Dec 8, 2008

The world's top 25 soccer clubs, Dec. 8, 2008

The top teams all held serve, but that doesn't mean last week wasn't interesting. Check it:

1 (1). FC Barcelona
Barca had absolutely no trouble with Valencia Saturday, winning 4-0 in a game that was not as close as the result might indicate. Valencia were completely listless and did not exactly present the type of challenge many (ourselves included) had expected from a third-placed team (in La Liga. In the Top 25 they were 17th. More on that later.) Barca's lead is now six points after Villareal managed only a tie at home to Getafe. Josep Guardiola's side has not lost since Aug. 31. But a lot can happen in the second half of the season. Last year at this stage Inter Milan looked unbeatable and we all know how that played out.
Next Up: A meaningless game at Shakhtar Donetsk in the CL group stage finale, followed by (drum roll please) Real Madrid, at Nou Camp on Sunday.
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).

2 (2). Liverpool
After a disappointing home draw with West Ham a week ago, Reds turned in a strong second half to see off Blackburn Saturday. Okay, so Rovers are dead last and likely to be in the Championship next season. At least Liverpool got all three points. Even though we should drop their place in the rankings as a result of the West Ham game, the Soccer Source ranking committee is keeping Liverpool at #2 by virtue of their formidable record against quality competition.
Next Up: Visit Eindhoven in a meaningless Champions League game tomorrow. Then host Hull City Saturday. A trip to Emirates (the stadium, not the country) is up a week from 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).

3 (3). Inter Milan
Inter turned in an impressive 3-0 victory at Lazio Saturday to maintain their six point lead atop the Serie A standings. Lazio are seventh and were a Top 25 club at one point earlier this season.
Next Up: Visit Werder Bremen in what has become (by none of Inter's doing) a meaningless finale to the CL group stage. Host Chievo Sunday.
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) .

4 (5). Bayern Munich
Juergen Klinsmann's side put first-placed Hoffenheim to the sword Friday, winning the top-of-the-table clash against the newly-promoted upstarts. Bayern got a bit lucky with the victory, but it gets them even on points with Hoffenheim. The committee is impressed but thinks Bayern still needs to beat some top European sides before they can be included in talk about best club in the world. They're almost there though.
Next Up: Visit Lyon with first place in their champions league group on the line (both sides have qualified for the Round of 16)
Against Top 25: Tied Olympique Lyon (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).

5 (4). Juventus
Claudio Ranieri's team beat Lecce on a 90th minute goal by Amauri yesterday.
Next Up: Host BATE Borisov Wednesday. Then third-placed Serie A side AC Milan visit Sunday.
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).

6. (6). Chelsea
A week after the (somewhat) embarrassing home loss to Arsenal, Blues rebounded with a 2-0 win at Bolton.
Next Up: Host Cluj in a Champions League match they may need to win to assure advancement to the Round of 16. Then West Ham, 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).

7 (8). Manchester United
Beat Blackburn Rovers to advance in the League Cup, then got a stoppage time goal from Nemanja Vidic to steal three points against Sunderland Saturday.
Next Up: Host Aalborg Wednesday, travel to White Hart Lane Saturday. Don't be surprised to see them lose more ground with the way Spurs have been playing.
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).

8. (7) AC Milan
The rossoneri continued their uneven run last week, losing to Lazio in a cup tie Wednesday, before beating Catania on a 65th goal by Kaka Sunday.
Next Up: Visit No. 5 Juventus, Sunday.
Against Top 25: Beat Inter Milan (1-0, Sept. 28), beat Lazio (4-1, Sept. 21).

9 (9). Arsenal
After impressing everybody, the Soccer Source ranking committee included, in their victory over Chelsea, Arsenal repeated what has become a familiar pattern this season, losing to Burnley in the League Cup. Yeah it's "only" the League Cup but Arsenal still should have won. So we're going to dock points. So sue us (actually don't, please. We can't afford lawyers. You know, credit crunch). Gunners did beat Wigan Athletic Saturday so the week wasn't a complete setback. And actually, because the teams behind them all underperformed in their own way, Arsenal won't even lose any spots this week. Imagine that!
Next Up: Visit Porto in a meaningless Champions League encounter Wednesday, then at Middlesbrough Saturday.
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).

10 (13). Villareal.
The yellow submarine came back from a 3-0 deficit to salvage a point at home against Getafe on Saturday. The comeback was impressive. Less so is the fact that they allowed themselves to go down 3-0 at home. Still, Villareal move up because the teams who were ahead of them did so poorly. And because they have Jozy Altidore (and Guiseppe Rossi, though he's a traitor).
Next Up: Some target practice at Celtic Park at midweek, followed by a trip to Seville Sunday. Host No. 1 Barcelona a week after that.
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).

11 (14). AS Roma
Beat Chievo Saturday, 1-0 for their fourth Serie A victory in a row (fifth in a row in all competition). Don't look now but after at one point occupying a relegation spot Roma have battled their way up to 13th in Italy. They're only five points behind fifth-placed Genoa with a game in hand. The giallorossi may not challenge for the Serie A title but figure them to be in the mix for a Champions League spot before it's all said and done.
Next Up: Host Bordeaux tomorrow in a Champions League game they may need to win. "Control their own destiny" against the Girondins however, and can win the group with a victory. Also host Cagliari Sunday and Bologna in the Coppa Italia a week from Wednesday.
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)

12 (10). Atletico Madrid
The rojiblancos beat Sporting Gijon 5-2 Saturday, to move within two points of their cross town rivals and fifth place in the Liga.
Next Up: A meaningless game at Olympique Marseille tomorrow, then Real Betis at home (Sunday).
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).

