Feb 16, 2009

The world's top 25 soccer clubs, Feb. 16, 2009

With most English Premiership clubs either idle or playing minnows in F.A. Cup ties, last week was a tough one for the Soccer Source ranking committee to come to terms with. Several top teams dropped points in key situations and the logjam at the back of the list grew deeper. Luckily, intra-continental action returns to Europe this week (after starting last week in South America with the Copa Libertadores) so some clarity should return. But first, this week's ranking:

1 (1). FC Barcelona
Barca actually did NOT win its game last week and came pretty close to losing to Real Betis. Pep Guardiola's men went down 2-0 before rallying on a brace by Samuel Eto'o. That's four goals in two games now for Eto'o. With Real winning, Barca's lead in the Liga is now "only" 10 points. But maybe, just maybe, the Catalan side are human after all. We will soon know more.
Next Up: Host cross-town rivals Espanyol, Saturday. Then it's off to Lyon for the Champions League. Atletico Madrid visits Camp Nou after that.
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). Inter Milan
Okay, so Adriano's goal was a handball. Still, you can't argue that Inter weren't the better team in yesterday's Milan derby, which the nerazurri won, 2-1. They expand their Serie A lead to nine points with the victory. Earlier in the week Inter beat up on Lecce 3-0. The Serie A race may be over, folks.
Next Up: Host Bologna Saturday, then the CL grudge match with Man United.
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), beat AC Milan (2-1, Feb. 15).

3 (2). Manchester United
Man U. had no problem with Derby County, winning their F.A. Cup tie 4-1. United drop a spot here by no fault of their own; a victory over Derby is simply not as impressive as two over Lecce and AC Milan. But the two sides will have a chance to decide this battle for themselves soon...
Next Up: Host Fulham, Wednesday and Blackburn, Sunday. Then it's off to Inter Milan for the Champions League a week from tomorrow.
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).

4 (4). Real Madrid
Real beat up on Sporting Gijon, 4-0. Their eighth straight victory. They haven't even conceded a goal in five games. Is this team peaking at exactly the right moment? It may be...
Next Up: Host Real Betis, Saturday. Then Liverpool visit for the first leg of the CL round of 16.
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).

5 (5). Liverpool
Idle last week.
Next Up: Host Man City, 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), beat Chelsea at home (2-0, Feb. 1).

6 (6). Juventus
Juventus hit the post and the upright something like a dozen times in their game with Sampdoria yesterday, but only managed to score once, before settling with a 1-1 draw that may have just sealed their Serie A title hopes.
Next Up: Visit Palermo Saturday, then it's off to Stamford Bridge for the Champions League tie with Chelsea.
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)

7. (9). Chelsea
Blues beat Watford in the F.A. Cup, 3-1, in what was not quite the beginning of the Guus Hiddink era at Stamford Bridge (Luiz Felipe Scolari assistant Ray Wilkins was in charge for the game). We thought the Big Phil firing was necessary and believe Hiddink will breathe some life into the West London club. The Premiership title is probably still out of the question though, but we are bullish enough on Chelsea's chances to move them up two whole spots in the Top 25.
Next Up: Visit Aston Villa Saturday, then host Juve inthe first leg of the Champions League Round of 16 a week from Wednesday.
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), lost at Liverpool (2-0, Feb. 1).

8 (10). Olympique Lyon
Beat Le Havre 3-1 yesterday. L'OL take advantage of slip-ups by some of the teams ahead of them to move up a few spots. Are they worthy of the honors? We should know soon...
Next Up: Visit Nancy, Saturday. Then host No. 1 Barca a week from tomorrow.
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).

9. (7) AC Milan
As previously noted, the rossoneri came up short in the Milan derby yesterday. They hang on to third place, but the title is probably out of the question now. So can David Beckham return to California now? Uh, probably not. He said he would "find it difficult" to return to LA next month. Yeah.
Next Up: Visit Werder Bremen in the UEFA Cup Wednesday. Then host Cagliari Sunday before the return leg with Werder at San Siro.
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), lost to Inter Milan (2-1, Feb. 15).

10 (8). Bayern Munich
Juergen Klinsmann's side were defeated 2-1 by Hertha Berlin Saturday and drop all the way to fourth place in the Bundesliga.
Next Up: Host Cologne Saturday. The first leg of their Champions League tie with Sporting Lisbon takes place in Portugal the following Wednesday.
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), lost at Hertha Berlin (2-1, Feb. 14).

