Sep 28, 2009

The world's top 25 soccer clubs, Sept. 28, 2009

Some major upsets in Italy and England had the potential to shake up the Top 10 this week. Did they? A little. Take a look:

1. Real Madrid
Last ranking: 1
Record (wins-losses-ties, in all competition; two-leg match-ups count as one): 6-0-0
Results of note: None yet.
Commentary/recent results: Real beat both opponents last week, Villareal and Tenerife, without giving up a goal. Can't find much fault with that. This is not the Villareal of years' past, however. The yellow submarine have just two points from their first five games, which puts them in the penultimate spot in the Liga standings. Not that any of that is of concern to Real Madrid. The merengues are rolling.
Upcoming schedule: Things finally get a bit more interesting when Real host Olympique Marseille in the Champions League Wednesday. They then get a lot more interesting with a trip to Sevilla Sunday. This should give us an idea of whether Real are truly deserving of the top slot. We expect them to not only win both games, but win them decisively.

2. Barcelona
Last ranking: 2
Record: 7-0-1
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: Like Real Madrid, Barcelona won both their league games last week with ease. The two sides are already atop the Liga standings, each with perfect 5-0-0 records. Will it last? Yeah.
Upcoming schedule: Host Dynamo Kiev when the Champions League returns to action tomorrow. Host Almeira Saturday.

3. Manchester United
Last ranking: 4
Record: 8-1-0
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 won a close one at Wolves in the League Cup on Wednesday, then got a pair of second half goals to book a win at the Brittania Saturday.
Upcoming schedule: Host VfL Wolfsburg in the Champions League Wednesday and Sunderland Saturday. Wolfsburg could be tricky, but probably won't be. Sunderland won't be. A visit to Anfield looms Oct. 25.

4. Chelsea
Last ranking: 3
Record: 8-1-0
Results of note: Beat then-No. 10 Porto in Champions League group stage (1-0, Sept. 15).
Commentary/recent results: After a closer-than-comfortable 1-0 win over Queens Park Rangers in the League Cup at midweek, Blues fell apart at Wigan on Saturday, losing 3-1. Ouch. So why do they only drop one spot in the rankings? For one, the teams behind them didn't do particularly well. For another, it was their first loss of the season.
Upcoming schedule: At APOEL Nikosia in the second CL game Wednesday. Liverpool visit the Bridge Sunday.

5. Juventus
Last ranking: 6
Record: 4-0-3
Results of note: Drew then-No. 9 Girondins Bordeaux at home in Champions League group stage (1-1, Sept. 16).
Commentary/recent results: With Inter Milan and Chelsea both losing games last week, the stage was set for Juve to take a significant step up our rankings. Perhaps as high as No. 4? We'll never know, because the bianconeri blew a 1-0 halftime lead to draw Bologna, 1-1, at home. This four days after a 2-2 draw at CFC Genoa. Still, Juve are undefeated. Which is more than I can say of the teams immediately behind them. But some victories are needed if Juve are going to hold on to this perch.
Upcoming schedule: Play at Bayern Wednesday in Day Two of Champions League group play. Then it's off to Palermo, Sunday. Host Fiorentina a week from Saturday. As with Real Madrid, this should give us a better perspective of what this team is capable of.

6. Inter Milan
Last ranking: 5
Record: 4-1-2
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), lost at Sampdoria (1-0, Sept. 26).
Commentary/recent results: Had no problem with Napoli midweek, but the nerazzuri met their match at Sampdoria Saturday, losing 1-0 to the most surprising team of the Serie A season thus far. And, we should add, the best. Just look at the table.
Upcoming schedule: Visit Rubin Kazan tomorrow in the Champions League. They'll need the points after that scoreless draw against Barca in round one. Host Udinese Saturday. Visit the other Genoa team, CFC Genoa, a week from Saturday.

7. Liverpool
Last ranking: 7
Record: 7-2-0
Results of note: None yet.
Commentary/recent results: Okay so what is it with "Big Three" clubs winning their League Cup matches by 1-0? Reds did it at Leeds United Tuesday. They spotted Hull City a goal yesterday before shellacking them with six unanswered.
Upcoming schedule: Things get interesting with a trips to Fiorentina and Stamford Bridge this week. A crucial week for Rafa Benitez' men.

8. Girondins Bordeaux
Last ranking: 8
Record: 6-0-2
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 held on to defeat Stade Rennes yesterday. This may not sound like much (and is not enough to move them up in the rankings, as the teams ahead of them faced two games last week) but Rennes were previously unbeaten. Bordeaux maintain a two point lead atop the League Un standings with the victory. Lyon are second. Marseille have dropped a bit off the pace, five points behind Bordeaux and three behind Lyon.
Upcoming schedule: Host Maccabi Haifa in the second CL matchday the Wednesday. That's a must-win. Also play at St. Etienne Saturday. Then at Auxerre a week later. Then host Bayern Munich on Wednesday, Oct. 21.

