Apr 6, 2009

The world's top 25 soccer clubs, April 6, 2009

With the international break (thankfully) over we can get back to what matters most: club soccer, baby. There were not many changes seeing as this first weekend back was all about domestic competition, but that is subject to change at (very) short order. Like 24 hours or less. Here we go:

1 (1). FC Barcelona
Won at Valladolid (it's pronounced "Vayadolid") 1-0.
Next Up: The first leg of the Champions League quarterfinal with Bayern Munich is upon us. Barca host the first leg on Wednesday. Also host Recreativo Huelva Sunday, followed by the return leg at Munich on Tuesday, April 14.
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). Manchester United
As we all know by now, Italian teenager Federico Macheda saved United's bacon with a dramatic (and superb) stoppage time winner against Aston Villa yesterday. The unlikely victory is not only timely after two successive defeats, it also sends Man U. top of the Premiership table. They have a one point lead and a game in hand over their rivals Liverpool
Next Up: Host the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinal against Porto tomorrow. Visit Sunderland 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)

3 (2). Liverpool
Reds booked a dramatic stoppage time victory of their own to (temporarily it turns out) move top of the table, beating Fulham 1-0 on Saturday afternoon.
Next Up: Host Chelsea in the UCL quarterfinal Wednesday. Host Blackburn Rovers 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), beat Real Madrid in the Champions League round of 16, won at Man United (4-1, March 14).

4 (4). Inter Milan
Beat Udinese on the road 1-0. With Juventus dropping points, Inter's Serie A lead is now nine points with eight games remaining. Juve has one last chance though...
Next Up: Host Palermo Saturday, then visit Juve on Saturday, April 18.
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.

5. (5). Chelsea
Blues beat Alan Shearer's Newcastle Saturday to keep pace with the leaders. They remain four points behind Man United and very much alive in the Premiership race. Let's face it though: Nobody is really viewing htis as anything but a two horse race at this point.
Next Up: Visit Anfield Wednesday for their Champions League date. Host Bolton Wanderers 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.

6 (6). Porto
Won at Guimaraes Saturday to maintain their four point lead atop Liga Sagres. Seven games remain.
Next Up: It's off to Old Trafford and the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals tomorrow. Host Estrela Amadora Saturday before hosting the return leg a week from Saturday.
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 (8). Real Madrid
Won at Malaga, 1-0 to remain six points behind Barca with nine games remaining. The two clubs meet May 3 to in all likelihood decide the Spanish title, if it isn't cleared up by then already. Real host that game.
Next Up: Host Valladolid (see above for pronunciation guide) 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.

8 (9). Juventus
Juve played Chievo to a 3-3 tie yesterday, to drop nine points behind Inter Milan. It's not over yet, but it's close. Or to quote Bob Dylan, "it's not dark yet, but it's getting there."
Next Up: Host fourth-placed Genoa Saturday before hosting Inter a week afterwards. That will be their last chance at Serie A glory. But second place isn't bad.
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

9 (10). Arsenal
Gunners booked a solid victory over Man City Ssaturday to remain six points behind third-placed Chelsea. It may be a bit late for a move to third place. Fortunately for Arsenal, with the way Villa are playing they don't have to worry much about relinquishing fourth either. Gooners also caught a break when they drew Villareal in the Champions League quarterfinals.
Next Up: The first leg with Villareal, tomorrow. Visit Wigan 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.

10 (7). Bayern Munich
Bayern somehow managed to lose 5-1 at VfL Wolfsburg on Saturday to drop to fourth place in the Bundesliga standings. At this rate they have no chance at winning the title, much less advancing past Barcelona in the Champions League. As if they didn't have enough problems, Bayern could be without Lucio, van Buyten, Ribery and Lahm in the first leg of that series. Yes all four.
Next Up: It's off to the Camp Nou and the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals Wednesday. Host Eintracht Frankfurt 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
Since we last met, Dynamo won two Ukrainian league matches by a combined 5-0 score. They lead the Ukrainian Premier-Liga by 15 points with eight games remaining. I'd say that race has run its course, wouldn't you?
Next Up: Visit Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of the UEFA Cup quarterfinal Thursday. Should be a good game. We think Dynamo are the better side (obviously, as PSG are nowhere to be found in this ranking, though they did make an appearance a few weeks back).
Against Top 25: Tied Arsenal at home (1-1, Sept. 17), lost at Emirates (1-0, Nov .25).

12 (12). Olympique Lyon
Won at Le Mans by 1-0 yesterday, to hold onto their one point lead in France's Ligue Un. With eight games left and six points separating the top six clubs (Marseille, Bordeaux, Lille, Paris SG and Toulouse are the others), the title chase is about as tight as they come.
Next Up: Host Monaco, 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 (13). FC Sao Paulo
Since we last met, FCSP have played four Paulista games (it appears MLS is not the only league to ignore international competition, though in fairness the Paulista is just a municipal league). Sao Paulo won three of the four games, drawing the fourth at Sao Caetano yesterday. It looks like the Paulista regular season has now concluded, with a four team playoff to ensue at some point to decide the champion. SP finished second (behind Palmeiras, one of the teams they beat over the last fortnight) and will likely face third-placed Corinthians.
Next Up: Host Defensor Sporting in a Libertadores match Thursday.

