Mar 16, 2009

The world's top 25 soccer clubs, March 16, 2009

A decisive week. That giant wailing sound you hear is Italian soccer fans lamenting the exit of all three of their nation's clubs from the Champions League--and with it, any chance of one claiming the No. 1 spot in this space at the end of the season. But who is this week's number one? Was the ranking committee willing to forgive Man United's 4-1 home loss to Liverpool? Or would Barcelona reclaim the spot? Only one way to find out. By reading on below:

1 (2). FC Barcelona
Barca's the choice. The Catalan side get the top spot back after a three week absence (their last appearance in this space was the Feb. 23 edition). Pep Guardiola's men won both games they played last week, making mincemeat of Olympique Lyonnais in the Champions League and then putting Almeira to the sword yesterday.
Next Up: Host Malaga, 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), 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, beat Olympique Lyon in the Champions League round of 16.

2 (3). Liverpool
A stellar week for Reds, who won not one but two games against Top 10 competition, by a combined score of 8-1 no less. Rafa Torres' side has to be viewed as one of the favorites for the Champions League crown. And who knows, maybe the top spot in the Top 25 as well. Alas, their Premiership campaign faces an uphill climb; Liverpool sit third, four points behind their hated rivals from Manchester (who have a game in hand as well). In case you're wondering why Reds are still ahead of Man United in this space, we point you to the head-to-head competition: Liverpool beat them twice and generally have a better record against quality competition. In fact, Reds have lost just twice this entire season (those 10 draws in the Premiership is what has cost them).
Next Up: Host Aston Villa, 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), beat Real Madrid in the Champions League round of 16, won at Man United (4-1, March 14).

3 (1). Manchester United
Red Devils put on a solid display against Inter Milan. They were a bit fortunate, 'tis true, as Inter had their chances to do some damage, twice hitting the woodwork. Had Zlatan Ibrahimovic's first half header found the net instead of the crossbar, this would have been a completely different game. Then again, if my grandmother had wheels she'd be a bicycle (point being: the game of hypotheticals often, if not always, has no place in rational discourse). Sir Alex' side were then exposed on Saturday, suffering a 4-1 beatdown to Liverpool at Old Trafford.
Next Up: Visit Fulham, Saturday.
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), beat Inter Milan in Champions League round of 16, lost at home to Liverpool (4-1, March 14)

4. (5). Chelsea
Blues tied at Juventus, 2-2, which was enough to see them through to the Champions League quarterfinals. Followed this up with a 1-0 victory over Manchester City yesterday. Chelsea are right there with the contenders for the top spot.
Next Up: Visit Spurs on 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), lost at Liverpool (2-0, Feb. 1), won at Aston Villa (1-0, Feb. 21), beat Juventus in Champions League round of 16.

5 (4). Inter Milan
Inter put up a halfway decent fight at Old Trafford, hitting the post and the crossbar once each before dropping the decision 2-0 to Man United. Jose Mourinho's men rebounded with a 2-0 victory over Fiorentina yesterday to maintain their seven point lead in Serie A. We still think the nerrazurri are one of the best five clubs in the world. But no better than fifth-best.
Next Up: Host Reggina 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), beat AS Roma in Coppa Italia (2-1, Jan. 21), beat AC Milan (2-1, Feb. 15), tied AS Roma (3-3, March 1), lost to Manchester United in Champions League round of 16.

6 (8). Porto
Held Atletico Madrid to a scoreless draw to advance to the Champions League quarterfinals thanks to the 2-2 draw in the first leg at Madrid. Then won their weekend league game. With Benfica Lisbon losing, the defending champs expand their Liga Sagres lead to four points.
Next Up: Host Estrela Amadora Sunday.
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), beat Atletico Madrid over two legs in the Champions League round of 16.

7 (9). Bayern Munich
Bayern won both games they played last week, neither a real surprise. In the first, they completed their bitch-slap of Sporting Lisbon by winning 7-1 at home. In the second, they won at Bochum, 3-0. Bayern remain in second place in the Bundesliga, four points behind Hertha Berlin.
Next Up: Host Karlsruhe Saturday.
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), beat Sporting Lisbon in first leg of Champions League round of 16 (5-0).

8 (6). Real Madrid
Exited the Champions League at the hand of Liverpool before rebounding to win at Atletic Bilbao, 5-2. Real has been a massive disappointment in the Champs League ever since they won it for the last time. We must admit, we were expecting more of the madrilenos this season. A top three spot (in the Top 25) is now obviously out of the question. Their only hope for silverware rests in the Spanish Liga, where they are six points behind Barca with nine games remaining. That's plenty.
Next Up: Host Almeira, 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), tied Atletico Madrid at home (1-1, March 7), lost to Liverpool in Champions League round of 16.

