Mar 2, 2009

The world's top 25 soccer clubs, March 2, 2009

As is wont to happen after so many upsets in continental competition, the Top 25 sees its first real shake-up this week. We have a new number one, while clubs that looked like contenders (Aston Villa, AC Milan) were exposed as mere pretenders. A lot to report, in other words. Read on to get caught up on the carnage.

1 (2). Manchester United
After their scoreless draw at Inter Milan at midweek, Sir Alex' men beat Tottenham Hotspur in the League Cup for what is in all likelihood the first of several trophies they will hoist this season.
Next Up: Visit Newcastle Wednesday and Fulham Sunday in a pair of Premiership games.
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).

2 (1). FC Barcelona
Yes folks, Barca are human. Far too human, it turns out. A week after their first loss of the 2009 calendar year, Pep Guardiola's side suffered another pair of upsets. The first, at Olympique Lyon on the Champions League, can still (and probably will be) overcome next week in the return leg. The second, a 4-3 loss at Atletico Madrid, might be worse on the long run. Barca's lead in the Spanish Liga is now down to six points over Real Madrid.
Next Up: A Copa del Rey tie with Mallorca is on for Wednesday. Barca won the first leg 2-0 so don't expect too much drama here (then again, with the way Barca have been playing lately, who knows?). Host Bilbao in a league match 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.

3 (3). Inter Milan
A pair of draws leave Inter in a decent position. The first was of course with new number one Man United. There's still everything left to play for there, though surely Red Devils will be favored seeing as they get to host the return leg. The second draw was a zany 3-3 match with AS Roma. Inter were down 2-0 and 3-1 but managed to eke out the point. They were gifted a penalty by the referee to help out their cause, but those things happen in Serie A. Inter's lead is seven points over second-placed Juventus and fading AC Milan.
Next Up: A Coppa Italia tie with Milan-beaters Sampdoria. Then the other Genoa side, in Serie A action Saturday.
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).

4 (6). Liverpool
After their impressive victory at Real Madrid in the Champions League, Reds lost to Middlesbrough 2-0 on Saturday. The Premiership race may have run its course at this point so Reds' best hope may be in the Champions League anyway. And with the way they played last week, those chances might be very good indeed.
Next Up: Host Sunderland tomorrow. The return leg with Real Madrid is a week from tomorrow.
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).

5 (4). Real Madrid
Real suffered a major European setback last week, losing at home to Liverpool in the Champions League. They could still overcome it in the return leg at Anfield of course--but they probably won't. The second part of the week was significantly better for Juande Ramos' men, who beat Espanyol 2-0. With Barca losing, it closes the gap to six points in the Spanish Liga. How unlikely did that seem, just a few short weeks ago?
Next Up: The Madrid derby. At the Bernabeu, 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).

6. (7). Chelsea
Blues beat Juve, 1-0, in the Champions League at midweek and beat Wigan on the weekend. A solid week, in other words, though it may be too little too late in the Premiership.
Next Up: Visit Pompey tomorrow. Face Coventry in the FA Cup 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).

7 (5). Juventus
Juve lost the first leg of their Champions League tie at Stamford Bridge though the 1-0 margin leaves everything left to play for (at least on paper). They also beat Napoli 1-0. Seven points is now the difference between Juve and first-placed Inter.
Next Up: Visit Lazio in a Coppa Italia tie tomorrow, then visit Torino Saturday. The return leg with Chelsea is a week from tomorrow.
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)

8 (8). Olympique Lyon
Lyon showed they belong in the top 10 by playing Barcelona to the letter last week before settling for a 1-1 result. Who knows? Perhaps they'll even manage to advance when the two sides meet again next week (though don't count on it). Unfortunately, Lyon suffered a bit of a hangover in their second game of the week, drawing Rennes 1-1 last night.
Next Up: A pair of games with Lille, the first in the Coupe de France tomorrow, the second in Ligue Un, Saturday. Both games will be played at Lille.
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 (9). Porto
Porto did well to tie both games last week, getting two crucial away goals at Atletico Madrid in the Champions League. They settled for the scoreless variety in their weekend game with Sporting Lisbon. Things are tight in Portugal, with the defending champs holding just a two point lead over second-placed Benfica.
Next Up: A Portuguese cup tie Wednesday and league match Saturday before Atletico visit the following Wednesday.
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).

