Apr 27, 2009

The world's top 25 soccer clubs, April 27, 2009

We have a new No. 1 team. It's the same as the old No. 1 but different than the No. 1 from last week. Confused? Don't be. All we're trying to tell you is that Man. United have relieved FC Barcelona at the top of the Top 25 standings. Read on for the partics.

1 (2). Manchester United
A week after their dream of an unprecedented "quintuple" went up in smoke at Wembley, Man United got back to business, winning both games to reestablish their dominance in the Premiership--and the world (as personified in this ranking). The Spurs game was a wild affair, with Red Devils coming back from a 2-0 halftime deficit. But the bottom line is with four games remaining in the Premiership season (five for Man U.), Sir Alex' men are in the driver's seat. What happens in Europe is of course an entirely different story.
Next Up: Host Arsenal Wednesday in the first leg of the Champions League semifinals. We don't expect Man U. to have much trouble with that one. But we've been wrong before. Also visit Middlesbrough 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), beat Porto in the Champions League quarterfinals.

2 (1). FC Barcelona
Barca beat up on Sevilla 4-0 at midweek but were held to a 2-2 draw at Valencia Saturday. With Real winning, their lead at the top of the Liga standings is now four points. The two sides meet at Bernabeu Saturday.
Next Up: The first leg of the Champs League semifinal with Chelsea is on for tomorrow at Camp Nou. Then the aforementioned trip to Madrid. A week that could define Barca's season.
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, beat Bayern Munich in Champions League quarterfinal.

3. (3). Chelsea
Last week at this time we were writing about how Chelsea had a legitimate shot at three pieces of silverware. Now we're not sure they can get any. Their midweek scoreless draw against Everton leaves them all but out of the Premiership race. The weekend victory over West Ham was not all that convincing either.
Next Up: Visit Camp Nou tomorrow for the first leg of the Champions League semifinal. Host Fulham 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 Liverpool in the Champions League quarterfinal.

4 (4). Liverpool
Reds played a crazy 4-4 draw with Arsenal at midweek that does them no favors in the Premiership title race. Another frustrating month of May seems to be in the works for Liverpool. But at least they've made things interesting.
Next Up: Host Newcastle United (with John Carver?) 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), lost to Chelsea in the Champions League quarterfinals, tied Arsenal at home (4-4, April 22).

5 (5). Inter Milan
A tough week for the nerazurri. After exiting the Coppa Italia semis at midweek, Jose Mourinho's men lost at Napoli, 1-0 yesterday. Ther Serie A lead is suddenly back down to seven points, now over a resurgent AC Milan side. Five games remain.
Next Up: Host Lazio 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), lost to Manchester United in Champions League round of 16, tied at Juventus (1-1, April 18).

6 (7). Arsenal
After the eight goals at Anfield at midweek, Arsenal settled down and beat Middlesbrough 2-0 at Emirates (the stadium, not the country). The question remains: do they have a chance of beating Man United? We don't think so, but we've been wrong before as our many critics can attest.
Next Up: Visit Old Trafford for the first leg of the Champions League semifinal. Visit Pompey Saturday.
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, beat Villareal in the Champions League semifinal, tied at Liverpool (4-4, April 22).

7 (8). Real Madrid
Real struggled to win both games last week, a 3-2 midweek decision over Getafe and a 4-2 win over Sevilla yesterday. But that doesn't matter (well maybe a little if you're Pepe). The key is Juande Ramos' men are within striking distance of their hated rivals from the Catalan capital, with a game between the two sides on the docket Saturday.
Next Up: Host Barca 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 (6). Porto
Exited the Portuguese cup with a loss at Estrela Amadora Wednesday. Rebounded to beat Vitoria Setubal in league action yesterday. Their lead remains four points with four games to go.
Next Up: Visit Estrela Amadora in a cup tie Wednesday. Host Vitoria Setubal in league action 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.

9 (10). Dynamo Kiev
What's this? A Ukrainian team in the top 10? Believe it. Dynamo are in the UEFA Cup semifinals (where they face another Ukrainian club) and lead their league by 12 points. They have lost but five games all year; three in the Ukraine and two to teams that are in the top 10. Their UEFA Cup victims include Paris Saint-Germain and Valencia. So yes, we think this is the ninth-best team in the world right now. Belittle us all you want. And feel free to suggest a better alternative.
Next Up: Things are about to get very interesting, as Dynamo are matched with fellow Ukranian side Shakhtar Donetsk (more on them in a bit) in the UEFA Cup semis. The first leg is at Donetsk Wednesday.
Against Top 25: Tied Arsenal at home (1-1, Sept. 17), lost at Emirates (1-0, Nov .25).

10 (9). Juventus
A horrible week for Juve, who exited the Coppa Italia semis to Lazio at midweek, then managed just a draw at Reggina yesterday. They drop to third place in Serie A, dreams of a scudetto suddenly a (very) distant memory. Third place, and automatic Champions League qualificaton, looks secure, with a seven point lead over fourth-placed Fiorentina with five games remaining. Then again, who knows?
Next Up: Host Lecce, Sunday. Have a chance to take back second place a week afterwards when they visit AC Milan at San Siro.
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, tied Inter Milan at home (1-1, April 18).

11 (12). Shakhtar Donetsk
Another Ukrainian team? Believe it. This is a team that played No. 1 Barca to the letter in a Champions League encounter back in October (and actually won the second game at Nou Camp, though we don't count that because neither club had anything left to play for at that point).
Next Up: Host the first leg of the UEFA Cup semis against No. 9 Dynamo Kiev on Wednesday.
Against Top 25: Lost to Barcelona at home (2-1, Oct. 1), beat CSKA Moscow in the UEFA Cup Round of 16, beat Olympique Marseille in the UEFA Cup quarterfinals.

