Brom on Boxing Day (Friday) and go to Craven Cottage Sunday.
Against Top 25 clubs: Tied Man U at home (1-1, Sept. 21), lost to Liverpool (1-0, Oct. 25), lost to Arsenal at home (2-1, Nov. 30).

8. (9) AC Milan
The rossoneri tied Werder Bremen in a meaningless UEFA Cup game and beat Udinese in Serie A action yesterday. They move back into third place with the victory (third place in Italy, that is. They're still a ways behind that here).
Next Up: Visit AS Roma when Serie A returns to action Jan. 11. Then host fourth-placed Fiorentina, Jan. 17.
Against Top 25: Beat Inter Milan (1-0, Sept. 28), beat Lazio (4-1, Sept. 21), lost at Juventus (4-2, Dec. 14).

9 (11). Atletico Madrid
The rojiblancos won at relegation-threatened Espanyol Barcelona by a 3-2 score Saturday (brace by Maxi Rodriguez) and move back into third place in La Liga with the victory (and back into the top 10 here). They also got some good news from the Champions League draw, where they face Porto in the round of 16 (the only unranked team still alive in the UCL). So pencil Atletico in to the quarterfinals.
Next Up: Some tough games at Valencia (Jan. 3) and at home to Barca (Jan. 6).
Against Top 25: Lost at Barcelona (6-1, Oct. 4), lost to Real Madrid (2-1, Oct. 18), tied Liverpool (1-1, Oct. 23), tied Villareal (4-4, Oct. 26), tied at Liverpool (1-1, Nov. 5).

10 (13). Real Madrid
We told you last week that reports of Real's demise were greatly exaggerated. Saturday, Juande Ramos' men proved us right, topping Valencia 1-0 in a hard-fought match at the Bernabeu.
Next Up: Villareal visit Bernabeu Jan. 4.
Against Top 25: Beat Zenit St. Petersburg twice (2-1 on the road, Sept. 30 and 3-0 at home, Dec. 9), beat Atletico Madrid (2-1, Oct. 18), lost to Juventus (2-1 on the road, Oct. 22 and 2-0 at home, Nov. 5), lost at Barca (2-0, Dec. 14), beat Valencia at home (1-0, Dec. 20).

11 (10). Arsenal
Dropping points at home to Liverpool in a game they needed to win was bad enough. Losing Cesc Fabregas is arguably worse. The Spaniard has a "medial knee ligament problem," according to his coach. Not exactly sure what this means (no doctors here, sorry) but it doesn't sound good. Right now Gunners sit fifth in the Premiership, one point behind Man United (who have two games in hand) and three behind Aston Villa, whom they face this week. Now that one might be a must win. We aren't quite ready to write off Arsenal just yet. Eight points (their deficit vs. first-placed Liverpool) is not an insurmountable obstacle. Anything more may just be, however.
Next Up: Visit Aston Villa on Boxing Day (Friday) and host Pompey Sunday.
Against Top 25: Tied Dynamo Kiev away (1-1, Sept. 17) won at home (1-0, Nov. 25), beat Man United at home (2-1, Nov. 8), beat Chelsea away (2-1, Nov. 30), tied Liverpool at home (1-1, Dec. 21).

12 (8). AS Roma
The giallorossi took another loss where they could least afford it yesterday, going down at Catania in Serie A action. Roma trailed 3-0 after 56 minutes before two late goals at least made it interesting. Earlier in the week, Roma beat Bologna in a Coppa Italia match. They've got a few weeks to regroup. Looks like they'll need it.
Next Up: Host AC Milan when Serie A returns to action on Jan. 11.
Against Top 25: Lost at home to Inter (4-0, Oct. 19), lost at Chelsea (1-0, Oct. 22), lost at Udinese (3-1, Oct. 26), lost at Juventus (2-0, Nov. 1), beat Chelsea (3-1, Nov. 4), beat Fiorentina (1-0, Nov. 29).

