Sep 21, 2009

The world's top 25 soccer clubs, Sept. 21, 2009

It was a very busy week in topflight soccer, with Top 25 clubs playing twice, often against each other. Remarkably, there were no major upsets to report, leaving the top 10 very much unchanged. The second tier, however, was all shook up. Let's get to it:

1. Real Madrid
Last ranking: 1
Record (wins-losses-ties, in all competition; two-leg match-ups count as one): 4-0-0
Results of note: None yet.
Commentary/recent results: Real won their two games last week by a combined score of 10-2. Granted, FC Zurich and Xerez, their opponents, did not present much any type of challenge. Cristiano Ronaldo scored four of Real's 10 goals. That's six goals in four games for CR7 if you're counting.
Upcoming schedule: Things get a bit more difficult with a game at Villareal Wednesday, followed by another easy one against Tenerife Sunday. 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: 5-0-1
Results of note: Beat Shakhtar Donetsk (at the time ranked 14th) in overtime in the UEFA SuperCup, Aug. 29, drew at then-No. 6 Inter Milan in Champions League group stage (0-0, Sept. 16).
Commentary/recent results: There was no winner in the season's first clash of the titans at the San Siro last week. Had Barclona won, we no doubt would have moved them up a spot (which is where many quite adamantly insist they belong). But they didn't win. They didn't lose, and it was an away match against one of the best teams in the world, so we can't exactly deduct points either. Barca followed this up with a 5-2 dismantling of Atletic Bilbao at Camp Nou on Saturday.
Upcoming schedule: Visit Racing Santander tomorrow, Malaga Sunday. Then host Dynamo Kiev when the Champions League returns to action Sept. 29.

3. Chelsea
Last ranking: 3
Record: 7-0-0
Results of note: Beat then-No. 10 Porto in Champions League group stage (1-0, Sept. 15).
Commentary/recent results: Blues passed both tests last week, beating Porto 1-0 and putting Tottenham Hotspur to the sword, 3-0.
Upcoming schedule: Visit Wigan Saturday. At APOEL Nikosia in the second CL game a weeek from Wednesday. Liverpool visit the Bridge Oct. 3. Man United come to town Nov. 17.

4. Manchester United
Last ranking: 4
Record: 6-1-0
Results of note: Beat then No. 4 Arsenal at home (2-1, Aug. 29), beat then-No. 13 Manchester City (4-3, Sept. 20).
Commentary/recent results: Red Devils did what they needed at Besiktas Istanbul, winning 1-0 at midweek. Yesterday they traded goals with Man City before winning 4-3 in (deep) stoppage time in what Sir Alex is calling the best Manchester derby ever.
Upcoming schedule: That was fun. Hope you enjoyed it because it will be a little while before United face decent competition. Other than a Champions League home game with VfL Wolfsburg and a visit to CSKA Moscow Oct. 21, Sir Alex' men probably won't be tested until their grudge match at Liverpool, Oct. 25.

5. Inter Milan
Last ranking: 6
Record: 3-0-2
Results of note: Beat then-No. 10 AC Milan (4-0, Aug. 29), drew then-No. 2 Barcelona at home in Champions League group stage (0-0, Sept. 17).
Commentary/recent results: Their weekend victory at Cagliari required some effort, with the nerrazurri coming back from a 1-0 halftime deficit to win 2-1. Diego Milito notched a brace, with both goals coming within five minutes of each other. Earlier there was the scoreless draw with Barca. Inter move up a spot thanks to Juve's home draw with Bordeaux.
Upcoming schedule: Host Napoli, Wednesday. Then things get very interesting with a trip to Genoa to face Sampdoria, who are unbeaten and untied atop the Serie A table.

