Oct 5, 2009

The world's top 25 soccer clubs, Oct. 5, 2009

T'was a very busy week for the world's top soccer clubs, with a full round of UEFA Champions and Europa league action as well as domestic competitions. Several top 10 clubs lost games and were dropped to the second tier as a result. Who would replace them? Read on to find out. Note: The Top 25 will not appear next Monday due to the internationals break.

1. Barcelona
Last ranking: 2
Record (wins-losses-ties, in all competition; two-leg match-ups count as one): 9-0-1
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), beat then-No. 14 Dynamo Kiev at home in Champions League group stage (2-0, Sept. 29).
Commentary/recent results: Another perfect week for Barca, who were barely tested in either contest at their home grounds, defeating Dynamo Kiev at midweek and Almeira on Saturday without conceding a goal. With Real Madrid losing at Sevilla, Barcelona assume the No. 1 spot many have argued (not without merit) was their rightful place all season.
Upcoming schedule: Things get a bit more interesting with a trip to Valencia on the docket when league play resumes a week from Sunday. Not that anybody should expect Barca to lose (or even draw) that game...

2. Real Madrid
Last ranking: 1
Record: 7-1-0
Results of note: Lost at then-No. 9 Sevilla (2-1, Oct. 4)
Commentary/recent results: The merengues met their match at Sevilla's Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan yesterday, losing 2-1 in a game that would not have been as close if it wasn't for the heroics of one Ilker Casillas. True, Cristiano Ronaldo was kept out of the game due to an ankle injury, and true Sevilla are a formidable team (and on we very well may need to take into the equation not only in the Spanish Liga, but perhaps even the Champions League). But the loss is still a blow to Manuel Pellegrini's side, whose defensive play was particularly disappointing. Renato was left completely unmarked on the winning goal, for example--not for the first time in the game either. Where do Real Madrid go from here? It's a long season and they will likely have plenty of chances to make up the lost ground. But with Barca firing on all cylinders, there will likely be little room for error.
Upcoming schedule: Host Valladolid when league play resumes Oct. 18. Host AC Milan the following Wednesday. In case you're wondering, the first Barcelona match is at Camp Nou, Nov. 29.

3. Chelsea
Last ranking: 4
Record: 10-1-0
Results of note: Beat then-No. 10 Porto in Champions League group stage (1-0, Sept. 15), beat then-No. 7 Liverpool at home in Premiership (2-0, Oct. 4).
Commentary/recent results: After a closer-than-comfortable 1-0 win at Nikosia in the Champions League, Blues booked their biggest win of the season, defeating Liverpool 2-0 at Stamford Bridge. They take back first place in the Premiership, two points ahead of Man U. There's a chance they may not relinquish the spot again this season.
Upcoming schedule: A potentially intriguing game at Villa Park a week from Saturday.

4. Manchester United
Last ranking: 3
Record: 9-1-1
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 needed a stoppage time own goal by Anton Ferdinand to draw Sunderland at Old Trafford on Saturday. Sir Alex' men did not play particularly well, but losing would not have been very just either seeing how little Black Cats contributed to the flow of the game (not that one could or should any different from anybody playing at Old Trafford). Earlier in the week Man U saw off a pesky Wolfsburg side by 2-1.
Upcoming schedule: Host Bolton Wanderers when they return from the international break, then travel to CSKA Moscow in the Champions League and to Anfield the following weekend.

5. Sevilla
Last ranking: 9
Record: 7-1-0
Results of note: Beat then No. 21 Unirea Urziceni in Champions League group stage at home (2-0, Sept. 16), won at then-No. 24 Glasgow Rangers in Champions League group stage (4-1, Sept. 30), defeated then-No. 1 Real Madrid at home (2-1, Oct. 4).
Commentary/recent results: Los palanganas pulled off their biggest win in recent memory yesterday. Sevilla exposed a leaky Real Madrid defense and frankly outplayed their opponents from the Spanish capital. What does the victory portend for the future? We'll have to wait and see. But Sevilla are for real.
Upcoming schedule: Visit Deportivo La Coruna (quietly fourth in La Liga) when play resumes Oct. 18. In case you're wondering, they don't face Barcelona until January.

6. Inter Milan
Last ranking: 6
Record: 5-1-3
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: The nerazzurri suffered a setback in Champions League play, managing just a 1-1 draw at Russia's Rubin Kazan last Tuesday. They rebounded to defeat Udinese 2-1 at the San Siro over the weekend, on a late goal by Wesley Sneijder. Even though they deserve to drop in the rankings after the former result, poor play by the teams immediately behind them spared Inter this fate. Next time they probably won't be as lucky.
Upcoming schedule: Visit CFC Genoa when Serie A returns to action. Don't look now, but that's a fifth-placed Serie A team we're talking about. Then it's off to Dynamo Kiev. Will that game be a "must-win" already? No. But if they lose they'll be in big trouble in their Champions League group.