13 (12). Villareal
The yellow submarine lost at home against Barcelona, blowing a second half lead in the process. They slip to sixth in la liga with the loss but we're only docking them one spot here (Barca are the undisputed best team in the world and they played them pretty close. Call it a "quality loss" if you will).
Next Up: Things don't get any easier. A trip to Bernabeu is first up after new year's, followed by Valencia, also away, on Sunday, Jan. 11.
Against Top 25: Tied Man U twice (0-0 at Old Trafford, Sept. 18 and 0-0 at home Nov. 25), beat Celtic at home (1-0, Sept. 29), tied Atletico Madrid at home (4-4, Oct. 26), lost at Sevilla (1-0, Dec. 14), lost to Barcelona at home (2-1, Dec. 21).

14 (14). Aston Villa
Martin O'Neill's men got a somewhat fortunate win at Upton Park Saturday and are now unbeaten in six games in the Premiership. Villa move into third (!) place in the Premiership, but that's largely thanks to Man United having two games in hand due to the Club World Cup. They also lost a meaningless game at Hamburg SV at midweek.
Next Up: Host Arsenal on Boxing Day.
Against Top 25: Tied Liverpool at home (0-0, Aug. 31), lost at Chelsea (2-0, Oct. 5), beat Arsenal away (2-0, Nov. 15) tied Man United at home (0-0, Nov. 22)

15 (16). Panathinaikos
Beat Heraklion in a Greek Super League game by 3-0. Their second such result in a row. Okay, so they were both against Greek clubs (bad ones at that. Both would be relegated were the season to end today). At least they won. Also made up some ground on second-placed Saloniki (who tied their game) with the victory.
Next Up: Host AEK Athens, Sunday, Jan. 4.
Against Top 25: Lost to Inter Milan at home (2-0, Sept. 16), beat Inter Milan (1-0 away on Nov. 25)

16 (17). Olympique Lyon
After four games without a win, l'OL ended the 2008 calendar year on a positive note, beating Caen away 2-1. OK so Caen are mid table. A win is a win and Lyon end the year where they started: in first place.
Next Up: A French cup tie against some minnow on Jan. 3. Host Lorient when Ligue Un returns Jan. 10.
Against Top 25: Tied Fiorentina at home (2-2, Sept. 17) and Bayern Munich on the road (1-1, Sept. 30), won at Fiorentina (2-1, Nov. 25), lost to Bayern at home (3-2, Dec. 10).

17 (15). Sporting Lisbon
Managed only a scoreless tie against Academica de Coimbra yesterday, slipping to fourth in Liga Sagres as a result. Why do we still have them in the Top 25? Because they advanced out of the easiest Champions League group? The ranking committee will review their case before the next edition.
Next Up: Visit Vitoria Setubal on Jan. 3.
Against Top 25: Lost to Barcelona (3-1 away, Sept. 19 and 5-2 home, Nov. 25).

18 (18). FC Sao Paulo
The Brazilian champs (third year in a row) were idle last week and will remain so for the forseeable future.
Next Up: When does Libertadores start, anybody know? Whenever it does, Sao Paulo will be in a group with Uruguay's Defensor Sporting and two qualifiers (one or both from Colombia).

19 (19). Standard Liege
The Belgian club lost to VfB Stuttgart in their UEFA Cup group but it was a meaningless game. Then beat Gent in Jupiler League action, to move into second place in the Belgian league.
Next Up: Nothing until Jan. 17, when the Jupiler league returns to action. They're drawn with Sporting Braga in the next stage (round of 32) in the UEFA Cup. We expect them too win, of course.
Against Top 25: Lost to Liverpool in Champions League qualifiers (1-0 in aggregate on an overtime goal in the second leg), beat Sevilla at home (2-0, Nov. 6).

20 (-). Fiorentina
La Viola are back! Their last appearance in this space was Nov. 10, after which they entered a prolonged European slump that cost them a place in the Champions League Round of 16. They still made it to the UEFA Cup though, where they will face (and we think defeat) Dutch club Ajax Amsterdam. Yesterday, Fiorentina beat fellow UEFA Cup participants Sampdoria to move into fourth place in Serie A. Victories over top competition are lacking though...
Next Up: Host Lecce, Jan. 11. Then a tough pair of road games, at AC Milan (Jan. 17) and Juventus (Jan. 25).
Against Top 25: Tied Steaua Bucharest at home (0-0, Sept. 30), lost at Lazio (3-0, Sept. 24), tied at Lyon (2-2, Sept. 17) and lost to Lyon at home (2-1, Nov. 25), tied Juventus at home (1-1, Aug. 31), lost at Bayern Munich (3-0, Oct. 22), tied Bayern at home (1-1, Nov. 6), lost at AS Roma (1-0, Nov. 29).