11 (18). Porto
The defending Portuguese champions won their league match to maintain a slim (one-point) lead atop the Liga Sagres table. They get an enormous bump here, due to all the clutter ahead of them.
Next Up: Another Sagres match Sunday, followed by the first leg of their Champs League knockout tie with Atletico Madrid a week from tomorrow.
Against Top 25: Lost at Arsenal (4-0, Sept. 30), won at Sporting Lisbon (2-1, Oct. 5), lost at home to Dynamo Kiev (1-0, Oct. 21), won at Kiev (2-1, Nov. 5), beat Arsenal at home (2-0, Dec. 10).

12 (11). Aston Villa
Martin O'Neill's side were beaten pretty soundly by Everton in an F.A. Cup tie yesterday. Their first loss in a long time. Is this a top four club? We'll have to wait and see.
Next Up: The UEFA Cup returns, with CSKA Moscow playing the first leg at Villa Park, followed by a visit from Chelsea 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)

13 (13). Arsenal
Idle last week.
Next Up: Host Cardiff in the replay of their FA Cup tie later today.
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).

14 (15). FC Sao Paulo
The Brazilian champs (third year in a row) beat Ponte Preta at midweek before drawing Corinthians 1-1. That was in the Paulista league, the regional championship for what we assume is the Sao Paulo area. FCSP are third in said league, behind Corinthians and Palmeiras.
Next Up: Host Independiente Medellin in their first Copa Libertadores game Wednesday. Also visit Barueri, whoever that is, in Paulista action.

15 (12). AS Roma
Were trounced at Atalanta di Bergamo yesterday, 3-0. This would be the worst time of the season for Roma to lose their form again. The gialorossi are now sixth in Serie A.
Next Up: Host Siena, Saturday. Then it's off to Emirates (the stadium, not the country) a week from tomorrow for the next stage of the Champions League.
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.

16 (17). Standard Liege
Won their Jupiler League game Saturday, their sixth win and fourth clean sheet in a row. Have a two point lead in the standings, but second-placed Anderlecht has a game in hand.
Next Up: Sporting Braga in the UEFA Cup Wednesday, followed by the aforementioned Anderlecht, Sunday. Both games are on the road. We shall soon know what Standard are made of...
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).

17 (16). Panathinaikos
Played a scoreless tie with Iraklis Saloniki yesterday. With first-placed Olympiakos winning, Panathinaikos are now 14 points behind the leaders, albeit still in second place. It looks like only the Super League champion gets a chance at Champions League spots next year. Can anybody confirm that?
Next Up: Host Panionios, Saturday before a visit to Villareal in the Champions League.
Against Top 25: Lost to Inter Milan at home (2-0, Sept. 16), beat Inter Milan (1-0 away on Nov. 25)

18 (19). Palmeiras
Palmeiras continue their perfect start to the 2009 campaign, where they have nine wins in all nine matches played. Last week they won 3-2 at Mirasol and beat Paulista 1-0. They lead the Paulista league with 21 points from seven matches (the other two wins were in their Libertadores qualifier).
Next Up: Their Libertadores opener at LDU Quito, Wednesday. Quito, it should be noted, are the tournament's defending champions. The other teams in the group are Chile's Colo Colo and fellow Brazilian side Sport Club do Recife.

19 (21). Sporting Lisbon
Beat Belenenses 2-1 yesterday.
Next Up: Things get earnest with second-placed Benfica paying a visit Saturday and the first leg of their Champions League knockout rounder with Bayern Munich (at Lisbon) on Wednesday, Feb. 25.
Against Top 25: Lost to Barcelona (3-1 away, Sept. 19 and 5-2 home, Nov. 25).

20 (14). Boca Juniors
Argentina's Apertura champs suffered a set-back last week, losing 2-0 to Newell's Old Boys Saturday. At home, no less. Boca are probably not as good as we had given them credit for. But we'll have a better idea what they're capable of soon, because...
Next Up: Their first Copa Libertadores tie, at home to Deportivo Cuenca Wednesday. Visit Lanus in Clausura action Sunday.
Against Top 25: Beat San Lorenzo (3-1, Dec. 20), lost to Newell's Old Boys (2-0, Feb. 14).

