Apr 13, 2009

The world's top 25 soccer clubs, April 13, 2009

It was a wild and crazy week with plenty of upsets, particularly in the Champions League. Figuring out how this would affect the Top 25 was sure to be a convoluted affair. Our job, in other words. So let's get to it.

1 (1). FC Barcelona
This one's actually easy. Barca made Leberwurst out of Bayern Munich at midweek, winning the first leg of their quarterfinal Champions League matchup 4-0 (don't look for these results in the "Against Top 25" section. Those won't be tallied until the end of both legs, as this is effectively a 180 minute game. Not that there is much--or any--of a chance of Barca losing this one. But still, just on principle). They then won their domestic game Saturday, beating Recreativo Huelva 2-0 to keep their Liga lead at six points.
Next Up: The second leg of the Champions League quarterfinal at Bayern tomorrow. Visit Getafe Sunday followed by a tough midweek game with Sevilla a week from Wednesday.
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 (2). Manchester United
Okay so now things start getting interesting. What to do with Man United, who drew the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal with Porto (at home! Which means they have to win on the road this week, which hasn't been done at the Dragao in, like, ever) and struggled to win at Sunderland Saturday? Easy, keep them right where they are. For one, these Champs leagues match-ups are 180 minute games. No use making rash decisions at halftime (though let's face it, Sir Alex' men definitely have their work cut out for them). Man U. continue to lead the Premiership (by one point, albeit with a game in hand over second-placed Liverpool), largely thanks to the exploits of a certain Italian teenager. Hey is he eligible for Champions League play? If so, Sir Alex should play him!
Next Up: The aforementioned return leg at Porto Wednesday, followed by an F.A. Cup tie with Everton Sunday.
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)

3 (3). Liverpool
After a shocking 3-1 home loss to Chelsea in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal, Reds took out their frustrations on Blackburn, winning 4-0 to stay one point behind Man U. We keep them in third place, pending the release of more evidence, tomorrow.
Next Up: The return leg with Chelsea is tomorrow. Count Reds out at your own peril. There's still everything left to play for.
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).

4. (5). Chelsea
Suddenly surging Chelsea have emerged as a legitimate title contender, not only in Europe, where they are in the driver's seat for the semifinals after the road victory at Anfield, but also in the Premiership where they are just four points behind Man U. They played great soccer for 65 minutes against Bolton Wanderers Saturday, but unfortunately these games have 90 minutes. Still, a win is a win, even if it's 4-3, and we don't really care about style points all that much. If they only lose by a goal tomorrow they'll have another Champions League one over Liverpoool
Next Up: Host Reds tomorrow and Arsenal Saturday in an FA Cup tie. Everton is up in Premiership action 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), won at Aston Villa (1-0, Feb. 21), beat Juventus in Champions League round of 16.

5 (6). Porto
Beat Estrela Amadora 3-0 on the weekend after shocking Man U. with the 2-2 draw at Old Trafford. Their Liga Sagres lead remains four points over Sporting Lisbon with six games remaining.
Next Up: The return leg against No. 2 Manchester United. Everything else, as they say, is secondary.
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.

6 (4). Inter Milan
Jose Mourinho's men blew a 2-0 lead to Palermo, settling for a 2-2 draw at San Siro Saturday.
Next Up: Visit second-placed Juventus Saturday. We'll talk about Juve in a bit. Suffice it to say this will be their very last chance to even make the Serie A race interesting. The gap between the two teams is now 10 points.
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.

7 (7). Real Madrid
Beat Valladolid 2-0 at Bernabeu to remain within six points of first-placed Barcelona. Eight games remain, which is plenty.
Next Up: Visit Recreativo Huelva 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), tied Atletico Madrid at home (1-1, March 7), lost to Liverpool in Champions League round of 16.

8 (9). Arsenal
After getting the draw at Villareal last Tuesday, Arse had no problems with Wigan, winning 4-1 at the JJB (do they call it that?).
Next Up: The return leg with Villareal Wednesday. Then No. 4 Chelsea in the F.A. Cup. That game is at Stamford Bridge.
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.