9. Sevilla
Last ranking: 10
Record: 5-1-0
Results of note: Beat then No. 21 Unirea Urziceni in Champions League group stage at home (2-0, Sept. 16).
Commentary/recent results: Sevilla won both games last week without giving up a goal. More of the same, in other words (they were last scored upon Sept. 12, five games ago). But now things are about to get real.
Upcoming schedule: A trip to Ibrox is on tap tomorrow. Then Real Madrid pay a visit. We shall soon know if Sevilla are truly a top 10 team.

10. Olympique Lyonnais
Last ranking: 13
Record: 7-0-2
Results of note: Beat then-No. 18 Fiorentina at home in Champions League group stage (1-0, Sept. 16).
Commentary/recent results: Beat Toulouse Saturday, reversing a 1-0 halftime deficit to win 2-1. Lyon remain unbeaten.
Upcoming schedule: Visit Hungarian side Debreceni when the Champions League returns to action tomorrow. Visit Lens (it's pronounced "Lon's") Saturday. A trip to Anfield looms Oct. 20 in the third CL matchday.

11. Manchester City
Last ranking: 11
Record: 4-1-0
Results of note: Beat then-No. 8 Arsenal at home (4-2, Sept. 12), lost to then-No. 4 Manchester United (4-3, Sept. 20).
Commentary/recent results: Idle, so they hold on to their edge over Arsenal.
Upcoming schedule: Host West Ham United later today (I knew I should have taken off for Yom Kippur). Then a tough one at Villa Park Saturday. Liverpool are the next "big four" opponent, Nov. 21. That one's at Anfield. No European action for Citizens, so this is as much as we're going to get as a point of reference.

12. Arsenal
Last ranking: 12
Record: 7-2-0
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: Gunners won both games last week, at W.B.A. in the League Cup (2-0) and Fulham in the Premiership. The latter game was close: 1-0. We still can't move them ahead of a team they lost to on the field, however.
Upcoming schedule: Undefeated No. 15 Olympiakos visit the Emirates tomorrow. Then Blackburn, then Birmingham City.

13. Porto
Last ranking: 15
Record: 4-2-1
Results of note: Lost at then-No. 3 Chelsea in Champions League group stage (1-0, Sept. 15).
Commentary/recent results: Porto booked their biggest victory of the season to date, defeating Sporting Lisbon 1-0. The Dragoes move up to third place in Liga Sagres with the victory, three behind Benfica and five behind unbeaten and untied Sporting Braga.
Upcoming schedule: Host Atletico Madrid Wednesday and visit Olhanense Sunday.

14. Dynamo Kiev
Last ranking: 14
Record: 9-0-1
Results of note: Won home match against then-No. 22 Rubin Kazan in Champions League group stage (3-1, Sept. 16).
Commentary/recent results: Dynamo had no problem with Zorja Lugansk Friday, winning 2-0 to maintain their two point lead atop the Ukrainian league standings.
Upcoming schedule: Visit Camp Nou. That will be interesting (we hope). Then it's a derby game with Arsenal Kiev on Saturday.

15. Olympiakos
Last ranking: 17
Record: 7-0-1
Results of note: Beat then-No. 17 AZ Alkmaar at home in Champions League group stage (1-0, Sept. 16).
Commentary/recent results: It was a big week for the Greek side and they answered the call, winning both games, midweek at AEK Athens (2-1) and Saturday over Panionios Athens at home (1-0). They're second in the Super League, two weeks behind Panathinaikos.
Upcoming schedule: An even bigger week. It's off to the Emirates for the second Champions League group stage match tomorrow, which should give us an idea of whether they are deserving of this spot. (Alkaar have turned to crap, so that victory doesn't really do much for them). Also visit Levadiakos Saturday.

16. Hamburg SV
Last ranking: 22
Record: 6-2-2
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), beat then-No. 9 Bayern Munich (1-0, Sept. 26).
Commentary/recent results: I'm convinced HSV are completely schizophrenic. They lose to teams like Rapid Vienna and now VfL Osnabrueck (on penalties in a cup tie last Wednesday) then defeat Bayern Munich (1-0 Saturday). Did I mention they're in first place in the Bundesliga? Will the real HSV please show up?
Upcoming schedule: Host Happoel Tel Aviv in Europa League action Thursday. They'll need the three points after that meltdown in Vienna. Visit Hertha Berlin Sunday. Host Bayer Leverkusen, with whom they are currently tied in points atop the Bundesliga standings, on Saturday, Oct. 17.