9 (7). Juventus
Fought hard against Chelsea but were ultimately outclassed by the likes of Didier Drogba. Rebounded to beat up on Bologna, 4-1 on Saturday.
Next Up: Visit AS Roma Saturday.
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), lost to Chelsea in Champions League round of 16

10 (11). Arsenal
It took penalties, but Gunners were able to get past AS Roma in the Champions League round of 16. Arsene Wenger's squad then put Blackburn Rovers to the sword, 4-0. Combined with Aston Villa's loss at White Hart Lane (pathetic, we know), Gunners recapture fourth place in the Premiership. With Villa playing Liverpool and Man United next, figure them to keep it.
Next Up: Host Hull City in an F.A. Cup tie tomorrow and visit Newcastle on 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), beat AS Roma in the Champions League round of 16.

11 (14). Dynamo Kiev
Dynamo won both games they played last week, the first at home over Metalist Kharkov in the UEFA Cup round of 16, the second over some other Metalist club. After 20 games, Dynamo has a 12 point lead in Ukraine's Premier Liga. They've lost just two of those games and have a 51-13 goal differential. This is the same club that caused Valencia's exit from the UEFA Cup (while not a Top 25 club at the time, Valencia did hang around this list most of the season). They also held their own against Porto (winning 1-0 on the road and losing 2-1 at home in the Champions League group stage) as well as against Arsenal (see below). Keep all that in mind before you critique the ranking committee for putting Kiev here. Better yet, give us a better alternative. (No, not Everton).
Next Up: The return leg against Kharkov is on Thursday, followed by a league match Saturday.
Against Top 25: Tied Arsenal at home (1-1, Sept. 17), lost at Emirates (1-0, Nov .25).

12 (10). Olympique Lyon
A bad week for Lyon, who exited the Champions League to Barcelona after holding the Catalan side to a 2-2 draw in the first leg. But arguably worse was yesterday's 2-0 home loss to Auxerre in France's Ligue Un. If it hadn't been for Olympique Marseille winning at the Parc des Princes to take second place from Paris Saint Germain, Lyon would have been knocked from first place for the first time since the Clinton administration (for all we know). As is, their lead is now a solitary point over both Marseille and PSG, who are tied for second. The French league campaign may very well go down to the wire.
Next Up: Host Sochaux, 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), lost to Barcelona in the Champions League round of 16.

13 (12). Atletico Madrid
The rojiblancos were unable to solve Porto's defense in the return leg of their Champions League match-up. The Portuguese champs advanced to the quarterfinals on the strength of the 2-2 draw in the first leg at Madrid. But Atletico rebounded this weekend, booking a massive victory over Villareal, 3-2, thus salvaging their place in the Top 25. More importantly, they close the gap with fourth-placed Villareal to two points. We admit to not knowing exactly what to do with Atletico. They are obviously capable of great quality, as evidenced when they beat Barca on March 1 (the only top 25 team to do so this season). But their season has also been marked by various disasters, which now find them in fifth place (but recovering slowly). We'll just have to wait and see. For now it's hard to argue they don't belong in this space. So we're keeping them.
Next Up: Visit Mallorca, 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), beat Barca at home (4-3, March 1), tied at Real Madrid (1-1, March 7), lost to Porto in Champions League quarterfinal, beat Villareal at home (3-2, March 15).

14 (16). Hertha BSC Berlin
Hertha beat Bayer Leverkusen at home, 1-0, to maintain their four point lead in the Bundesliga. They're out of European competition, which is going to limit how high they go even if they do win the German championship.
Next Up: Visit Stuttgart, 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).

15 (18). FC Sao Paulo
Beat up on Mirassol, 5-0 and Marilia, 2-0 in Paulista action.
Next Up: Visit Uruguay's Defensor Sporting in the Copa Libertadores Thursday and visit Paulista in the Paulista Sunday. That's right there is both a club and a league called Paulista. Dont' ask.

16 (19). Werder Bremen
Werder maintain their top 25 status after winning both games they played last week, the first at home against Saint Etienne in the UEFA Cup round of 16, the second over Stuttgart in the Bundesliga yesterday (by an impressive 4-0 score).
Next Up: The return leg with Saint Etienne Wednesday, followed by a trip to Borussia Dortmund Saturday. It could be a telling week for Werder...
Against Top 25: Won at Bayern Munich (5-2, Sept. 20), tied at Inter Milan (1-1, Oct. 1), beat Inter Milan (2-1, Dec. 9), beat AC Milan over two legs in the UEFA Cup round of 32, tied Bayern Munich at home (0-0, March 1).

17 (20). Villareal
Won the return leg of their Champions League draw with Greece's Panathinaikos to advance to the quarterfinals. Then lost an important Liga match at Atletico Madrid, 3-2.
Next Up: Host Atletic Bilbao, 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), beat Panathinaikos over two legs in the Champions League round of 16, lost at Atletico Madrid (3-2, March 15).

18 (13). AS Roma
Became the third and final Italian club to exit the Champions League, losing to Arsenal on penalties. Then managed just a tie at Sampdoria Saturday. This team can ill afford to lose points, sitting in a tie for fifth place with Fiorentina.
Next Up: Host Juventus Saturday.
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, tied at Inter (3-3, March 1), lost to Arsenal in Champions League round of 16.

