Jan 26, 2009

The world's top 25 soccer clubs, Jan. 26, 2009

Okay, can somebody just beat Barcelona please? We're tired of putting them at the top of this list every week. Though frankly even if they do lose again this season, it will in itself likely not be enough to remove them from the top spot. But at least you're left to wonder about places 2-25, right?

1 (1). FC Barcelona
Barca won again, blah blah blah...wait! They didn't win both their games last week but in fact managed only a scoreless draw in their first, against crosstown rival Espanyol in the Copa del Rey. The return leg will be played at Camp Nou on Thursday and we fully expect Barca to win the game. But at least it's going to be somewhat interesting. We think. For a few mintues, maybe. Pep Guardiola's men did win their second match last week, against Numancia by 4-1 (brace by Lionel Messi).
Next Up: Visit cross-town rival Espanyol Wednesday in the return leg 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 (2). Manchester United
Sir Alex' men won both games they played last week, against Derby (pronounced "dar-bee") in the League Cup and over Tottenham Hotspur in the F.A. Cup. They had to come back against Spurs to get the win. Actually neither victory was particularly impressive but I'm sure they'll take it. So will we. Style points don't usually count for much around these parts.
Next Up: W.B.A. is on for tomorrow. Everton visits Old Trafford a week from today.
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 (4). Inter Milan
A pair of solid victories has Inter back on track and back in the top three. First they beat AS Roma at midweek in a Coppa Italia game at midweek before defeating Sampdoria 1-0 yesterday.
Next Up: Visit Catania Wednesday. Host Torino on the weekend.
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), beat AS Roma in Coppa Italia (2-1, Jan. 21).

4 (3). Liverpool
Tied Everton 1-1 again, which means they will have to play them yet again in a repeat game. When it's all said and done the two Merseyside rivals will have played three times in as many weeks.
Next Up: Visit Wigan, Wednesday. Host Chelsea Sunday. Then the repeat match against Everton, a week from Wednesday.
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 (5). Juventus
After playing Lazio to a 1-1 result in a midweek game at Rome, Juve beat Fiorentina 1-0 at home Saturday. The latter result vindicates our decision to drop La Viola from the Top 25 last week. It also saves Juve from being dropped a spot in our standings.
Next Up: Visit Udinese Wednesday before hosting Cagliari Saturday. A Coppa Italia tie with Napoli is on for next Wednesday, Feb. 4.
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
Beat Deportivo La Coruna at the Bernabeu yesterday on a goal by Raul. Real keeps pace with Barcelona with the victory. Of course "keeps pace" is a relative word seeing as Barca's lead is 12 points. But at least second place is looking like a lock. Since the Dec. 14 loss to their bitter rivals, Real has won five in a row with a 9:1 goal difference. They beat some pretty good teams, too, in that time frame (see below).
Next Up: Visit Numancia, Saturday.
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. (7) AC Milan
The rossoneri won at Bologna, 4-1. They have a solid hold on third place in Serie A and remain within striking distance of first-place Inter Milan. The bigger question, of course, is whether they will keep Becks.
Next Up: Host Genoa, Wednesday, then pay Lazio a visit 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. (9). Chelsea
Beat Ipswich Town in the F.A. Cup, 3-1.
Next Up: Host Middlesbrough Wednesday. Then it's off to Anfield, Sunday. Host Hull City at home Saturday, Feb. 7.
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).

9 (8). Bayern Munich
Idle. Again. But for the last time, thankfully. Why does the Bundesliga still take a full month winter break? It can't be because of the weather, as Britain and the Netherlands and other places are just as cold as Germany.
Next Up: Finally, some meaningful games: Bayern visit Stuttgart in a cup tie tomorrow. A big game at Hamburg takes place Friday
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).

10 (10). Aston Villa
Martin O'Neill's side played a disappointing scoreless draw at Doncaster Rovers in the F.A. Cup and will have to play a repeat game a week from Wednesday.
Next Up: Visit Pompey tomorrow. Host Wigan, Saturday.
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
Played a disappointing scoreless draw against Cardiff City in F.A. Cup action.
Next Up: Visit Everton Wednesday. Host West Ham United, Saturday. The repeat match with Cardiff is a week from tomorrow.
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
Lost at Inter Milan by 2-1 to exit the Coppa Italia at midweek. Took out their frustrations in their game at Napoli Sunday, winning 3-0. Roma move up to fifth in Serie A with the victory, three points behind surprising Genoa and seven behind third-placed AC Milan. There's still everything to play for, in other words.
Next Up: Host Palermo Wednesday before traveling to Reggina Sunday. A date with Genoa looms for a week from Sunday. That one should be interesting. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.
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), lost at Inter (2-1, Jan. 21) in Coppa Italia.

