Jan 19, 2009

The world's top 25 soccer clubs, Jan. 19, 2009

Now is the winter of our discontent. Or something. Whatever, it's cold out and snowing more than it should be in this, the day of global warming. The Top 25 appears frozen in place as well, with no intra-continental competition until February. But there was still some movement. Check it out:

1 (1). FC Barcelona
After making things at least somewhat interesting with Osasuna two weeks ago, Barca went back to dominating their opposition last week. First they beat Atletico Madrid 2-1 in the return leg of a Copa del Rey tie they didn't even need to win (they won the first leg, 3-1), then they trounced Deportivo La Coruna (who believe it or not are flirting with European spots in the Spanish liga) by 5-0 on Saturday. With the Spanish league now at its halfway point, can anybody catch Barcelona, who have a 12-point lead over second place? It would have to be a historic collapse.
Next Up: Visit cross-town rival Espanyol Wednesday in the next stage of the Copa del Rey, followed by Numancia at Camp Nou, Saturday.
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), beat Atletico Madrid over two legs (5-2 aggregate) in the Copa del Rey.

2 (3). Manchester United
A pair of 1-0 victories last week (over Wigan and Bolton) have Sir Alex' men back in first place in the English Premier League. They're tied on points with Liverpool for now, but have a game in hand over their hated rivals. There is still plenty of time left but you have to like United's chances.
Next Up: Host Derby (it's pronounced "dar-bee" in the return leg of the league cup Wednesday, then host Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup Saturday. A visit to W.B.A. is on for a week from tomorrow. None of these should pose significant (or really any) problems.
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), beat Chelsea at home (3-0, Jan. 11).

3 (2). Liverpool
Reds tied Everton at home in the latest rendition of the Merseyside derby earlier today (Monday). By dropping points at home they relinquish first place (and a spot in the Top 25) to Man United.
Next Up: Host Everton again in the FA Cup Saturday.
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).

4 (4). Inter Milan
The 2009 calendar year has not started well for the nerrazurri. First there was the disappointing 1-1 draw with Cagliari (it's pronounced "Caliari". The "g" is silent) the week before last. Then Inter had a very tough time getting past Genoa in a Coppa Italia tie at midweek (needing overtime to do so). Then they got thoroughly trounced by mid-table Atalanta di Bergamo Saturday. Inter are still first in Serie A, but their lead is now three points.
Next Up: Host Roma in the next stage of Coppa Italia, Wednesday. Sampdoria visit the San Siro in Serie A action 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) .

5 (5). Juventus
Inter's surprising loss at Bergamo gave Juve a golden chance to pull within a point of the leaders on Sunday. Alas, they managed only a 1-1 draw at Lazio and are now three points behind the nerrazurri. At midweek, Juventus also got by Catania in the Coppa Italia.
Next Up: Host Fiorentina in a Serie A game 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), beat AC Milan at home (4-2, Dec. 14)

6 (6). Real Madrid
Things are starting to come together on the field for Real, right at the time they are coming completely undone in the boardroom. Ramon Calderon finally agreed to step down Friday. Sunday, the team came back from a 1-0 halftime deficit to defeat Osasuna 3-1. Their fourth straight victory. But they don't move up because the club ahead of them, Juventus, beat them twice on the field earlier this season.
Next Up: Host Deportivo La Coruna, Sunday.
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), beat Villareal at home (1-0, Jan. 4).

7. (8) AC Milan
The Soccer Source ranking committee has been criticized for placing Milan this high up. But the rossoneri are now third in Serie A after beating Fiorentina Saturday.
Next Up: Visit Bologna, Sunday.
Against Top 25: Beat Inter Milan (1-0, Sept. 28), beat Lazio (4-1, Sept. 21), lost at Juventus (4-2, Dec. 14), tied at AS Roma (2-2, Jan. 11).

8 (7). Bayern Munich
Idle. Apparently Lukas Podolski has been transferred back to Cologne. This likely means Landon Donovan will stay with the club longer-term. As Yanks we're partial to Donovan of course, but we can't help but be a little concerned for Bayern if they do make him one of their primary goal scoring options. Donovan has accomplished very little on a club level in his career and literally nothing outside of Major League Soccer. That can change, of course, but will it?
Next Up: Nothing until next Tuesday, 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).

9. (9). Chelsea
Chelsea were within three minutes of seeing their season go up in smoke on Saturday. Down 1-0 to lowly Stoke City, they faced a second straight Premiership loss that likely would have cost Luiz Felipe Scolari his job. But Juliano Belletti struck two minutes from time and Frank Lampard added a gorgeous left footed strike from the edge of the penalty area to turn Chelsea's fortunes in the game--and perhaps in their season. With the shocking victory Blues take third place back from Aston Villa and stay within striking distance of the "big two".
Next Up: Visit Southend United in FA Cup action Wednesday. Host Stoke City Saturday.
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), lost at Man United (3-0, Jan. 11).

10 (10). Aston Villa
Martin O'Neill's side came back to win at Sunderland Saturday for their third straight 2-1 victory in a row.
Next Up: An FA cup tie against some minnow, Saturda.
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)

11 (11). Arsenal
Did not appear to be challenged by Hull City, winning 3-1 Saturday.
Next Up: Visit Cardiff City in the FA Cup, 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 (12). AS Roma
Won both games they played last week, at home against Sampdoria and at Torino to move up to eight place in Serie A.
Next Up: Two tough road games, at Inter Milan in Coppa Italia action, Wednesday, with a trip to fifth-placed Napoli on the docket Sunday.
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), tied AC Milan at home (2-2, Jan. 11).