17. Bayern Munich
Last ranking: 9
Record: 6-2-2
Results of note: Beat then-No. 11 VfL Wolfsburg at home (3-0, Aug. 28), lost at then-No. 22 Hamburg SV (1-0, Sept. 26).
Commentary/recent results: First the good: Bayern had no problems with their minnow opponent (Rot-Weiss Oberhausen, if you must know) in their midweek cup tie, winning 5-0. Now the bad: they then went to Hamburg and lost, 1-0. They drop eight spots on the latter result. A bit harsh, but justified if you look at their overall record. Now they'll have their chance to recover lost ground, however, because...
Upcoming schedule: Host Juventus in the next Champs League game on Wednesday. Also host Cologne Saturday. A clash with Girondins Bordeaux looms Oct. 21.

18. Shakhtar Donetsk
Last ranking: 16
Record: 8-2-1
Results of note: Lost UEFA Supercup to then-No. 2 Barcelona (1-0 in overtime, Aug. 28).
Commentary/recent results: Drew at Metalist Kharkov 1-1 at midweek but recovered with a 4-0 victory over Obolon Kiev yesterday. Metalist Kharkov are certainly decent (made a deep run in the UEFA Cup last season) but I'm going to dock points anyway, partly because I have nowhere to put them.
Upcoming schedule: Host Partizan Belgrade when the Europa League returns to action Thursday, with another Ukrainian league game on tap Saturday.

19. Galatasaray
Last ranking: 18
Record: 7-0-1
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 won their first game of the week, at Kasimpasa Istanbul Monday, their seventh straight to start the season. Then they inexplicably drew Eskisehispor yesterday, 1-1. At home. But wait! Eskisehispor are fourth in the Turkish league, with no losses! So I'm keeping Galatasaray in the Top 25, just a spot lower than they were.
Upcoming schedule: Host Sturm Graz in the next Europa League encounter Thursday and play some other Turkish club Sunday.

20. Benfica Lisbon
Last ranking: 21
Record: 7-0-1
Results of note: None yet.
Commentary/recent results: Benfica had no problems with Leixoes Matosinhos yesterday, walking off with an easy 5-0 win. They sit second in Liga Sagres, behind surprising Sporting Braga, whom you'll hear about in a moment.
Upcoming schedule: Visit AEK Athens when the Europa League returns Thursday. Play at Pacos de Ferreira Sunday. Host Everton in Europa League action a week from Thursday.

21. Sampdoria
Last ranking: None
Record: 5-1-0
Results of note: Beat then-No. 5 Inter Milan at home (1-0, Sept. 26).
Commentary/recent results: Too bad the Samp lost their midweek game at Fiorentina. Had they won, they would have made an even better Top 25 debut. By "debut" I mean all time. They've never been here before. Bienvenuti! So wait, how come they don't move ahead of Inter Milan the way Man City are ahead of Arsenal and HSV ahead of Bayern? We're going to need more evidence. This was the Samp's first big win of the season and they don't play in Europe.
Upcoming schedule: Host Parma Sunday. Visit Lazio a week later. A trip to Juventus looms Oct. 28.

21. Sporting Braga
Last ranking: None
Record: 6-0-0
Results of note: Won at Sporting Lisbon (2-1, Aug. 22), beat then-No. 10 Porto at home (1-0, Sept. 19).
Commentary/recent results: Like the Samp, Braga make their first ever appearance in the top 25 rankings. The catalyst was not what they did last week (a 1-0 victory at Olhanense Saturday) as what they did earlier (see above) or their overall record (ditto). Like Sampdoria, we are not moving them ahead of the foe they vanquished (in this case Porto) due to the discrepancy in schedules.
Upcoming schedule: Host Vitoria Setubal, Sunday. Unfortunately they (like the Samp) are not in any European competition this year.

23. Estudiantes
Last ranking: 24
Record: 6-0-1
Results of note: None yet.
Commentary/recent results: Estudiantes beat Boca Juniors by 2-1 Saturday, taking sole possession of first place in the Apertura table with the victory .
Upcoming schedule: Visit Argentinos Juniors Saturday.

24. Glasgow Rangers
Last ranking: 23
Record: 3-0-4
Results of note: Drew at VfB Stuttgart, 1-1, in the Champions League group stage opener.
Commentary/recent results: Another scoreless draw for Rangers, this one at home to Aberdeen. They're still unbeaten though.
Upcoming schedule: No. 9 Sevilla pay a visit tomorrow. The old firm is on tap Saturday. Lose both 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...

25. Club America
Last ranking: 25
Record: 5-1-3
Results of note: Beat Deportivo Toluca at home (7-2, Aug. 31).
Commentary/recent results: Beat Atlante 1-0 yesterday. Amazingly, they're only third in their Apertura group, one point behind Monarcas and two behind Monterrey.
Upcoming schedule: Visit Pachuca Saturday.

Dropping Out:
AC Milan (19), Olympique Marseille (20)

Also receiving consideration (in rough order of consideration received):
PSV Eindhoven, Bayer Leverkusen, VfL Wolfsburg.

Photo supplied by Wikipedia

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