13 (15). Olympique Lyon
Won their cup tie at Concarneau (whoever that is). Managed to jump two places because all the other teams in this part of the rankings performed miserably.
Next Up: Host St. Etienne when Ligue Un returns to action, Sunday.
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).

14 (13). Villareal
Managed only a 1-1 with last placed Osasuna. At home.
Next Up: Visit Deportivo La Coruna, Sunday.
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).

15 (18). FC Sao Paulo
The Brazilian champs (third year in a row) won one and drew one in Paulista action last week. We admit to not knowing exactly what Paulista is. It's not the main Brazilian league, but some preseason regional tourney, it would appear. Anyway, Sao Paulo tied their first game with Ituano 1-1 and won their second, with Portuguesa by 2-0. That's good enough for fifth place in the Paulista. It's also good enough to move past some of the slacker teams that were ahead of them. More on them below.
Next Up: More Paulista action. At Guarani, Wednesday. Host Santo Andre Sunday. 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 Wednesday with the group stage to ensue next week.

16 (20). Boca Juniors
Argentina's Apertura champs started 2009 on the right foot, with two wins and one draw in the Torneo de Verano. Last week they beat Independiente, 2-0 and River Plate, 2-1 to take first place. The Verano is just a mini tournament that ends next week. But the teams seem to take it seriously.
Next Up: Play Racing tomorrow in their final Verano game. In the Copa Libertadores, 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).

17 (16). Sporting Lisbon
Tied at fifth-placed Nacional Funchal Sunday.
Next Up: Visit 14th-placed Trofense, Sunday.
Against Top 25: Lost to Barcelona (3-1 away, Sept. 19 and 5-2 home, Nov. 25).

18 (19). Standard Liege
Won at Westerlo to move into first place in the Jupiler league (albeit only because Anderlecht's game was canceled). We are obviously big believers in Standard. Hopefully they won't let us down.
Next Up: Host Roselare, whoever that is, Saturday.
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).

19 (14). Panathinaikos
Lost at Ergotelis Saturday and slip to third place in the Greek Superleague.
Next Up: Another league game, Saturday.
Against Top 25: Lost to Inter Milan at home (2-0, Sept. 16), beat Inter Milan (1-0 away on Nov. 25)

20 (22). Valencia
Beat Sevilla in the first leg of their Copa del Rey tie, though the 3-2 margin does not leave much room for error in the return leg Thursday. Then lost at Mallorca Sunday.
Next Up: Visit Sevilla in the return leg of the Copa del Rey, Thursday. Then host Almeira, 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).

21 (21). Sevilla
Lost both games they played last week. The first one wasn't disastrous seeing as it came at Valencia, was by a 3-2 score and most importantly came in the Copa del Rey, which means they are still in a solid position of advancing in said tournament. The weekend result is a bit more problematic, coming at mid-table Racing Santander by 2-0. But as a unified body of work, the two results are not enough to drop Sevilla from the top 25.
Next Up: Host Valencia Thursday, then visit Sporting Gijon, Sunday. The derby with Real Betis is on for Sunday, Feb. 8.
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 (17). Atletico Madrid
Played a 1-1 tie at seventh-placed Malaga. The rojiblancos continue to search for their first victory of 2009. Their last three point outing was seven games ago, when they beat Espanyol on Dec. 20.
Next Up: Host Valladolid, 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).

23 (24). Chivas de Guadelajara
Beat city rivals Tecos 1-0 yesterday. That's one draw and one win in two Clausura games so far, which amazingly is only good enough for third place in their group. UNAM Pumas is first, with two wins and Cruz Azul, whom Chivas tied in the opener, sit second. America, Morelia and Tecos make up the other three teams in a very tough group.
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.

24 (23). Girondins Bordeaux
Idle last week. How boring.
Next Up: Host Lille Sunday. 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)

25 (25). Hoffenheim
Idle again. But it's over now, because...
Next Up: Face Cottbus Saturday.
Against Top 25: Beat Hamburg SV at home (3-0, Oct. 26), lost at Bayern Munich (2-1, Dec. 5).

Dropping Out:

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