21 (-). Hertha Berlin
Hertha make their debut appearance in the Top 25 thanks to a 2-1 victory over Bayern Munich that catapulted them into first place in the Bundesliga. Unfortunately, the European campaign was an entirely forgettable one for Lucien Favre's side: Draws with Benfica Lisbon and Metalist Kharkov and losses to Galatasaray and Olympiakos have them watching the proceedings from home the second half of the season. Granted, that's a pretty tough UEFA Cup group right there. Still, it will likely keep Hertha from advancing very far in this space, regardless of how well they defend their perch in the Bundesliga (one point separates Hertha from second-placed Hoffenheim, who were thrashed 4-1 by Leverkusen and voted off the Top 25 island as a result).
Note to our Greek readers: We are keenly aware that Hertha Berlin were beaten 4-0 by Olympiakos earlier this season. But unfortunately, leading the Bundesliga simply overshadows that at this point. Still, hang read on and there will be some consolation...
Next Up: Visit Wolfsburg, Saturday.
Against Top 25: Lost at Bayern Munich (4-1, Aug. 31), beat Hoffenheim (1-0, Nov. 1), beat Bayern Munich (2-1, Feb. 14).

22 (23). Sevilla
Beat relegation-threatened Espanyol Barcelona, 2-0. Solidly in third place in La Liga now, nine points behind Real Madrid, three ahead of fourth-placed Valencia.
Next Up: Host Atletico Madrid, Saturday.
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), beat Valencia over two legs in the Copa del Rey.

23 (22). Chivas de Guadelajara
After taking a last minute equalizer in the Copa Libertadores opener at Lanus, Chivas lost at Santos Laguna in Mexican Clausura action yesterday. They continue to lead their group, however. And the result at Lanus was impressive and shows they are deserving of this spot.
Next Up: Visit Lanus in the first game of the Copa Libertadores group stage (the other teams in the group are Caracas of Venezuela and Everton of Chile). Then visit Santos Laguna, Sunday.
Against Top 25: Lost to Internacional over two legs in the Copa Sudamericana quarterfinals.

24 (-). Olympiakos
We're finally biting the bullet and giving Olympiakos their due here. We had a soft spot for the Greek champions (and cup holders) last season but wrote them off after they inexplicably lost their Champions League qualifier to Anorthosis Famagusta this season. They're back now though, mainly by virtue of their 14 point lead in the Greek Super League. But their European campaign is still alive and well in the UEFA Cup, where they notched impressive victories over Hertha Berlin and Benfica Lisbon (while also losing to Galatasaray and Metalist Kharkov). So why aren't Olympiakos ahead of Hertha now? For one, the 4-0 victory in the UEFA Cup was a little misleading, coming as it did at home and on the last match day. If it had been a home-and-home series, we figure Berlin would not have taken as many late goals as they did. It actually would have been a completely different match, because Hertha would not have been forced to attack from the word go as they did. Also, Olympiakos have not beaten anybody of Bayern's caliber, the way Hertha did last week. Finally, the Bundesliga is simply a better league than the Super League, so placing first in Germany is worth more than placing first in Greece. Sorry!
Next Up: Host St. Etienne in the first stage of their UEFA Cup knockout tie. St. Etienne are struggling in France so this shouldn't be a problem for Olympiakos. Also visit AE Ergotelis Sunday.
Against Top 25: Tied at Panathinaikos (0-0, Nov. 9).

25 (-). Newell's Old Boys
The club with one of the strangest names this side of Young Boys Bern (also known as Michael Jackson's favorite team), Newell's quickly established themselves at the top of the Argentine Clausura table after an impressive 2-0 victory over Boca Juniors at the Bombonera yesterday. We can't pretend to know anything else about this team. They aren't in the Copa Libertadores, which makes it difficult for them to advance from this spot very far.
Next Up: More Clausura action, none against teams you would have ever heard of.
Against Top 25: Won at Boca Juniors (2-0, Feb. 15).

Dropping Out:
Hoffenheim (20), Villareal (24), Atletico Madrid (25)

Also receiving votes:
AZ Alkmaar, Olympique Marseille, Paris Saint Germain, San Lorenzo, Caracas FC, Everton.

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