6. Juventus
Last ranking: 5
Record: 4-0-1
Results of note: Drew then-No. 9 Girondins Bordeaux at home in Champions League group stage (1-1, Sept. 16).
Commentary/recent results: Juve rebounded from a 1-1 draw with Girondins Bordeaux by beating Livorno, 2-0. We're still docking points for the home draw though. It's only fair.
Upcoming schedule: At Genoa, Thursday, followed by a trip to Bologna and Bavaria (Bayern Munich).

7. Liverpool
Last ranking: 7
Record: 5-2-0
Results of note: None yet.
Commentary/recent results: Reds won both games last week by the narrowest of margins, topping Hungarian side Debreceni 1-0 and beating West Ham 3-2 at Upton Park Saturday. Hey, as long as they keep winning...
Upcoming schedule: After playing Hull City at Anfield Sunday things get interesting with a trip to Fiorentina and Stamford Bridge next week.

8. Girondins Bordeaux
Last ranking: 9
Record: 5-0-2
Results of note: A scoreless draw at then-No. 18 Olympique Marseille (Aug. 30), drew at then No. 5 Juventus (1-1, Sept. 15).
Commentary/recent results: Les Girondins did well to draw Juventus 1-1 midweek and followed it up with an easy 2-0 victory over Boulogne Saturday.
Upcoming schedule: Host Stade Rennes Sunday and Maccabi Haifa in the second CL matchday the following Wednesday.

9. Bayern Munich
Last ranking: 8
Record: 5-1-2
Results of note: Beat then-No. 11 VfL Wolfsburg at home (3-0, Aug. 28).
Commentary/recent results: Bayern continued their hot streak, winning both games last week (3-0 at Maccabi Haifa in the Champions League opener and 2-1 over Nurnberg at home). But the latter of these required a bit more effort than might have been expected. After a scoreless first half, the teams traded goals before a late header from Daniel van Buyten clinched it for the Bavarian side. (In case you're wondering, Nurnberg are lower mid-table. This game wasn't supposed to be close).
Upcoming schedule: After a midweek cup tie against some minnow (Rot Weiss Oberhausen, if you must known), Bayern pay first-placed Hamburg SV a visit on Saturday. Then host Juventus in the next Champs League game a week from Wednesday.

10. Sevilla
Last ranking: 11
Record: 3-1-0
Results of note: Beat then No. 21 Unirea Urziceni in Champions League group stage at home (2-0, Sept. 16).
Commentary/recent results: After the easy midweek victory over Unirea Urziceni, Sevilla played well in a 2-0 win at Osasuna.
Upcoming schedule: Visit Bilbao next week. A trip to Ibrox is on a week from tomorrow.

11. Manchester City
Last ranking: 13
Record: 4-1-0
Results of note: Beat then-No. 8 Arsenal at home (4-2, Sept. 12).
Commentary/recent results: What's this? Man City lost their game last week and move up two spots? Where's the justice in that? Mark Hughes' men showed they clearly belong, playing one of the very best teams in the world to the letter. Without Emmanuel Adebayor to boot. The back-and-forth battle with No. 4 Man United was only decided six minutes into stoppage time when Mickey Owen broke Citizens' hearts with the winning goal. In fact, Hughes wants the FA to look into the incident, believing the final whistle should have sounded before Owen had a chance to get the game winner.
So here is where things get interesting: City have a better record than Arsenal and beat them on the field. But Arsenal played twice last week and won both. What gives? What happened on the field is what decides this one. That, and Arsenal had a tough time in their first game last week in Belgium. Belgium.
Upcoming schedule: Host West Ham United a week from today. Then a tough one at Villa Park Oct. 5. Liverpool are the next "big four" opponent, Nov. 21. That one's at Anfield.

12. Arsenal
Last ranking: 14
Record: 5-2-0
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: After a gutty (though not particularly convincing) mid-week win at Standard Liege in the Champions League opener, Gunners had absolutely no problem with Wigan, winning 4-0 at the Emirates Saturday. Well done Gooners. Even if it was Wigan.
Upcoming schedule: An easy stretch of games: Fulham, Olympiakos, Blackburn and Birmingham City. All but Fulham are home.