13 (10). Real Madrid
Real continue to struggle, losing at home to Sevilla yesterday. That was their second straight home loss in La Liga. Not good.
Next Up: A meaningless game against Zenit St. Petersburg, then at Barca Saturday. It's somewhat premature to say the latter game will be to salvage their season. But only somewhat.
Against Top 25: Won at Zenit St. Petersburg (2-1, Sept. 30), beat Atletico Madrid (2-1, Oct. 18), lost to Juventus (2-1 on the road, Oct. 22 and 2-0 at home, Nov. 5).

14 (11). Olympique Lyon
L'OL inexplicably lost at 16th placed (and newly-promoted) Nantes yesterday. They still lead Ligue Un but now have a worse goal difference than second-placed Olympique Marseille (who won their game to pull within three points of the perennial champs). The two teams meet this weekend.
Next Up: A huge week. Host Bayern Munich with first place in Group F on the line, then host Marseille with first place in Ligue Un on the line. We'll know what Lyon are made of after this.
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).

15 (15). Sporting Lisbon.
Sporting won their domestic league game at Estrela Amadora on Friday to remain three points behind Benfica, who are unbeaten in league play.
Next Up: FC Basel in the final Champions League group match.
Against Top 25: Lost to Barcelona (3-1 away, Sept. 19 and 5-2 home, Nov. 25).

16 (16) Aston Villa
It wasn't pretty (but it sure was exciting!) but the Villans managed to rebound from a disappointing midweek loss to Zilina by beating Everton yesterday. (The loss to Zilina turned out to be meaningless. Villa have advanced along with Ajax Amsterdam and Hamburg SV). Ashley Young clinched the 3-2 victory (and completed his brace) four minutes into stoppage time at Goodison Park. Villa hold onto fifth place in the Premiership with the victory.
Next Up: Host Bolton Saturday. A meaningless game Hamburg is up the Wednesday after that.
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)

17 (18). FC Sao Paulo
Sao Paulo won at Goia Goiania (we swear we're not making this up) to clinch their third-straight Brazilian championships. Felicitaciones, amigos! (Was that Portuguese?)
Next Up: Who knows? The long Brazilian summer is upon us. We'll check in on these guys in March or April.

18 (20). Panathinaikos
The Greek club won at third-placed AO Xanthi, Saturday to take over said spot in the Super League. They trail first-placed Olympiakos by nine points though. (So why aren't Olympiakos on this list? We never forgave their Champions League qualifier loss to Famagusta. Maybe we should though).
Against Top 25: Lost to Inter Milan at home (2-0, Sept. 16), beat Inter Milan (1-0 away on Nov. 25)

19 (18). Standard Liege
The Belgian champs beat Sampdoria (it's pronounced Samdoria. The "p" is silent) to remain perfect (and unscored upon) in a tough UEFA Cup group (the other teams are Sevilla, Stuttgart and Partizan Belgrade). This would have made for a nice jump up the standings, but then Standard lost at home to some Belgian club. They're third in the Jupiler league.
Next Up: Our heroes have a chance to make up lost ground in their domestic league, traveling to second-placed Bruges Sunday. A meaningless game at Stuttgart follows next week, then fourth-placed Gent.
Next Up: 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 (21). Internacional
The Porto Allegre side beat Estudiantes 2-1 over two legs to take the Copa Sudamericana. 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 (-) Sevilla
Sevilla are back in the Top 25 after the briefest of absences. Beat Real Madrid at Bernabeu and you, too, are likely to be included in the Top 25. The Andalusians also beat Partizan Belgrade earlier in the week to book their spot in the Round of 16 (or is it 32?) of the UEFA Cup tourney.
Next Up: Host Villareal Sunday.
Against Top 25: Won at Atletico Madrid (1-0, Sept. 28), won at Real Madrid (4-3, Dec. 7).

23 (-) Cruz Azul
The Mexico City side advanced to the final of the Apertura tournament after beating defending champions Atlante over two legs. This after ousting cross-town rivals UNAM Pumas in the quarterfinals. The blue cross (that's what cruz azul means in Mexican, you know) face Deportivo Coruna in the finale, who themselves ousted the defending Clausura champs, Santos Laguna (we're not explaining the difference between Clausura and Apertura champions. Some other time, maybe).

24 (23). Zenit St. Petersburg
Idle last week.
Next Up: Visit Real Madrid in a meaningless encounter Tuesday.
Against Top 25: Lost at Juventus (1-0, Sept. 17) tied at home (0-0, Nov. 25), lost to Real Madrid (2-1, Sept. 30), tied at BATE Borisov (1-1, Oct. 22), beat BATE Borisov at home (2-0, Nov. 5).

25 (24). Hoffenheim
The surprise team of the German (if not entire European) season held on to the Top 25 despite losing to Bayern Munich Friday.
Next Up: Things don't get much easier, with Schalke paying a visit Sunday.
Against Top 25: Beat Hamburg SV at home (3-0, Oct. 26), lost at Bayern Munich (2-1, Dec. 5).

Dropping Out:
Valencia (17), Santos Laguna (22), Dynamo Kiev (25).

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