19 (15). Panathinaikos
Were unable to take advantage of a solid showing (and 1-1 away draw) with Villareal in the Champions League round of 16, but rebounded to win their Greek Super League match yesterday. They're still a distant second in Greece, but isn't there some kind of playoff to decide the champion? Can somebody confirm?
Next Up: Visit Asteras Tripolis Sunday.
Against Top 25: Lost to Inter Milan at home (2-0, Sept. 16), beat Inter Milan (1-0 away on Nov. 25), lost to Villareal in Champions League round of 16.

20 (21). AZ Alkmaar
Won at Utrecht, 1-0 to maintain their 11 point edge over second placed Twente (strange year for the Dutch Eredivisie).
Next Up: Eredivisie action of course. They aren't eligible for anything else. Sadly we may not know how good this team is until the Champions League campaign starts anew this summer.

21 (-) Olympique Marseille
L'OM return to the Top 25 for the first time since the Sept. 22 edition thanks to their 3-1 away win at Paris Saint Germain. Earlier in the week they beat Ajax Amsterdam in the first leg of the UEFA Cup round of 16. The 2-1 victory in that match-up doesn't leave much room for error in the return leg later this week, but we're confident Marseille are up to the task. If not, they probably won't live to see another Top 25 this season.
Next Up: The aforementioned return leg at Ajax Amsterdam on Wednesday. Host Nantes Saturday. Did we mention Marseille are now tied for second in Ligue Un, a solitary point behind perennial champs Lyon?
Against Top 25: Lost at Liverpool (2-1, Sept. 16), lost at Atletico Madrid (2-1, Oct. 1), lost to Liverpool at home (1-0, Nov. 26), tied Atletico Madrid at home (1-1, Dec. 1), tied at Olympique Lyon (0-0, Dec. 14), won at Girondins Bordeaux (1-0, Feb. 8), won at Paris Saint Germain (3-1, March 15)

22 (-). CSKA Moscow
The Russian side make their debut in the Top 25, replacing another Russian club from another city (the one formerly known as Leningrad). Looking at CSKA's "body of work" this season, including them was a no-brainer. More on that below, but they also won all four UEFA Cup group stage games, against Deportivo La Coruna, Feyernoord Rotterdam, Lech Pozan and AS Nancy. Last week, they beat Ukraine's Shakhtar Donetsk (themselves a Top 25 club earlier this season) in the first leg of the UEFA League Round of 16 (granted the 1-0 margin of victory does not leave much room for error in the return leg this week) and followed this up with a 3-0 victory in their Russian league opener (over Saturn something. Forgive us, we're bad with these Russian names).
Next Up: The return leg with Donetsk Thursday, followed by a home game with Tom Tomsk (appears to be their real name) Saturday. The derby match with Locomotive Moscow is a week after that (now that is a cool name: Locomotive Moscow).
Against Top 25: Won at Zenit St. Petersburg (3-1, Sept. 21), beat Aston Villa in UEFA Cup round of 32.

23 (22). Deportivo Toluca
The Diablos Rojos came from two goals down to tie Santos Laguna yesterday. They remain unbeaten in the Mexican Clausura--the only unbeaten team left after 10 match days. Unfortunately they aren't in the Copa Libertadores.
Next Up: More Clausura action.
Against Top 25: Won at Chivas (2-1, Feb. 19)

24 (-). Nacional
Uruguay's Apertura champions return to the Top 25 after a four week absence (their last appearance in this space was their debut in the Feb. 23 edition). What did they do to warrant inclusion? They won at Racing Montevideo on Saturday. Er, okay so maybe that's not that impressive. But the club is also unbeaten in Libertadores action this season, good enough for third place in Group 3.
Next Up: A big game at home to River Plate in Copa Libertadores on Friday. Then they play again Saturday in the Clausura. Can that be right? Surely the Uruguayan F.A. will reschedule that game, no?

25 (25). Sport Recife
Idle. The Brazilian side made their debut in the Top 25 last week thanks to a defeat of defending Copa Libertadores champions LDU Quito two weeks ago. They are now 2-0 in the young Libertadores season and have yet to play any domestic games. Some South American countries are weird like that.
Next Up: Host fellow Brazilian side Palmeiras in their next Libertadores match.
Against Top 25: Beat LDU Quito at home (2-0, March 5)

Dropping Out:
Paris Saint Germain (17), Zenit St. Petersburg (23), Caracas FC (24)

4 comments:

  1. The Greek playoff is between the second- through fifth-ranked teams to mete out spots in Europe. The champion is just the champion, sorry. :)

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  2. ah thanks for this info. Looks like Olympiakos are going to be champions then!

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  3. I like the ranking system. I am not sure about Juventus ranking of 9th.

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  4. Australian soccer godMarch 22, 2009 at 7:12 AM

    I like the system, and am happy to see my team Liverpool up there in second place. United and Chelsea both lost yesterday, so assuming we win today then i expect us to to create a gap.

    i watch a fair amount of football, and i must say the 3 teams that have impressed me most domestically this season are Barca (obviously), Olympiakos (won 12 and drawn 1 at home) and Inter. Glad to see them all featuring.

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