13. Olympique Lyonnais
Last ranking: 15
Record: 6-0-2
Results of note: Beat then-No. 18 Fiorentina at home in Champions League group stage (1-0, Sept. 16).
Commentary/recent results: L'OL did well defeating Fiorentina at midweek then dropped points at the Parc des Princes, drawing Paris Saint-Germain 1-1. They had to come from behind to do that as well. PSG are looking pretty good though, tied for sixth in Ligue Un with a 3-1-2 record. We may hear from them again before the season is out. As for Lyon, they are quietly unbeaten.
Upcoming schedule: Host Toulouse Saturday. Visit Hungarian side Debreceni when the Champions League returns to action a week from tomorrow.

14. Dynamo Kiev
Last ranking: 20
Record: 8-0-1
Results of note: Won home match against then-No. 22 Rubin Kazan in Champions League group stage (3-1, Sept. 16).
Commentary/recent results: Another strong week for the Ukrainian side, with victories over Rubin Kazan and Metalist Karkov.
Upcoming schedule: Zorja Lugansk, Saturday. Visit Camp Nou a week from tomorrow. That will be interesting (we hope).

15. Porto
Last ranking: 10
Record: 3-2-1
Results of note: Lost at then-No. 3 Chelsea in Champions League group stage (1-0, Sept. 15).
Commentary/recent results: A tough week for Porto, who lost a pair of 1-0 decisions. The first, at Stamford Bridge, was a forgivable offense. The second, at Sporting Braga less so. But Braga might just be a force to be reckoned with in Portugal this year.
Upcoming schedule: It doesn't get any easier with Sporting Lisbon and Atletico Madrid up next. At least both games are home.

16. Shakhtar Donetsk
Last ranking: 19
Record: 7-2-1
Results of note: Lost UEFA Supercup to then-No. 2 Barcelona (1-0 in overtime, Aug. 28).
Commentary/recent results: Had no problem in either game last week, winning the Europa League opener at Bruges, 4-1 and their weekend Ukrainian league match over Arsenal Kiev (they're really called that) by 4-2.
Upcoming schedule: At Metalist Kharkov, who if we aren't mistaken went pretty far in the UEFA Cup last season, on Wednesday. Host Oblon Kiev, whoever that is, this weekend. Host Partizan Belgrade when the Europa League returns to action Oct. 1.

17. Olympiakos
Last ranking: None
Record: 6-0-1
Results of note: Beat then-No. 17 AZ Alkmaar at home in Champions League group stage (1-0, Sept. 16).
Commentary/recent results: The Greek side make their first appearance in the top 25 in a very long time. It's well-deserved. Olympiakos are unbeaten and are coming off a 1-0 victory over Dutch champs AZ Alkmaar in their Champions League opener.
Upcoming schedule: Visit AEK Athens Wednesday. Host Panionios Athens Sunday. Then it's off to the Emirates for the second Champions League group stage match, a week from today.

18. Galatasaray
Last ranking: None
Record: 6-0
Results of note: Beat Besiktas Istanbul at home (3-0, Sept. 12), won at Panathinaikos in Europa League group stage (3-1, Sept. 17).
Commentary/recent results: Galatasaray are forcing people (us included) to take note of them, with six straight wins to open the season. Last week's victory over Panathinaikos was particularly impressive.
Upcoming schedule: At Kasimpasa Istanbul, later today. Host Eskisehispor Sunday and Sturm Graz in the next Europa League encounter a week from Thursday.

19. AC Milan
Last ranking: 18 (Sept. 1)
Record: 3-1-1
Results of note: Lost at then-No. 8 Inter Milan (4-0, Aug. 27), won at then-No. 16 Olympique Marseille (2-1, Sept. 15).
Commentary/recent results: A solid week by the rossoneri catapult them back into the Top 25 after a one week absence. First came the Champions League victory at Marseille, then they beat Bologna 1-0. The second is a bit close for comfort, but they'll take it.
Upcoming schedule: Visit Udinese Wednesday; Bari Sunday. The next Champions League encounter is against FC Zurich at the San Siro a week from Wednesday. That one should be tough. Not.