10 (18). Bayern Munich
What can we say about Bayern's 5-0 Champions League victory at Sporting Lisbon? Besides WOW? Unfortunately for Juergen Klinsmann's side, their Bundesliga form continues to suffer, as evidenced by their 0-0 game at Werder Bremen yesterday. Bayern slip to fifth with the result, though first place is only four points away in this, the most topsy-turvy Bundesliga season in recent memory (if not of all time).
Next Up: A cup match at Bayer Leverkusen Wednesday, followed by Hannover at home on 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).

11 (11). Panathinaikos
Did well to get a 1-1 result at Villareal in the Champs League. Their second game of the week, a scoreless draw at Olympiakos, unfortunately does Pana no favors in the Greek Super League. They drop to third, 11 points behind Olympiakos.
Next Up: A Greek Cup game Wednesday. AE Larisa visits in Super League action Saturday. The return leg with Villareal is on a week from tomorrow.
Against Top 25: Lost to Inter Milan at home (2-0, Sept. 16), beat Inter Milan (1-0 away on Nov. 25)

12 (14). AS Roma
Roma are down a goal going into next week's return leg of their Round of 16 CL matchup with Arsenal. They nearly (and probably should have) defeated Inter Milan in an entertaining Serie A match yesterday, but ended up settling for a 3-3 draw. Still with AC Milan floundering (suddenly, perhaps Becks' forced move back to California is not such a bad thing?) and nobody really expecting Genoa to keep up their pace, the Champions League spots are a realistic possibility.
Next Up: Host Udinese, Saturday. The return leg with Arsenal is 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), 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).

13 (15). Arsenal
Managed to beat AS Roma 1-0 in the first leg of their Champions League tie at Emirates, then were not able to get past a scoreless draw against Fulham. At least Villa has come back down to earth, making fourth place a realistic possibility again. Six points separate the two sides.
Next Up: Visit WBA tomorrow. Host Burnley in the FA Cup on Sunday. The return leg at Roma is next Wednesday.
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 (-). Atletico Madrid
The rojiblancos did themselves no favors by drawing Porto 2-2 in their midweek Champions League tie. But their second game of the week, a 4-3 thriller over Barcelona, is the one their fans will be talking about for years to come. The victory may have just ushered in a turning point in the Spanish liga. We'll see. For now Abel Resino's men are back in the Top 25 where they belong. They are the only Top 25 team to defeat Barca this season.
Next Up: The Madrid derby, at the Bernabeu, Saturday.
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).

15 (-). Dynamo Kiev
We were big fans of the Ukranian side earlier this season and were sad to see them narrowly miss advancement out of their Champions League group. Now they're back, courtesy of an impressive victory over Valencia in the UEFA Cup. Dynamo also lead the Ukranian league by six points. But it's not just Kiev who are seeing success on the continental stage; Metalist Kharkov and Shakhtar Donetsk are still alive in the UEFA Cup as well. Interestingly enough, Dynamo have to face one of them in the next round.
Next Up: The aforementioned Metalist Kharkov, though first in a league match pitting the country's top two against each other. Then third-placed Vorskia Poltava in another league game, followed by Kharkov again, this time in the UEFA Cup.
Against Top 25: Tied Arsenal at home (1-1, Sept. 17), lost at Emirates (1-0, Nov .25)

16 (-). Paris Saint Germain
We're biting the bullet and giving PSG their first ever place in the Top 25. It's long overdue, after the Parisian side established themselves as a title contender in France (where they sit second, just four points behind perennial champs Olympique Lyon) as well as in Europe, where they knocked off Wolfsburg to advance to the UEFA Cup Round of 16.
Next Up: Some French minnow in the Coupe de France at midweek, then a trip to Lorient Saturday. The next round of the UEFA Cup will feature Sporting Braga with the first leg taking place at the Parc des Princes a week from Thursday.
Against Top 25: Beat Olympique Lyon at home (1-0, Nov. 22)

17 (16). FC Sao Paulo
Won one and lost one in the Paulista league last week. The first was a 3-0 victory over Oeste, the second a 1-0 loss to Santos. Sao Paulo remain third in Paulista, with eight games remaining. We think third place is good enough for some postseason playoff they have, though we aren't positive about that one. Somebody here should know for sure.
Next Up: Back to Libertadores action, with a trip to Colombia's America de Cali, Friday. Also visit Mogri Mirim, whoever that is, in a Paulista game Sunday.