9 (8). Juventus
Lost at Genoa, 3-2, to drop 10 points behind the leaders. Not only is first place in all likelihood out of the question at this point, but second place is by no means assured either. Third-placed AC Milan are just two points in arrears.
Next Up: Host Inter Saturday. Will obviously need to win it but even then with just seven games remaining in the Serie A season it may be too late.
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 (10). Bayern Munich
Okay, so Bayern did not look like a top 10 side against Barcelona last week. No arguments about that. But they were without Lucio, van Buyten, Ribery and Lahm (yes all four). And more importantly rebounded (to in all likelihood save Juergen Klinsmann's job), beating Eintracht Frankfurt 4-0 Saturday. That said, there can be no question this team faces some major issues. But they're not out of the Bundesliga race yet, sitting second just three points behind surprising leaders VfL Wolfsburg. Once If they lose to Barca we will move them down to a more righteous spot. Or drop them altogether.
Next Up: The return leg against Barcelona tomorrow. Visit Arminia Bielefeld 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).

11 (11). Dynamo Kiev
Played a scoreless draw against Paris Saint-Germain at the Parc des Princes last Thursday, leaving themselves in a good chance to advance to the UEFA Cup semifinals. Also won their domestic league game.
Next Up: Host Paris Saint-Germain in the return leg of the UEFA Cup quarterfinal Thursday.
Against Top 25: Tied Arsenal at home (1-1, Sept. 17), lost at Emirates (1-0, Nov .25).

12 (15) Olympique Marseille
After a 2-0 loss at Shakhtar Donetsk in the first leg of the UEFA Cup quarterfinals, l'OM rebounded to beat Grenoble 4-1 and take first place in Ligue Un for the first time since...it must have been last decade, no? Either way, they move up three spots as a result, even though the loss to Donetsk leaves them in a precarious position. If they can win Ligue Un they will likely remain a top 15 side regardless. If they make strides in the UEFA Cup a Top 10 spot becomes a very realistic possibility as well. But let's not get ahead of ourselves, especially since they're down two goals in their quarterfinal match-up.
Next Up: Host Donetsk in the return leg Thursday, followed by Lorient Sunday. A date with Lyon looms May 16.
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)

13 (12). Olympique Lyon
Managed just a 2-2 draw with AS Monaco to (wait for it!) drop to second place in Ligue Un. When was the last time they were not first this late in the season? It must have been the first term of the Bush administration. With seven games left, five (5!) points separate the top six clubs (Marseille, Bordeaux, Lille, Paris SG and Toulouse are the others) in France.
Next Up: Things get even more interesting, with a trip to third-placed Girondins Bordeaux on the docket for 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.

14 (13). FC Sao Paulo
FCSP won their Copa Libertadores match against Uruguay's Defensor Sporting at midweek and lost the first leg of the Paulista semifinals at Corinthians 2-1. Not sure if they play the goofy UEFA Cup away goals rule.
Next Up: Visit Independiente Medellin in Copa Lib action Thursday. Host Corinthians in the Paulista semifinal return leg Sunday.

15 (20). Shakhtar Donetsk
Shakhtar pulled off what is considered a surprise to anybody but us and people who have been reading this blog, beating then-No. 15 Olympique Marseille 2-0 in the home leg of the UEFA Cup quarterfinals. They also won their domestic league game and sit second in the Ukranian league, albeit a distant 15 points behind Dynamo Kiev.
Next Up: The return leg at Marseille Thursday.
Against Top 25: Lost to Barcelona at home (2-1, Oct. 1), beat CSKA Moscow in the UEFA Cup Round of 16

16 (14). Villareal
After an impressive 1-1 draw with Arsenal in the first leg of their Champs League quarterfinal, Villareal lost at home to Malaga, 2-0 Saturday. The yellow submarine sit fifth in La Liga, one point behind fourth-placed Valencia and the final Champions League spot for next season.
Next Up: Visit Emirates Wednesday and Valladolid 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), beat Panathinaikos over two legs in the Champions League round of 16, lost at Atletico Madrid (3-2, March 15).

17 (16). Hamburg SV
Oh man. After a 3-1 win over Man City in the first leg of the UEFA Cup quarterfinals, Martin Jol's side lost a tough one at Stuttgart Sunday. With the Bundesliga race as tight as it is, they can ill afford to squander any points at this stage. HSV sit third, three points behind Wolfsburg.
Next Up: The return leg at Man City Thursday. Host Hannover 96 Sunday.
Against Top 25: Tied at Bayern Munich (2-2, Aug. 15), beat Bayern at home (1-0, Jan. 30).

