Mar 9, 2009

The world's top 25 soccer clubs, March 9, 2009

After all the shake up last week, this week was remarkably calmer. It's just the calm before the storm though, as the Champions League, which restarts tomorrow, is sure to provide one or more jolts. But for now, this week's rankings:

1 (1). Manchester United
A no brainer. Sir Alex' men won both games they played last week, by a combined score of 6-1. Granted the opponents were Fulham and Newcastle but at this point there can be little doubt Red Devils are in fact the best team in the world. However, that is all due to change at very short notice, because...
Next Up: The Champions League Round of 16 return leg against Inter Milan. The score is 0-0 after the first 90 minutes at San Siro a fortnight ago. If that weren't enough, Man United also host Liverpool Saturday, in what may very well be the deciding match in the Premiership season. Buckle up, boys and girls!
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 (2). FC Barcelona
Barca rebounded from their worst week of the season (we've checked) to book a pair of victories. The first was actually a tie with Mallorca, but Barca held a comfortable 2-0 lead from the first leg of their Copa del Rey semifinal. They'll face Atletic Bilbao in the final, whom they ironically beat in a league match Saturday. With Real dropping points (more on them in a bit), Barca's lead is back to six points at the top of the Liga BBVA standings.
Next Up: The return leg of their Champions League Round of 16 match-up with Olympique Lyonnais. The score is 2-2 after the first leg at Lyon, so Barca hold the edge. We expect them to advance, but we've been wrong before.
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 (4). Liverpool
Had no problem with Sunderland, winning 2-0 at Anfield. That moves them up a spot because of Inter Milan's letdown in the Coppa Italia (see below).
Next Up: Host Real Madrid tomorrow. Reds are in the driver's seat after winning the first leg at the Bernabeu 1-0, though we will by no means write off Real in this one. Then visit Old Trafford on 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), beat Chelsea at home (2-0, Feb. 1).

4 (3). Inter Milan
Inter was soundly beaten by Sampdoria (who find themselves on a roll, but that's a different story) in the Coppa Italia semifinal before managing to save face against Genoa in Serie A action Saturday. They'll have a chance to save face (and who knows, maybe even a spot in the finale?) when they meet the Samp for the return leg at San Siro on April 22.
Next Up: Visit Old Trafford tomorrow, needing to win to advance to the Champions League quarterfinals. Also host fourth-placed Fiorentina 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).

5. (6). Chelsea
Blues won both games they played last week, at Pompey (1-0) and Coventry (2-0). The latter game was an F.A. Cup tie.
Next Up: Visit Juventus tomorrow, holding a 1-0 lead from the first leg. Host Man City Sunday.
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).

6 (5). Real Madrid
Real tied crosstown rivals Atletico Madrid 1-1 in a game they really should have lost Saturday at Bernabeu. The first time Real have dropped points in a league game this year. That's 10 straight wins.
Next Up: Visit Anfield tomorrow, needing to win by two goals to advance. Also visit Bilbao, Saturday. At that point Real could be fighting to stay in the Top 10 or contending for the top spot. What a week this could be!
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).

7 (7). Juventus
Juve lost at Lazio 2-1 in the first leg of the Coppa Italia semifinal but rebounded to win the Turin derby, 1-0.
Next Up: The return leg with Chelsea is on tomorrow. Also host Bologna Saturday. A visit to AS Roma looms next week.
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 (9). Porto
Porto won their weekend league match to maintain their two-point lead atop the Liga Sagres table. We had them down for playing a cup match as well last week but can't seem to find any results. Oh well.
Next Up: Atletico Madrid visit Wednesday in what is sure to be a very hard-fought encounter. This one's too close to call. Also play a league match 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).

9 (10). Bayern Munich
Bayern's skizophrenic season continues. After exiting the DfB Pokal at the hands of Bayer Leverkusen at midweek, they beat up on Hannover 96 by 5-1. Never a dull moment in the Bavarian capital.
Next Up: The return leg with Sporting Lisbon, tomorrow. Bayern hold a 3-0 lead from the first leg. If this were any other team we'd declare the series over. But this being Bayern, all bets are off. Also visit Bochum, 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).

