Sep 14, 2009

The world's top 25 soccer clubs, Sept. 14, 2009

The world's top club leagues returned to action after a two week layoff for international matches. With one exception (you know who you are, Arsenal), the top clubs in our ranking won their games this weekend. Ahead of the UEFA Champions League schedule, which kicks off this week, things are about to get very interesting. Who knows what the Top 25 will look like next? But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Here are this week's rankings:

1. Real Madrid
Last ranking: 1
Record (wins-losses-ties, in all competition; two-leg match-ups count as one): 2-0-0
Results of note: None yet.
Commentary/recent results: It took a little while for Real to get on the scoresheet, but they ended up having no problems at Espanyol Barcelona, winning 3-0 on Saturday. Second-half substitute Cristiano Ronaldo even made the scoresheet, getting Real's third goal in stoppage time. That's two goals in two games for CR7 (the first was by penalty, but still).
Upcoming schedule: The Champions League opener at FC Zurich tomorrow. Then Xerez at home Sunday. Los merengues then face a potentially troublesome trip to Villareal Sept. 29. Barca looms Nov. 29 at Camp Nou. The Champions League group stage campaign is of course highlighted by back-to-back dates with AC Milan (Oct. 21 at Bernabeu, Nov. 3 at San Siro).

2. Barcelona
Last ranking: 2
Record: 4-0-0
Results of note: Beat Shakhtar Donetsk (at the time ranked 14th) in overtime in the UEFA SuperCup, Aug. 29.
Commentary/recent results: Won easily at Getafe, 2-0 on Saturday. That's two wins and a 5-0 goal difference from two games in La Liga.
Upcoming schedule: A trip to San Siro and Inter Milan on the Champions League opener Wednesday. Atletico Madrid visit Camp Nou Sunday.

3. Chelsea
Last ranking: 3
Record: 5-0-0
Results of note: None yet
Commentary/recent results: It took stoppage time (and shoddy goalkeeping from Thomas Sorensen, who we feel should have done better with Florent Malouda's shot) for Chelsea to defeat Stoke City 2-1 and remain unbeaten and untied in Premiership action. Still, hard to argue Chelsea weren't the better team and didn't deserve the three points at the Britannia Saturday. Moreover, the victory showed grit and character--the type of things you need to make a run at Premiership (and European) glory. So Blues get to keep their spot.
Upcoming schedule: The CL opener with Porto, tomorrow. Then an intriguing London derby match with Spurs at Stamford Bridge. Liverpool visit the Bridge Oct. 3. Man United come to town Nov. 17.

4. Manchester United
Last ranking: 4
Record: 4-1-0
Results of note: Beat then No. 4 Arsenal at home (2-1, Aug. 29)
Commentary/recent results: Red Devils started badly at White Hart Lane (a bicycle trick goal by Jermaine Defoe less than a minute in) but quickly recovered and ended up winning 3-1.
Upcoming schedule: The CL opener at Besiktas Istanbul tomorrow. Then the Manchester derby (it's pronounced dar-bee). Other than a Champions League home game with VfL Wolfsburg and a visit to CSKA Moscow Oct. 21, Man United probably won't be tested until their grudge match at Liverpool, Oct. 25.

5. Juventus
Last ranking: 5
Record: 3-0-0
Results of note: Won at Roma (3-1, Aug. 30).
Commentary/recent results: Juve won their second consecutive game at Rome's Olympic Stadium, easily putting away Lazio 2-0 on Saturday. David Trezeguet is back (and scored Juve's second goal) but Diego left the game with an injury. Losing him would be a massive blow.
Upcoming schedule: The Champions League season kicks off with Girondins Bordeaux tomorrow. Then Livorno at home, followed by a trip to Genoa next Thursday.

6. Inter Milan
Last ranking: 6
Record: 2-0-1
Results of note: Beat then-No. 10 AC Milan (4-0, Aug. 29).
Commentary/recent results: Inter had no problems with Parma, winning 2-0 at San Siro yesterday. But things are about to get very interesting, because...
Upcoming schedule: The Champions League campaign kicks off in grand style when Barcelona visit Wednesday. That's about the only game of note for the next couple of months.

7. Liverpool
Last ranking: 7
Record: 3-2-0
Results of note: None yet.
Commentary/recent results: Reds had absolutely no trouble with Burnley on Saturday, discarding with the Clarets by a 4-0 score.
Upcoming schedule: The CL opener with Debreceni, Wednesday. It will likely be October before Reds face quality competition, though a Sept. 29 trip to Florence is by no means a pushover.