14 (14). Villareal
Lost at Almeira by 3-0 on Saturday. Ouch! The yellow submarine remain fourth, but now only have a two point cushion over Valencia. Third place (in the form of Sevilla) is nine points in the distance.
Next Up: Host the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinal with Arsenal tomorrow. Also host Malaga, Saturday, before the return leg at Emirates, Wednesday, April 15.
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).

15 (17) Olympique Marseille
L'OM beat up on Saint Etienne yesterday, winning 3-0 on the road.
Next Up: Visit Saint Etienne Sunday. Visit Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk in the UEFA Cup quarters Thursday. Host Grenoble Sunday.
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)

16 (19). Hamburg SV
They did it! HSV managed to actually WIN a game after we ranked them in the Top 25! That's the first time this season this has happened. A sign of things to come? Martin Jol's side move up to second after the win over Hoffenheim (who after becoming "Wintermeister" are now sixth and seemingly in freefall).
Next Up: Face Man City in the UEFA Cup quarterfinals, with the first leg at Hamburg on Thursday. Visit Stuttgart Sunday.
Against Top 25: Tied at Bayern Munich (2-2, Aug. 15), beat Bayern at home (1-0, Jan. 30).

17 (20). AZ Alkmaar
Beat The Hague (that is what Den Haag means, right?) by 4-1. With second-placed Twente dropping points at Nijmegen, Alkmaar's Eredivisie lead is now 11 points with five games remaining.
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.

18 (21). Werder Bremen
Beat Hannover 96 by 4-1.
Next Up: Host Udinese in the UEFA Cup quarterfinals' first Thursday. Visit Leverkusen 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 round of 32, tied Bayern Munich at home (0-0, March 1).

19 (16). Atletico Madrid
Lost at home to Osasuna yesterday. Atletico are now a distant sixth in the Spanish Liga and in the top 25 only because of victory over Barcelona and other solid results against top competition (see below). In the Spanish Liga, they are five point behinds Villareal and the elusive fourth place that would allow them to qualify for the Champions League again. Meanwhile, their former coach Javier Aguirre was hired by the Mexican national team, which just fired Sven Goran Eriksson. Maybe they should hire him?
Next Up: Visit Deportivo La Coruna 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). Shakhtar Donetsk
After returning to the Top 25 for the first time since Sept. 22, the Ukrainian club nobody can pronounce promptly lost at home to Zaporozhye, whoever that is.
Next Up: The first leg of the UEFA Cup quarterfinals against No. 15 Olympique Marseille. Shakhtar host the first leg on Thursday.
Against Top 25: Lost to Barcelona at home (2-1, Oct. 1), beat CSKA Moscow in the UEFA Cup Round of 16

21 (-). Sevilla
We're biting the bullet and putting Sevilla back in the Top 25 by virtue of their play in the Spanish Liga, where they sit third. Their international season was an unmitigated disaster, exiting in the group stage of the UEFA Cup. This week they beat Recreativo Huelva 1-0 on the road.
Next Up: Host Getafe, Sunday. Then it's fifth placed Valencia and No. 1 Barca.
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.

22 (23). Deportivo Toluca
The Diablos Rojos picked right up where they left off, defeating Morelia 2-1 yesterday. They remain undefeated in 11 league games so far this season.
Next Up: More Clausura action.
Against Top 25: Won at Chivas (2-1, Feb. 19)

23 (24). Panathinaikos
Won at APO Levadiakos yesterday, 2-1 to remain second in the Greek Super League. The title race is (officially as well?) done and Pana will have to win a playoff to hold on to second place. But there are still a few league matches left.
Next Up: Host Asteras Tripolis in a cupt tie Wednesdday. Host AE Larisa, 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.

24 (25). Libertad
If we're not mistaken Libertad become the first-ever Paraguayan side to make the Top 25. They do so by virtue of their stellar record in Copa Libertadores so far; four games, four victories, including two over Argentina's almost-Apertura champion San Lorenzo. Libertad have yet to play any domestic games this season, it appears. Something the Mexican and Argentine leagues may want to take a look at.
Next Up: Visit Peru's Universitario de Deportes in their next Libertadores game Wednesday (they won the first game).

25 (-). Universitario de Deportes
The Peruvian side make their debut in the Top 25, becoming the first club from that country to do so. They do this through a stellar domestic league record (they lead the Peruvian Apertura with just one loss in their first seven games) and a respectable 1-1-1 record in the Libertadores (a tough group with No. 24 Libertad, Argentina's San Lorenzo and Mexico's San Luis).
Next Up: Host No. 24 Libertad Wednesday in the penultimate match day of the Libertadores group stage. Visit Juan Aurich in Apertura action Sunday.

Dropping Out:
Hertha Berlin (15), Nacional (22)

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