13 (14). Villareal
Had no problems with Mallorca yesterday, winning 2-0 (with a penalty goal by traitor Giuseppi Rossi).
Next Up: Host Osasuna, Saturday.
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), lost at Real Madrid (1-0, Jan. 4), tied Valencia on the road (3-3, Jan. 10).

14 (15). Panathinaikos
Scored a pair of 4-0 victories last week, over Panatrakikos in a midweek cup tie and over seventh-placed Aris Saloniki in Super League action yesterday. Second in the Greek league, but still a long way (nine points) from defending champions Olympiakos and first place.
Next Up: Visit Ergotelis, Saturday.
Against Top 25: Lost to Inter Milan at home (2-0, Sept. 16), beat Inter Milan (1-0 away on Nov. 25)

15 (17). Olympique Lyon
Won at Grenoble, 2-0, to maintain their slim (one point) lead in Ligue Un over surging Girondins Bordeaux (winners at Nantes).
Next Up: Visit some French village club for a cup tie Saturday.
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).

16 (17). Sporting Lisbon
Idle last week.
Next Up: Visit fifth-placed Nacional Funchal Sunday. Does Funchal mean football in their language?
Against Top 25: Lost to Barcelona (3-1 away, Sept. 19 and 5-2 home, Nov. 25).

17 (13). Atletico Madrid
The rojiblancos had another rough week, losing to Barcelona in the Copa del Rey (as expected) and then managing to only tie 15th-placed Almeira. Now a distant sixth in La Liga and in very acute danger of being dropped out of the Top 25.
Next Up: Visit Malaga 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), lost to Barcelona over two legs in the Copa del Rey (5-2 aggregate).

18 (18). FC Sao Paulo
The Brazilian champs (third year in a row) were idle last week.
Next Up: This information was almost impossible to find, but it appears the Paulista tournament kicks off this week, with Sao Paulo hosting a club called Ituano FC on Wednesday before playing at Portuguesa on Saturday. Can any of our Brazilian readers confirm/deny this? In the Copa Libertadores, Sao Paulo will be in a group with Uruguay's Defensor Sporting, America de Cali of Colombia and the winner of Penarol and Independiente Medellin. The qualification match between the Colombian and Uruguayan sides takes place Jan. 28 with the group stage to ensue the week after from what it looks like.

19 (20). Standard Liege
Beat some Belgian club in their first game of the year, Saturday. They sit second in the Jupiler league, a point behind RSC Anderlecht.
Next Up: Visit fifth-placed Westerlo Sunday.
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 (19). Boca Juniors
Argentina's Apertura champs were idle last week.
Next Up: Play their first Torneo de Verano game tomorrow against Independiente. That same tournament also features a date with River Plate on Saturday and Racing a week from tomorrow. In 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).

21 (22). Sevilla
Beat up on Deportivo La Coruna to advance in the Copa del Rey, then beat Numancia at home on a late goal by Renato. Remain tied with Real Madrid on points for third place in La Liga (but are third on goal difference, which is kinda stupid seeing they beat them on the field last month. But whatever).
Next Up: Visit Valencia in the next stage of the Copa, then host Racing Santander in the liga Sunday.
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).

22 (21). Valencia
Needed extra time to see off Racing Santander in the second leg of their Copa del Rey matchup, then lost at Bilbao, 3-2 on a stoppage time penalty.
Next Up: Host Sevilla in the next round of the Copa del Rey, Wednesday. Then visit Mallorca, Sunday.
Against Top 25: Lost to Real Madrid over two legs in Spanish Supercup, tied at Sevilla (0-0, Nov. 22), lost at Barcelona (4-0, Dec. 6), beat Atletico Madrid (3-1, Jan. 4), tied Villareal (3-3, Jan. 10).

23 (-). Girondins Bordeaux
We can't remember the last time Bordeaux were on this list, or if they in fact ever made it, but we know they are deserving right now. Les Girondins have not lost a league match since Nov. 16 and may very well become the first team to displace Lyon as champs since, well, a long time. Their Champions League campaign fell short of the Round of 16, which was to be expected in a group featuring AS Roma and Chelsea. They face Galatasaray in the UEFA Cup.
Next Up: Nothing until Feb. 1, when they host Lille. A trip to third-placed Marseille looms Feb. 8.
Against Top 25: Lost at Chelsea (4-0, Sept. 16), tied at home (1-1, Nov. 26), lost to Roma twice (3-1 at home, Oct. 1; 2-0 away, Dec. 9), lost at Lyon (2-1, Nov. 16)

24 (24). Chivas de Guadelajara
Came back to tie Cruz Azul at home, 3-3 in the curtain raiser on the Clausura season.
Next Up: Face city rivals Tecos, Sunday. In the Libertadores they're drawn with Lanus of Argentina, Caracas of Venezuela and Everton of Liverpool (just kidding they're actually from Chile). If they make it out of that group, they're deserving of this spot. Trust us.
Against Top 25: Lost to Internacional over two legs in the Libertadores quarterfinals.

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:
Independiente (23)

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