18 (17). Hamburg SV
Seriously, every single time we put Hamburg in the top 25 they lose. Though this week we're keeping them here. Partly because they also happened to win against Nijmegen at midweek to advance to the Round of 16 in the UEFA Cup. But the loss was costly, coming at home to Wolfsburg and with a 3-1 margin at that. HSV drop to second with the result, though only one point behind new table toppers Hertha Berlin.
Next Up: Wehen-Wiesbaden, some minnow club, in the DFB Pokal (German cup). Also visit Moenchengladbach, Saturday. Face Galatasaray in the next round of the UEFA Cup. The first leg is a week from Thursday at Hamburg.
Against Top 25: Tied at Bayern Munich (2-2, Aug. 15), beat Bayern at home (1-0, Jan. 30).

19(20). Sevilla
Won at Bilbao, 2-1.
Next Up: Another game with Atletic Bilbao, this one a cup tie to be played in the Basque capital Wednesday. Host Ulmeira in liga action 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), beat Valencia over two legs in the Copa del Rey.

20 (-). Werder Bremen
Werder return to the Top 25 for the first time since Feb. 11, 2008 if you can believe that. They do so through a pair of impressive results last week. The first was of course the 2-2 draw at AC Milan which saw them come back from a 2-0 deficit to oust David Beckham and co. from the UEFA Cup. The second was a scoreless draw against No. 10 Bayern Munich. This from a team that is wasting away in 11th place in the Bundesliga. Check out their record against Top 25 teams though; it's pretty impressive.
Next Up: Visit Wolfsburg in a cup tie Wednesday and Hoffenheim in Bundesliga action Saturday. They face AS Saint Etienne in the next round of the UEFA Cup. The first leg is a week from Thursday at Bremen.
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, tied Bayern Munich at home (0-0, March 1).

21 (21). Villareal
A pair of draws don't do Villareal any favors, but leave them hanging on to their Top 25 spot nonetheless. The first was a 1-1 game against Panathinaikos in the Champs League, the second a 2-2 draw with Real Betis in La Liga, where they remain in fourth place.
Next Up: Visit Espanyol 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).

22 (22). LDU Quito
The defending Copa Libertadores champs beat up on Sociedad Deportivo, winning the Quito derby 4-0.
Next Up: A Libertadores match at Brazil's Sport Recife, Thursday. Also visit Deportivo Cuenca in local action Sunday.
Against Top 25: Beat Palmeiras (3-2, Feb. 17)

23 (24). Palmeiras
Won both games last week, though neither was exactly against what you might call quality competition. The first was at Sao Caetano Thursday, the second over Guarani, Saturday. Both were Paulista games.
Next Up: Their next Libertadores game, tomorrow, when they host Chile's Colo Colo.

24 (-). Chivas de Guadelajara
A pair of impressive victories puts Chivas back in the top 25 after a one week absence. The first of these saw them beat up on Chile's Everton Vina del Mar by 6-2 in a Copa Libertadores game. Doesn't "vina del mar" mean "wine of the sea"? Hmm. Well anyway, the second victory was arguably even more impressive, coming as it did against previously unbeaten Pachuca in the Mexican Clausura. Speaking of which, Chivas continue to lead their group in said tournament. And in the Libertadores as well.
Next Up: Visit Caracas, Wednesday, for another Libertadores tie. This one for first place in the group (the Venezuelan side are second, one point behind Chivas). Lanus, the other team in the group, are surprisingly last after losing to Caracas and tying Chivas. Also visit Jaguares Chiapas, Sunday.
Against Top 25: Lost to Internacional over two legs in the Copa Sudamericana quarterfinals.

25 (25). Deportivo Toluca
The Diablos Rojos maintain their hold on 25th after tying Monterrey 3-3 to remain unbeaten in the Mexican Clausura--the only unbeaten team left after eight match days. Unfortunately they aren't in the Copa Libertadores.
Next Up: Host Necaxa, Sunday.
Against Top 25: Won at Chivas (2-1, Feb. 19)

Dropping Out:
AC Milan (10), Sporting Lisbon (12), Aston Villa (13), River Plate (17), Nacional (23)

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