8. Bayern Munich
Last ranking: 9
Record: 3-1-2
Results of note: Beat then-No. 11 VfL Wolfsburg at home (3-0, Aug. 28).
Commentary/recent results: As expected, Bayern have started firing on all cylinders. This weekend, Borussia Dortmund were made believers by a 5-1 score. The game was played at Dortmund, which is supposed to be a tough place to play. Look out, because Bayern are back.
Upcoming schedule: The Champions League campaign kicks off at Maccabi Haifa tomorrow. Then Nurnberg, then a cup tie. Then HSV is on tap Sept. 26.

9. Girondins Bordeaux
Last ranking: 10
Record: 4-0-1
Results of note: A scoreless draw at then-No. 18 Olympique Marseille (Aug. 30).
Commentary/recent results: With a 1-0 win at Grenoble Saturday, Bordeaux assume their rightful spot at the top of the Ligue Un table.
Upcoming schedule: With Juventus, Maccabi Haifa and Bayern Munich, les Girondins have a group of death on their hands in the Champions League. They get the toughest one out of the way first, with a trip to No. 5 Juventus tomorrow.

10. Porto
Last ranking: 11
Record: 3-0-1
Results of note: None yet.
Commentary/recent results: After a disappointing 1-1 draw at Pacos de Ferreira to kick off the Liga Sagres campaign, Porto have now won three in a row by a combined score of 10-2. Granted, this was against mid-table Portuguese sides, but they'll take it.
Upcoming schedule: It gets real right away. At Stamford Bridge tomorrow. Then first-placed Liga Sagres side Sporting Braga (away), Sporting Lisbon (home) and Atletico Madrid (home).

11. Sevilla
Last ranking: 13
Record: 1-1-0
Results of note: None yet.
Commentary/recent results: Beat up on Real Saragossa, 4-1 on Saturday.
Upcoming schedule: The CL opener at Unirea Urziceni (say that three times fast) followed by Osasuna Saturday. Host Mallorca and visit Bilbao next week.

12. Hamburg SV
Last ranking: 14
Record: 5-0-1
Results of note: Won at then-No. 11 VfL Wolfsburg (4-2, Aug. 23).
Commentary/recent results: HSV are off to a fine start in the Bundesliga, which they currently lead. Bruno Labbadia's side beat VfB Stuttgart Saturday. Too bad they had to choke last year and miss the Champions League spots.
Upcoming schedule: The Europa League opener at Rapid Vienna Thursday. Bayern Munich come to town Sept. 26.

13. Manchester City
Last ranking: 16
Record: 4-0-0
Results of note: Beat then-No. 8 Arsenal at home (4-2, Sept. 12).
Commentary/recent results: Citizens put away Arsenal by a 4-2 margin, the club's biggest victory since, well, who knows? We haven't had reason to pay any attention to Man City since that record-breaking shopping spree blew up in their face last season. But this year, it appears, will be different. Mark Hughes men looked very good against Arsenal and are the only club not named Chelsea with a perfect record in the Premiership. Unfortunately we won't be seeing them in European competition. Maybe next year.
Upcoming schedule: The Manchester derby at Old Trafford, Sunday. We don't expect a victory from that one.

14. Arsenal
Last ranking: 8
Record: 3-2-0
Results of note: Lost at then-No. 5 Man United (2-1, Aug. 29), lost at then-No. 16 Man City (4-2, Sept. 12)
Commentary/recent results: That's two losses in a row for Arsenal. Much has been made of Emmanuel Adebayor's antics, which overshadows the fact that Man City looks to be a club to be reckoned with. But more on them in a bit. As for Arse, they may have stumbled a bit in the early going this season, but have a chance to right the ship over the coming weeks because...
Upcoming schedule: An easy stretch of the schedule awaits Arsene Wenger's side, who open the Champions League campaign with a visit to Standard Liege Wednesday. Then it's Wigan, Fulham, Olympiakos, Blackburn and Birmingham City. All but Fulham are home.

15. Olympique Lyonnais
Last ranking: 20
Record: 5-0-1
Results of note: None yet.
Commentary/recent results: L'OL beat Lorient 1-0 Saturday to continue their flying start. The competition has ben crap but that is about to change...
Upcoming schedule: Fiorentina visit in the Champions League opener Wednesday. Then it's off to Paris, where PSG have a hot start of their own going on.

16. Olympique Marseille
Last ranking: 17
Record: 2-0-2
Results of note: Drew then-No. 12 Girondins Bordeaux at home (0-0, Aug. 30).
Commentary/recent results: L'OM beat Le Mans 2-1 yesterday.
Upcoming schedule: Host AC Milan in the CL curtain raiser tomorrow. The second Champions League matchday has them at the Bernabeu. So we'll soon know what Marseille are made of.