20. Olympique Marseille
Last ranking: 16
Record: 4-1-2
Results of note: Drew then-No. 12 Girondins Bordeaux at home (0-0, Aug. 30), lost at home to AC Milan (2-1, Sept. 15).
Commentary/recent results: L'OM rebounded from their disappointing Champions League loss by defeating a decent Montpellier side 4-2 at the Velodrome yesterday. That's good enough for third place in Ligue Un.
Upcoming schedule: Visit Valenciennes Saturday. The second Champions League matchday has them at the Bernabeu, Wednesday. With their backs already against the wall after the home loss to AC Milan, they'll need to at the very least keep things close.

21. Benfica Lisbon
Last ranking: None
Record: 6-0-1
Results of note: None yet.
Commentary/recent results: A fast start to the season for Benfica, though there have not been any real quality victories yet. Last week's 2-0 win over Belarussian (right?) club BATE Borisov, a Champions League participant last season, might be the closest thing yet. Also won their weekend domestic league match.
Upcoming schedule: Host Leixoes Matosinhos Sunday. Visit AEK Athens when the Europa League returns a week from Thursday.

22. Hamburg SV
Last ranking: 12
Record: 5-1-2
Results of note: Won at then-No. 11 VfL Wolfsburg (4-2, Aug. 23), lost at Rapid Vienna in Europa League group stage (3-0, Sept. 17).
Commentary/recent results: What the hell happened to HSV last week? First they lost 3-0 (that's three-nil) at Rapid Vienna in the Europa League. Then they followed it up with a 1-1 draw at Eintracht Frankfurt yesterday. They're lucky they didn't lose the latter game; we might have had no choice but to take them off this list altogether. And yet, Bruno Labbadia's side sit top of the table in Germany.
Upcoming schedule: A cup tie Wednesday before receiving a visit from No. 8 Bayern Munich Saturday.

23. Glasgow Rangers
Last ranking: 23
Record: 3-0-3
Results of note: Drew at VfB Stuttgart, 1-1, in the Champions League group stage opener.
Commentary/recent results: After impressing with a 1-1 draw at Stuttgart midweek, Rangers played a rather disappointing scoreless draw at Kilmarnock Saturday. We're still keeping them here, but their margin of error is now nil.
Upcoming schedule: Host Aberdeen Saturday. Then Sevilla pay a visit. The latter game is a big one, for a number of reasons. Lose and we won't have any reasons to keep Rangers in the top 25. Win, and they could move deep into the Top 20. We'll just have to wait and see...

24. Estudiantes
Last ranking: 24
Record: 5-0-1
Results of note: None yet.
Commentary/recent results: Estudiantes won their league match at Atletico Huracan with ease Friday, taking first place in the Apertura table with the victory (on goal difference, but still).
Upcoming schedule: Host Boca Juniors, Sunday. Boca have had a rough start to the season, with just five points from their first four games. But a win could turn their season around. Stay tuned...

25. Club America
Last ranking: 25
Record: 4-1-3
Results of note: Beat Deportivo Toluca at home (7-2, Aug. 31).
Commentary/recent results: Played a scoreless draw at Querentano yesterday but we don't have anybody to replace them in the Top 25.
Upcoming schedule: Host Atlante, Sunday.

Dropping Out:
AZ Alkmaar (17), Fiorentina (18), Unirea Urziceni (21), Rubin Kazan (22)

Also receiving consideration (in rough order of consideration received):
Sampdoria, Atletic Bilbao, PSV Eindhoven, Sporting Braga, Bayer Leverkusen, Dinamo Bucharest, VfL Wolfsburg.

Photo taken from without permission.

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