18 (17). AZ Alkmaar
Won at NAC Breda, 1-0. With four Eredivisie games remaining, Alkmaar's Eredivisie lead remains 11 points, meaning there is just a mathematical possibility they will not win it.
Next Up: More Eredivisie action. They aren't eligible for anything else and haven't been all season. Sadly we may not know how good this team is until the Champions League campaign starts anew this summer.

19 (19). Atletico Madrid
Won at Deportivo La Coruna, 2-1 on Sunday to move back into sixth place.
Next Up: Host Numancia 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).

20 (18). Werder Bremen
Beat Udinese 3-1 in the first (home) leg of the UEFA Cup quarterfinals and drew 1-1 at Leverkusen Sunday. Werder have had a horrible domestic campaign (they sit mid table with little hope of recapturing a place in Europe for next season) but are capable of some brilliance, as demonstrated in their record against quality competition below.
Next Up: The return leg at Udinese Thursday followed by a trip to third-placed Hertha Berlin Sunday. Also face HSV in a cup tie (I think it's the semifinals?) a week from Wednesday.
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).

21 (-) VfL Wolfsburg
The "Wolves" make their first-ever appearance in the Top 25 thanks to their incredulous status as first-placed team in the German Bundesliga. Felix Magath's men have won nine Bundesliga games in a row to accomplish this feat. Their record in Europe is a little less impressive; they exited the UEFA Cup Round of 16 at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain.
Next Up: Host Leverkusen Saturday. The Bundesliga's all they got at this point; their cup campaign is done as well.
Against Top 25: Lost at Bayern Munich (4-2, Oct. 25), drew AC Milan (2-2, Dec. 17), won at HSV (3-1, March 1), beat Bayern Munich (5-1, April 4)

22 (21). Sevilla
Lost at home to Getafe yet still remain in third place in La Liga by a comfortable margin (eight points).
Next Up: Visit fourth-placed Valencia Sunday and No. 1 Barca a week from Wednesday.
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 (23). Panathinaikos
Played a scoreless draw with Panserraikos, dropping to third in the Greek Super League as a result (but they have a playoff to decide spots 2-5)
Next Up: Host OFI Heraklion, but not until April 26 (presumably because of the Orthodox Easter holiday).
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.

24 (-) Chivas de Guadelajara
With Deportivo Toluca losing for their first Clausura game of the year (and being removed from the Top 25 as a result), the space opened up for another Mexican club to join these ranks. (Remember that CONMEBOL, UEFA and CONCACAF must be represented by at least one club each according to our bylaws). Chivas is the choice, largely as a result of their Copa Libertadores run, where they lead their group after four match days. Domestically it's been a different story: they have an even .500 record after 13 games (four wins, four losses, five draws), which puts them third in their group. The top two qualify automatically for the Clausura postseason with the best third-place finishers facing off in a "liguilla" so all is not yet lost for Chivas. Besides, they trail second-placed Club America by just one point.
Next Up: Host Lanus, who have been surprisingly impotent in Copa Libertadores action despite a very strong start to their domestic campaign. That game is Wednesday. Host the aforementioned Club America a week from tonight in their next Clausura game.
Against Top 25: Lost to Internacional over two legs in the Copa Sudamericana quarterfinals.

25 (25). Universitario de Deportes
The Peruvian side beat then-No. 24 Libertad by 2-1 in Copa Libertadores action Wednesday but lost their weekend domestic league match at Juan Aurich yesterday. The loss drops Universitario to second. Juan Aurich relieves them at the top. More importantly they are in a good position to advance to the Libertadores elimination round, sitting second in their group with eight points after five games and a three point lead over third-placed San Luis. One matchday remains.
Next Up: Visit Deportes San Martin in domestic action Sunday.
Against Top 25: Beat Libertad in Copa Libertadores group play (2-1, April 8).

Dropping Out:
Deportivo Toluca (22), Libertad (24)


  1. Hi there,

    My name is Mike and I am a Sottish journalist travelling around the Major League Soccer teams.

    I am going to be writing a book on the topic, and have been having a look at your blog and I like it.

    I was wondering if you might be interested in swapping links to our respective blogs; you can visit mine at http://insidesoccerusa.blogspot.com.

    Let me know, and best wishes


  2. what idiot honestly thinks Porto are better than Arsenal and Real Madrid. And the FA cup semis are at WEMBLEY!! not the Emirates-- its obvious u didn't even watch the match. So stop making your rankings off the scores u see on Soccernet!