17. AZ Alkmaar
Last ranking: 12
Record: 4-2-0
Results of note: None yet.
Commentary/recent results: After four wins in a row following their season-opening loss, the Dutch champs lost at The Hague by 2-1 Saturday.
Upcoming schedule: At Olympiakos in the Champions League opener Wednesday, followed by Nijmegen and Ajax Amsterdam.

18. Fiorentina
Last Ranking: -
Record: 3-0-1
Results of note: Beat Sporting Lisbon in the Champions League qualifier.
Commentary/recent results: Fiorentina had a bit of a slow start to the season, which is why they did not receive consideration for a Top 25 spot until now. After squeaking by Sporting Lisbon in the Champions League qualifer, La Viola drew Bologna on the first Serie A matchday. They've come on since, with wins over Palermo and Cagliari. Their upcoming games are sure to be more difficult, however.
Upcoming schedule: At No. 15 Olympique Lyonnais in the Champions League opener Wednesday, followed by Roma (away) and Sampdoria (home). Then a brief respite against Livorno, followed by Liverpool, Lazio and Juventus. Have fun with that, ragazzos!

19. Shakhtar Donetsk
Last ranking: 19
Record: 5-2-1
Results of note: Lost UEFA Supercup to then-No. 2 Barcelona (1-0 in overtime, Aug. 28).
Commentary/recent results: Won what appears to have been a Ukrainian cup tie over the weekend. They remain second in the league, behind Dynamo Kiev.
Upcoming schedule: At FC Bruges in the Europa League opener Thursday.

20. Dynamo Kiev
Last ranking: 21
Record: 6-0-1
Results of note: None yet.
Commentary/recent results: Won their weekend match over Metalist Kharkov, who unless we're mistaken were a UEFA Cup semifinalist last season. Dynamo have resumed their dominance of the Ukrainian Premier-Liga with five wins and only one draw (and a 21-4 goal difference) albeit against very suspect competition.
Upcoming schedule: The Champions League opener at home against Rubin Kazan, Wednesday.

21. Unirea Urziceni
Last Ranking: -
Record: 4-1-1
Results of note: None yet.
Commentary/recent results: We cannot even pretend to have heard of the Romanian side before the Champions League draw. Maybe because they're one of those former Communist party clubs that changed their name? But what we know now is they only lost once all season, in the opener against CFR Cluj (which was in the Champions League last year and may have even had a run in our Top 25, if memory serves). Since then, they have rattled off four wins and a draw by a 7-2 combined score, a streak that includes victories over Steaua and Rapid Bucharest.
Upcoming schedule: The Champions League opener at No. 10 Sevilla, Wednesday. Then at Dinamo Bucharest. With Glasgow Rangers and VfB Stuttgart the other teams in their Champions League group, they are capable of actually advancing.

22. Rubin Kazan
Last Ranking: -
Record: 14-3-4*
Results of note: None yet.
Commentary/recent results: One of two Russian Champions League representatives, this one happens to lead the Premier Liga by six points over Spartak Moscow. They've reeled off six wins in a row, dating back to a scoreless draw with Zenit St. Petersburg on July 25. That includes victories over three Moscow clubs (FK, Dynamo, Spartak).
Upcoming schedule: At Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League opener Wednesday.
*Russian league starts in the spring.

23. Glasgow Rangers
Last ranking: 23
Record: 3-0-1
Results of note: Nothing yet.
Commentary/recent results: Rangers played a scoreless draw at Motherwell Saturday. They continue to lead the SPL, however, tied with their friendly neighbors Celtic.
Upcoming schedule: The CL campaign kicks off at Stuttgart Wednesday, which will be an important test to see if Rangers do indeed have a chance at advancing.

24. Estudiantes
Last ranking: 24
Record: 3-0-1
Results of note: None yet.
Commentary/recent results: After dropping their first points of thee season in a 2-2 draw at San Lorenzo, the reigning Copa Libertadores champs beat Independiente 2-1. They are second in Argentina's Apertura League, behind Rosario Central, who somehow have a perfect record through four games.
Upcoming schedule: At Atletico Huracan, Friday. Boca Juniors are up after that, on Sept. 27. Unfortunately no Sudamericana action for these boys.

25. Club America
Last ranking: 25
Record: 4-1-2
Results of note: None yet.
Commentary/recent results: After a 1-1 draw at Tigres, Sept. 6, los aguilas (eagles?) beat up on Tecos by 5-0 to continue their torrid start.
Upcoming schedule: At Querentano, Sunday.

Dropping Out:
VfL Wolfsburg (15), AC Milan (18), Besiktas Istanbul (22).

Also receiving consideration (in rough order of consideration received):
Panathinaikos, Valencia, PSV Eindhoven, Galatasaray, Sporting Braga, Bayer Leverkusen, Feyernoord Rotterdam, BATE Borisov, Goias Esporte Clube.

Photo taken from without permission.

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