10 (8). Olympique Lyon
Lyon lost both games last week against the same opponent! Lille, a nice midtable side that should not really scare anybody in Lyon's position, were the perpetrators. The first game, at midweek, was in the Coupe de France. The second was over the weekend in Ligue Un and results in Lyon's lead being reduced to a solitary point over second-placed Paris Saint Germain. Wow!
Next Up: Visit Barcelona Wednesday, needing to win or (if it goes more than two goals apiece) tie. Quite a tough predicament, though Lyon seemed up to the task in the first leg. The best thing that could happen to their Ligue Un campaign is of course a loss to Barca. Not that their fans want that, of course. Also host Auxerre 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).

11 (13). Arsenal
Gunners won both games, capping off a perfect week for Premiership sides, though admittedly against mostly weak competition. Very weak in fact. Case in point, Arse's victims were WBA and Burnley.
Next Up: Vist Roma in the return leg Wednesday, holding a 1-0 edge from the first leg at Emirates. Will that be enough to advance? We'll have to wait and see. Also host Blackburn, 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 (14). Atletico Madrid
The rojiblancos showed they belonged in the Top 25 in playing Real Madrid to the letter (and then some) in a 1-1 tie at the Bernabeu Saturday. Atletico really should have won this game but missed too many chances in the second half. It seems this team is poised right on the precipice of greatness; capable of hanging with (and beating, see last week) the best teams in the world while also a victim of potential upsets that could drop them right back out of the Top 25.
Next Up: The return leg against Porto Wednesday. We're tied 2-2. Also host Villareal Sunday. Win both and this is a top 10 team, no questions. Lose both and, well, we may not see them again for awhile.
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).

13 (12). AS Roma
Roma managed just a 1-1 tie against Udinese at home. This is a club (Roma) that can ill afford to lose points in the Serie A race.
Next Up: The return leg with Arsenal, Wednesday. Also visit Sampdoria on 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), lost at Inter (2-1, Jan. 21) in Coppa Italia, tied at Inter (3-3, March 1).

14 (15). Dynamo Kiev
Dynamo staked their claim on another Ukrainian league title with a pair of solid victories last week, the first over second-placed (and UEFA Cup opponent) Metalist Kharkov, the second against then-third placed Vorskia Poltava. Dynamo's league lead is now 11 points.
Next Up: The aforementioned Metalist Kharkov, this time in the UEFA Cup. The first leg is home.
Against Top 25: Tied Arsenal at home (1-1, Sept. 17), lost at Emirates (1-0, Nov .25)

15 (11). Panathinaikos
Lost their cup tie at midweek to exit in the quarterfinals. Rebounded to beat AE Larisa on Saturday. With first-placed Olympiakos playing a scoreless tie in their game, the difference between the two clubs is now just nine points (it was like 15 at one point) at the top of the Greek Super League. But just five games remain, meaning the cup was likely their best chance at silverware. Now that that's gone...
Next Up: The return leg with Villareal, tomorrow. Pana have a solid chance to advance from this one, after the first leg in Spain ended 1-1. Also visit Thrasivoulos Sunday.
Against Top 25: Lost to Inter Milan at home (2-0, Sept. 16), beat Inter Milan (1-0 away on Nov. 25)

16 (-). Hertha BSC Berlin
Hertha is out of European competition and has not always played well domestically either. So why are they this high, as a newcomer (returner, actually. Their last appearance was Feb. 16) no less? Easy, they lead the German Bundesliga by four points, which is something we don't think anybody else has been able to accomplish yet this season. That and we simply had nobody else to put here.
Next Up: Host Leverkusen, 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).