21 (21). Internacional
The Porto Allegre side beat Estudiantes 2-1 over two legs to take the Copa Sudamericana earlier this month. That will assure them a spot in the Top 25 for a little while (see Arsenal de Sarandi from last year, specifically here and here).
Against Top 25: Beat Boca Juniors and Chivas de Guadelajara over two legs in the Copa Sudamericana quarter- and semi-finals respectively.

22 (-). Boca Juniors
Boca are back, thanks to a tough victory over San Lorenzo in the three-team playoff that will decide the Argentine Apertura champion. The boys from the Bombonera can clinch the title with a single point in the final game with Tigre tomorrow. If they lose it comes down to goal difference. Boca will be without their best player, Juan Riquelme, who faces a yellow card ban. If you're in the U.S. you owe it to yourself to watch the game Tuesday night. Figure it will be on Fox Deportes or one of those Spanish channels. You probably won't understand anything (even if you do speak Spanish. The stuff they speak in Argentina is pretty incomprehensible) but you won't need to. It's soccer baby!
Next Up: The aforementioned "title game" with Tigre, tomorrow night. Whenever the Copa Libertadores starts, it looks like Boca will be in a group with Paraguay's Libertad, Peru's Universidad (a college team that somehow qualified for this competition, it appears) and Mexico's San Luis.
Against Top 25: Beat San Lorenzo (3-1, Dec. 20).

23 (20). Sevilla
Lost to Sampdoria (it's pronounced "Samdoria". The "p" is silent) at midweek to exit European competition. That's right, no UEFA Cup for Seville. So what are they doing here? Well, they were in a tough group (by UEFA Cup standards; Standard Liege, VfB Stuttgart and Partizan Belgrade were the other teams) but more importantly have some impressive domestic results and sit second in La Liga (after beating Mallorca in their second game of the week).
Next Up: Host Osasuna on Sunday, Jan. 4.
Against Top 25: Won at Atletico Madrid (1-0, Sept. 28), won at Real Madrid (4-3, Dec. 7), lost to Barcelona at home (3-0, Nov. 29), beat Villareal at home (1-0, Dec. 13).

24 (24). Deportivo Toluca
The Diablos Rojos did not play last week but remain in this spot as the newly-crowned Mexican Apertura champions.
Next Up: The Interliga, a money-making scheme masqueraded as a Copa Libertadores qualifying tournament for Mexican clubs. It's curiously held in U.S. stadia. Or maybe not so curiously, seeing its true goal is to raise cash from the Mexican diaspora north of the border. Imagine if Scotland decided to play an extra tournament just to determine their Champions League participants and held these games in London or something. Kinda like that. Anyway, Toluca are drawn into a group with Tecos, Morelia and Pachuca, which looks to be the easier of the two (the other features Pumas, Chivas, America and Atlas). The top two teams from each group advance to a semifinal and the winners qualify for the Libertadores. Fun!

25 (25). Hoffenheim
Idle last week.
Next Up: Face Cottbus when the Bundesliga returns, Jan. 31.
Against Top 25: Beat Hamburg SV at home (3-0, Oct. 26), lost at Bayern Munich (2-1, Dec. 5).

Dropping Out:
San Lorenzo (22), Valencia (23)


  1. I'm sorry, but it really is confusing when you won't specify which of Salonica's three top-flight clubs or Heraklion's two you're talking about. (For those following along at home, it was OFI Crete Pana just thrashed and PAOK sitting second in the Greek league.)

  2. Its amazing that you actually think this is a respectable list with Hoffenheim placed at 25. Get real, the Bundesliga leaders ranked below non-european clubs and small-league leaders like Standard?