12 (13) Olympique de Marseille
L'OM advance toward their first French title since 1992, beating Lille yesterday by 2-1 while Olympique Lyon and Paris Saint-Germain did each other no favors in playing to a scoreless draw. The Marsellais now hold a five game lead, but second-placed Girondins Bordeaux have a game in hand. Lyon, now six points in arrears (without a game in hand) get their shot on May 16.
Next Up: Host Toulouse Saturday.
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), lost to Shakhtar Donetsk in the UEFA Cup quarterfinals.

13 (18). AZ Alkmaar
The newly-crowned Eredivisie champs played Ajax Amsterdam to a 1-1 tie. They move up this far by virtue of a stellar record (only three losses, one last week after the league title was already clinched) albeit without any international action at all. That will change next year.
Next Up: More Eredivisie action.

14 (14). Olympique Lyon
The perennial French champs are on the ropes. With five match days remaining and six points and two teams keeping them from first place, their margin of error is now about nil.
Next Up: Visit Valenciennes Saturday. They get their shot at Marseille May 16.
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.

15 (17). Sao Paulo Futebol Clube
The Brazilian champs won their final Copa Libertadores group stage match against America de Cali to win their group.
Next Up: Nothing until the Campeonato Brasileiro finally starts May 10, with a match at Fluminense.

16 (16). VfL Wolfsburg
What to make of this week's mess in the Bundesliga? For now, we're keeping Wolfsburg right where they are, even though the "Wolves" lost at lowly Energie Cottbus yesterday. They lead the Bundesliga by two points, now over Hertha Berlin. How will it look next week? Anybody's guess. With five games remaining three points is all that separate the top five clubs in the standings. Fasten your seatbelts.
Next Up: Host Hoffenheim Saturday.
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)

17 (11). Bayern Munich
Bayern lost to fifth-placed Schalke 04, which would be a forgivable offense, except it came at home. The noose around Juergen Klinsmann's neck is tightening...
Next Up: Host Borussia Moenchengladbach 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).

18 (21). Werder Bremen
A huge week for Thomas Shaaf's team, who beat HSV to advance to the German cup final where they will face Bayer Leverkusen. They won their Bundesliga match as well, over Bochum, though we don't need to talk about that (for all their international and cup success, it's been an awful Bundesliga campaign for Werder).
Next Up: Face HSV again Thursday, this time in the first leg of their UEFA Cup semifinal. Werder host the first leg.
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), beat Hamburg SV in German cup semis (penalties, April 22).

19 (20). Villareal
The yellow submarine won both games they placed last week, over Recreativo Huelva and Getafe, by identical 2-1 scores. They sit fifth in La Liga, only one point behind fourth-placed Valencia and two behind third-placed Sevilla. If these rankings are at all accurate, Villareal will reach third by season's end, five games from now.
Next Up: Have a first chance to prove us right Saturday when they host Sevilla. Actually this is the start of a very tough stretch for Manuel Luis Pellegrini's side. After Sevilla they face (in order) Barca and Real Madrid and Valencia. So the next weeks will be very telling.
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).

20 (15). Hamburg SV
Martin Jol's side lost both games they played last week, against Werder Bremen on penalties in the DfB Pokal (German cup) and at Borussia Dortmund. They slip to fifth place but incredulously are very much alive in the title chase, trailing first-placed Wolfsburg by just three points.
Next Up: Werder Bremen again, this time on the road, in the first leg of the UEFA Cup semis. Also host second-placed Hertha Berlin Sunday.
Against Top 25: Tied at Bayern Munich (2-2, Aug. 15), beat Bayern at home (1-0, Jan. 30), lost at home to Werder Bremen in German cup semis (penalties, April 22).

21 (19). Atletico Madrid
Rebounded from their 5-1 midweek loss at Racing Santander to defeat Sporting Gijon 3-1 at home yesterday. Four points separate sixth-placed Atletico from fourth place and the Champions League spots with five games remaining. It can still happen.
Next Up: At Real Betis, 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).

22 (23). Panathinaikos
Beat OFI Heraklion yesterday. The playoffs are next.
Next Up: It looks like they'll face AEK Athens? Can anybody confirm?
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.

23 (22) Chivas de Guadelajara
Tied at UNAM Pumas yesterday to drop to third place in their Clausura group. The top two teams qualify automatically for the playoffs, but some others get a play in liguilla. Two games remain in the regular season.
Next Up: Libertadores acton. Play at Everton CD (they're from Chile) Wednesday needing a draw to advance. Host Puebla Sunday.
Against Top 25: Lost to Internacional over two legs in the Copa Sudamericana quarterfinals.

24 (-). AC Milan
The rossoneri return to the Top 25 for the first time since Feb. 23, if memory serves. Four straight victories and a seven game unbeaten streak will do that. So will second place in Serie A.
Next Up: Visit Catania Calcio Sunday. Third-placed Juventus looms next weekend.
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), lost to Werder Bremen over two legs in the UEFA Cup round of 32.

25 (25). Universitario de Deportes
The Peruvian side beat CNI in domestic action Saturday. We found out what CNI stands for. It's (deep breath): Asociacion Deportiva Colegio Nacional de Iquitos. Don't ask us what that means. Something about sports and colleges and associations and nationals? Anyway, Universitario are in a good position to advance to the Copa 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: The final Libertadores group match is Wednesday at Argentina's San Lorenzo. Win or draw and they're in the elimination round. Also visit Mariano Melgar FBC Arequipa in league action Sunday. Love those names.
Against Top 25: Beat Libertad in Copa Libertadores group play (2-1, April 8).

Dropping Out:
Everton (24)

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