May 11, 2009

The world's top 25 soccer clubs, May 11, 2009

A lot has happened and much of it exactly like readers of this blog might have anticipated. The Top 25 once again rang true as predictor of European Champions League results. But in the UEFA Cup, things did not exactly go according to script. Meanwhile, the swine flu has thrown a wrench in the Copa Libertadores, which will unfortunately prevent us from getting realistic gauge of Mexican league clubs against their South American rivals. Read on.

1 (1). FC Barcelona
A lot has been said and written about Barca's advance past Chelsea into the Champions League final. So we're not going to add more fuel to that fire, least of all because we covered the matter already. Suffice it to say that despite a small slip-up over the weekend (a 3-3 draw against Villareal) right now Barcelona are the best soccer club in the world. Period. Only one team can challenge them to this claim and that event will take place May 27 in Rome.
Next Up: Against Atletico Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final Wednesday. We think the final is only one leg as opposed to all the other stages? If so, the blaugrana have a very realistic chance to pick up two pieces of silverware next week. Barca's La Liga lead is eight points with three games remaining. According to our calculations that means a point at Mallorca Sunday will suffice to take home the second piece of silverware.
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, won at Real Madrid (6-2, May 2), beat Chelsea in Champions League semifinal.

2 (2). Manchester United
No surprises here. Sir Alex' men put Arsenal to the sword as expected at Old Trafford and followed this up with a 2-0 win over Man City on the weekend. Their three point Premiership lead is larger than it appears as Red Devils have a game in hand over Liverpool, who can rightfully be viewed as their only real opposition at this stage of affairs.
Next Up: Visit Wigan Wednesday. Host Arsenal again 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.

3. (3). Chelsea
After the embarrassing display at Stamford Bridge at midweek, Blues took out their frustrations on poor Arsenal at Emirates on Sunday. The final 4-1 score serves as a reminder once more of just how wide the gap is between the "Big Three" and Gunners. More importantly, it is the type of "quality victory" Chelsea needed to convince the Soccer Source ranking committee they deserve a higher spot than Liverpool (whom they trail in the Premiership standings). Further reason being that Blues eliminated Reds from the Champions League final. Yes Liverpool beat Chelsea twice in Premiership action but the Champs League carries more weight, folks. Sorry.
Next Up: Host Blackburn Sunday. Chelsea's ship has sailed as far as the Premiership is concerned. Six points are too much to make up in three games and if Man U. win at midweek Blues will be mathematically eliminated as well. But there's still the FA Cup final to look forward to. That takes place May 30.
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, lost to Barcelona in the Champions League semifinals.

4 (4). Liverpool
Reds continue to play out the string, hoping (it appears in vain) that Man U slip up. Last week they did their duty against West Ham, winning 3-0 at Upton Park.
Next Up: Visit West Brom Sunday and Spurs May 24. And that's all she wrote.
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
The nerazurri were unable to take advantage of AC Milan's slip-up against Juventus (more on that later), managing just a 2-2 draw with lowly Chievo. If we had somewhere to put Inter (i.e. a lower spot in the table) we'd send them there. But with Jose Mourinho's men approaching another scudetto in spite of the resent result, fifth place is theirs. For now.
Next Up: Host Siena Sunday. Three games remain in the Serie A season, with Inter holding on to a seven point lead. In other words: if they win this game, they wrap up the scudetto. If not, they have another chance at Cagliari in the penultimate matchday. Or if that fails againt Atalanta Bergamo on the last day. Of those teams, only Cagliari are a top half of the table side. So we don't see Inter blowing this one.
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). Porto
Beat Nacional Funchal to wrap up Liga Sagres. Their fifth (we think?) domestic title in a row. That piece of silverware is enough to move them past Arsenal and into sixth place in our Top 25 (yes, we know Arse beat them 4-nil back in September, which remains Porto's worst game of the year--by a significant margin). The Champions League quarterfinal with Man United showed us just how good this team is. One could even make the case for the fifth slot in the Top 25. If they wrap up the Portuguese cup (the final is May 31 against Pacos de Ferreira) the Soccer Source ranking committee may just have the evidence it needs. We shall see.
Next Up: Who cares? It's over. Just the cup finale May 31 remains worth keeping an eye on.
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, lost to Manchester United in Champions League quarterfinal.

7 (6). Arsenal
Gunners got stomped on twice last week, at Old Trafford in the second leg of the Champions League semifinal and at home to Chelsea. Not that the latter result matters much. Or at all, even (other than to us of course). Arse are solidly in fourth place and with just a pair of games left cannot move in either direction.
Next Up: A last chance to play spoiler as they visit Old Trafford again. Sorry Liverpool fans, it's unlikely to happen.
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 quarterfinal, tied at Liverpool (4-4, April 22), lost to Man United in the Champions League semifinal.