17 (16). Paris Saint Germain
PSG suffered an embarrassing upset to a club called Rodez Aveyron Football in the Coupe de France. We can't pretend to ever have heard of them, but the important thing for Paul Le Guen's side is that they managed to beat Lorient in their Ligue Un match, picking up valuable points on leaders Olympique Lyon. The difference between the two clubs is now a single point at the top of the French table. Wouldn't it be something if PSG, a club we haven't heard from in a decade, is the one to end Lyon's run of French championships?
Next Up: Things get very interesting, with Sporting Braga paying a visit to the Parc des Princes for the first leg of their UEFA Cup Round of 16 matchup. Then a game that is surely circled on the CRS calendar, with Olympique Marseille paying a visit, Sunday.
Against Top 25: Beat Olympique Lyon at home (1-0, Nov. 22)

18 (17). FC Sao Paulo
The good news is Sao Paulo won the more important of last week's games at Colombia's America de Cali, 3-1 in the Copa Libertadores. (Speaking of Colombia and speaking of America, why do Americans always spell the country like it's a certain Harlem, N.Y., university? It's ColOmbia, people! Get with it!) The bad news is Sao Paulo lost their second game, at Mogri Mirim in the Paulista. But it's just the Paulista so we don't really care all that much.
Next Up: More Paulista action. Host Mirassol Friday and Marilia Sunday. The next Libertadores action is Thursday, March 19 when they visit Uruguay's Defensor Sporting.

19 (20). Werder Bremen
Werder maintain their top 25 status after beating Wolfsburg in the German cup and playing a scoreless tie at second-placed Hoffenheim. They're well off the pace in the Bundesliga. We're embarrassed to say how far off. Just look at their games against Top 25 clubs, and you'll see they belong. But if they don't make it past the next stage of the UEFA Cup it will probably be over, at least as far as their Top 25 status is concerned.
Next Up: Host AS Saint Etienne in the first leg of the next round of the UEFA Cup on Thursday. Also host Stuttgart Sunday.
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).

20 (21). Villareal
Beat Espanyol, 1-0, to maintain their hold on fourth place in La Liga.
Next Up: Visit Panathinaikos in the return leg of the Champions League Round of 16, tomorrow. The first leg ended 1-1. Also visit Atletico Madrid 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).

21 (-). AZ Alkmaar
We're biting the bullet and finally giving Alkmaar their due. The Dutch side have led the Eredivisie virtually all season and hold a commanding 11 point lead. Unfortunately, that's all we know about this team. We can't even pretend to know where they play. (Is Alkmaar a city? Az perhaps?)
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.

22 (25). Deportivo Toluca
The Diablos Rojos (red diables? Red diamonds? Red devils?!?) maintain their hold on 25th after beating Necaxa 1-0 to remain unbeaten in the Mexican Clausura--the only unbeaten team left after nine 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)

23 (-). Zenit St. Petersburg
The defending UEFA Cup champs, sans their best player, return to the Top 25 for the first time since Dec. 8 thanks to their advance to the UEFA Cup Round of 16, where they face Udinese. They return just in time for the start of the Russian league season, which is Saturday.
Next Up: Visit Udinese in the aforementioned UEFA Cup on Thursday. Visit Spartak Moscow in the first game of the domestic season.
Against Top 25: Lost at Juventus (1-0, Sept. 17) tied at home (0-0, Nov. 25), lost to Real Madrid twice (2-1, Sept. 30 and 3-0, Dec. 9), tied at BATE Borisov (1-1, Oct. 22), beat BATE Borisov at home (2-0, Nov. 5).

24 (-). Caracas FC
The Venezuelan side returns to the Top 25 after a long absence (March 3, 2008 to be exact, which was right before we went on a lengthy, MLS-induced hiatus. Never again). They accomplish this feat by virtue of a strong start to both Libertadores and domestic campaigns (they are 2-1 in the former and 6-1-1 in the latter).
Next Up: Nothing, it appears, until March 12 when they visit Chivas de Guadelajara.
Against Top 25: Beat Chivas (2-0, March 4).

25 (-). Sport Recife
The Brazilian side make their debut in the Top 25 thanks to a defeat of defending Copa Libertadores champinos LDU Quito last week. 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:
Hamburg SV (18), Sevilla (19), LDU Quito (22), Palmeiras (23), Chivas de Guadelajara (24)


  1. Chivas GDL dropped out of the top 25. Their 5-0 thrashing of Pachucha should have helped them.