8 (8). Real Madrid
We were expecting good, even great things from Real this season. Unfortunately the 2008-2009 campaign has turned out to be a bitter disappointment. A week after the debacle against Barcelona, los merengues went down 3-0 at Valencia. With three games remaining there is no chance of slippage from second place. There's no way to advance their position either, however.
Next Up: Visit Villareal Saturday. Play out the string against Mallorca (home) and Osasuna (away).
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, lost at home to Barcelona (6-2, May 2).

9 (11). Shakhtar Donetsk
Beat Dynamo Kiev 2-1 in the return leg of the UEFA Cup semifinal to advance to the grand finale (against Werder Bremen) on Wednesday, May 20. Even though they trail Dynamo in the Ukrainian table (by a substantial margin at that) we are moving Shakhtar ahead of their rivals and into the Top 10. Which is where they belong, as anybody who has watched them play this seasons can attest. Remember this is the same club that won at Barcelona in the Champions league (though Barca had wrapped up the group and had nothing left to play for at that point, which is why we do not technically include that victory in our records).
Next Up: Host Dynamo Kiev again, this time in first leg of the Ukrainian cup semis.
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, beat Dynamo Kiev in the UEFA Cup semifinals.

10 (10). Juventus
Played AC Milan to a 1-1 draw at San Siro. Too little too late from Juve, who are now struggling to hold on to third place and the automatic Champions League qualifier that comes with it.
Next Up: Host Atalanta Bergamo Sunday.
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), drew at AC Milan (1-1, May 10).

11 (9). Dynamo Kiev
The UEFA Cup semifinal loss to Shakhtar hurts. A lot. Had they managed victory we could be talking about eighth place in the Top 25. But they didn't. So we aren't. Instead the Ukrainian champs (they wrapped up the title over the weekend) can forget about their top 10 spot.
Next Up: A chance to revenge the UEFA Cup loss against Shakhtar on Wednesday. The two sides meet in the first leg of the Ukrainian cup semifinal.
Against Top 25: Tied Arsenal at home (1-1, Sept. 17), lost at Emirates (1-0, Nov .25), lost to Shakhtar Donetsk in the UEFA Cup semifinals.

12 (12) Olympique de Marseille
Idle last week. A nice respite before a final push in the Ligue Un campaign. L'OM are level on points with Girondins Bordeaux with four games remaining.
Next Up: Visit Nice Wednesday and host Lyon 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), lost to Shakhtar Donetsk in the UEFA Cup quarterfinals.

13 (13). AZ Alkmaar
The newly-crowned Eredivisie champs...ah who cares. They're the champs, let's leave it at that.
Next Up: More Eredivisie action.

14 (16). Bayern Munich
Maybe, just maybe, the change in command was what Bayern needed to salvage their season. The Jupp Heynckes era is off to a flying start with two wins from two games. But another German championship won't be easy, because...
Next Up: Host Bayer Leverkusen later today. Leverkusen knocked Bayern out of the German cup so we imagine they won't lack for motivation. Then it's at Hoffenheim Saturday and at home versus fourth-placed VfB Stuttgart in the season finale. But what a completely crazy Bundesliga season! Things are far from settled, with third-placed Hertha Berlin and fourth-placed Stuttgart (one and two points removed from first, respectively) still having everything left to play for. With the way things have been going we wouldn't be surprised to see fifth-placed Borussia Dortmund (who play at Wolfsburg later today) and sixth-placed Hamburg SV to make a late run. Both clubs are five points behind the leaders.
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).

15 (21). Werder Bremen
The Bundesliga campaign has been a complete disaster for Thomas Schaaf's club. But the cup and international seasons have been stellar. In both, they eliminated Hamburg SV in the semifinals. They face Shakhtar Donetsk in the UEFA Cup final on May 20. The "DfB-Pokal" will be decided at Berlin May 30 against Bayer Leverkusen.
Next Up: See above. That's all it's about at this point.
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), beat HSV in UEFA Cup semifinals, beat HSV at home in Bundesliga (2-0, May 10).

16 (14). VfL Wolfsburg
The "wolves" were soundly beaten by fourth-placed VfB Stuttgart Saturday, going down 4-1 at the South German side. They are now level with Bayern Munich at the top of the Bundesliga table.
Next Up: Host Borussia Dortmund later today. Then visit Hannover Saturday before ending their season against Werder Bremen next week. That's some tricky games. It may not happen for Wolfsburg.
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 (17). Olympique Lyon
Idle last week. The perennial French champs trail Olympique Marseille by seven points with four games remaining.
Next Up: They get their shot at Marseille Sunday but it may be too late for another title, even if they do win.
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.

18 (20). Atletico Madrid
Came back from a 2-0 halftime deficit to beat Espanyol Barcelona to remain one point behind fourth-placed Valencia, who surprisingly (or maybe not) beat Real Madrid.
Next Up: Host Valencia Sunday and should win and take fourth place and the chance at the Champions League that comes with it.
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).

19 (18). Corinthians
Ronaldo and his mates won one and lost one last week. The victory came in the Brazilian cup over Atletico Paranaense and means they will face Fluminense in the quarterfinals. The first leg is Thursday. The Paulista state champions lost their first Campeonato match against Internacional.
Next Up: Host Fluminse in aforementioned cup tie Thursday. Visit Botafogo in Campeonato action Suunday.
Against Top 25: Tied at Sao Paulo (1-1, Feb. 15), beat Sao Paulo over two legs in the Paulista semifinals.

20 (15). Sao Paulo Futebol Clube
Sao Paulo got a pass in the Copa Libertadores Round of 16 where they were due to face a tough Chivas de Guadelajara side. Now, with Mexican clubs effectively boycotting Libertadores action from now and forever, Sao Paulo is through to the quarterfinals. Domestically, things got off to a bad start in the Campeonato Brasileiro which opened this weekend. Sao Paulo lost at Fluminense, 1-0.
Next Up: Host Atletico Paranaense in the second Brasileiro matchday Sunday.

21 (22). Panathinaikos
Won at PAOK Saloniki in the first match day of the mini-tournament to decide finishers 2-6 in the Greek Super League. Through some complex formula, the teams start said tourney with up to three points. Pana started with two, which means they now have five--good enough for first place. Or we should say, second. Confused? We'll admit it's a bit complex but it's also kind of a novel way to decide the Champions League and UEFA Cup participants. And the regular season champs (Olympiakos in this case) get a pass.
Next Up: Host AEK Athens Wednesday and 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.

22 (23). AC Milan
Drew Juventus, 1-1 to all but settle the question of whether they will be able to make a (very) late run at the scudetto. Still, second place ain't bad. Even in an off-year for Serie A and even though Milan's European campaign was an abject disappointment.
Next Up: Visit Udinese Sunday. Their last two games are then against Roma and at fourth-placed Fiorentina. Fortunately for the rossoneri, third-placed Juventus dont' seem capable of winning games. The four points that separate the two sides will likely be enough for Milan to claim second.
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, tied Juventus at home (1-1, May 10).

23 (-). Standard Liege
Go ahead and laugh. But if you're a fan of Liverpool, Everton, Sampdoria, Sevilla or of course Belgian soccer you aren't laughing right now. With the exception of Liverpool, each of the aforementioned was defeated by Standard this season. And Reds had quite a scare put in them back in Champions League qualifiers, needing an extra-time goal in the home leg to get past the Belgian side. Right now they are caught in a dogfight for first place in the Belgian Jupiler League (by the way, don't they mean Jupiter? Or maybe Jupiler means Jupiter in Belgian? Or maybe "ls" are "ts" in their language? Well whatever). With one matchday remaning, Standard are deadlocked with RSC Anderlecht at the top of the table, even on points (but Anderlecht have the better goal difference).
Next Up: Visit third-placed KAA Gent Saturday.
Against Top 25: Lost to Liverpool in Champions League qualifiers (1-0 in aggregate on an overtime goal in the second leg), beat Sevilla at home (2-0, Nov. 6).

24 (25). Sevilla
Beat Mallora 3-1 to all but cement their hold on third place in La Liga. With a four point lead over fourth-placed Valencia there is little that can keep them from automatic Champions League qualification at this point.
Next Up: Manolo Jimenez side face Osasuna, Deportivo la Coruna and Numancia in their last three games. Only Deportivo are at all decent (they sit seventh). Osasuna are fighting for relegation. Numancia are dead last. So yeah, chances are good los palanganas will finish third and qualify automatically for next season's Champions League. Whether they go anywhere is an entirely different question of course.
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, won at Villareal (2-0, May 2).

25 (-). Deportivo Toluca
With Mexican clubs now gone from Libertadores (there were only two, Chivas and San Luis but still) we are forced to turn our attention to the Mexican league, which just completed its Clausura regular season. Chivas lost on the final matchday by the way and will not participate in the post season. The Diablos Rojos, for their part, beat San Luis 5-1 to conclude a stellar regular season (just one loss in 17 matches).
Next Up: The first leg of the quarterfinals is on Friday at Indios. The return leg is Sunday. Yes, one rest day.
Against Top 25: Won at Chivas (2-1, Feb. 19)

Dropping Out:
Hamburg SV (19), Chivas de Guadelajara (24)


  1. wait for milan next season..will be champion again..forza milan

  2. I htink you will like this blog. Please read thanks Bobby Gee
    Manchester United is the champs. Way to go. Sao Paulo is playing veyr badly right now due to the fact Rogeiro Ceni is out for at least six months. He is the key to Sao Paulo's "D" I am a Flamenguista.