7. Olympique Lyonnais
Last ranking: 10
Record: 9-0-2
Results of note: Beat then-No. 18 Fiorentina at home in Champions League group stage (1-0, Sept. 16).
Commentary/recent results: L'OL trounced Debreceni 4-0 in their midweek Champions League match and followed this up with a 2-0 victory at Lens on Saturday. Lyon remain unbeaten in all competition. One of very few (two, in fact) of those type of teams left.
Upcoming schedule: Host Sochaux when they come back from international break. Travel to Anfield the following week. An Oct. 31 game at Bordeaux-beaters St. Etienne has the potential to be interesting.

8. Juventus
Last ranking: 5
Record: 4-1-4
Results of note: Drew then-No. 9 Girondins Bordeaux at home in Champions League group stage (1-1, Sept. 16), drew at then-No. 17 Bayern Munich in Champions League group stage (0-0, Sept. 30).
Commentary/recent results: It was a tough week for the bianconeri. The scoreless draw at Bayern Munich was one thing. We can forgive that, even though Bayern have been struggling somewhat. But yesterday's 2-nil loss to Palermo was horrible. We're talking about a team (Palermo) that had just one win from six games going into yesterday's meeting. Meanwhile, the Vecchia Signora has not won a game in two weeks. Weak. Come to think of it, why are they still a Top 10 team? Talk about a fortunate ranking.
Upcoming schedule: Host Fiorentina a week from Saturday. An interesting encounter with Sampdoria is on the docket Oct. 28.

9. Porto
Last ranking: 13
Record: 6-2-1
Results of note: Lost at then-No. 3 Chelsea in Champions League group stage (1-0, Sept. 15).
Commentary/recent results: The Dragoes had absolutely no problem with either opponent last week, defeating Atletico Madrid 2-0 and Olhanense 3-0. It says the Atletico game was a Champions League encounter but that's got to be a mistake. Champions League teams are supposed to be good, and Atletico Madrid is anything but.
Upcoming schedule: Host Sertanense when we rturn from the internationals break.

10. 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: Beat West Ham United 3-1 a week ago.
Upcoming schedule: Play at Villa Park later today. 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.

11. 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), beat then-No. 15 Olympiakos at home in Champions League group play (2-0, Sept. 29).
Commentary/recent results: Gunners won both games last week, over Olympiakos in the Champions League and Blackburn Rovers in the Premiership. The former was a "quality victory" given the Greek club's status as a Top 25 club. We still can't move Gunners ahead of a team they lost to on the field, however. But if the quality victories begin to add up...
Upcoming schedule: Host Birmingham City Saturday, Oct. 17. Visit Dutch champs AZ Alkmaar and Upton Park the following week.

12. Girondins Bordeaux
Last ranking: 8
Record: 7-1-2
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: Bordeaux suffered their first defeat in seven months, losing 3-1 at St. Etienne on Saturday. This after defeating Maccabi Haifa in midweek Champions League action. The loss drops les girondins to second in Ligue Un, one point behind Olympique Lyon. Perhaps more importantly, they exit the Top 10 as a result.
Upcoming schedule: Visit Auxerre Oct. 17. Host Bayern Munich in a Champions League thriller the following Wednesday. They don't meet Lyon until Dec. 12, if you're wondering.

13. Liverpool
Last ranking: 7
Record: 7-4-0
Results of note: Lost at then-No. 4 Chelsea (2-0, Oct. 4).
Commentary/recent results: A terrible week for Reds, who dropped a pair of 2-nil decisions on the road. The first, at Fiorentina, was disappointing but should probably not cost them much in the long run. The second, at Stamford Bridge, is more damaging. Rafa Benitez' men have to be careful now, because they could see the season slip away from them in the weeks ahead. Check out their...
Upcoming schedule: At Sunderland when the Premiership returns to action a week from Saturday. Okay, that shouldn't be terribly difficult. But then it's Olympique Lyon, Man United and Arsenal. The Lyon and Man U matches are at Anfield though. Reds will need the home support.

14. Hamburg SV
Last ranking: 16
Record: 8-2-2
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: HSV passed both tests last week, defeating Happoel Tel Aviv in Europa League action and Hertha Berlin in the Bundesliga yesterday.
Upcoming schedule: Host Bayer Leverkusen, with whom they are currently tied in points atop the Bundesliga standings, on Saturday, Oct. 17.

15. Dynamo Kiev
Last ranking: 14
Record: 10-1-1
Results of note: Won home match against then-No. 22 Rubin Kazan in Champions League group stage (3-1, Sept. 16), lost at then-No. 2 Barcelona in Champions League group stage,
Commentary/recent results: Dynamo didn't put up much of a fight at Camp Nou, succumbing to Champions League holders Barca by 2-nil. Their first loss of the season. Rebounded to beat Arsenal Kiev in a derby match yesterday. Dynamo have a healthy four point lead atop the Ukrainian league.
Upcoming schedule: Another Kiev derby, this one with Obolon (?) Oct. 17 followed by a key Champ's League game at the San Siro against Inter Milan.

16. Olympiakos
Last ranking: 15
Record: 8-1-1
Results of note: Beat then-No. 17 AZ Alkmaar at home in Champions League group stage (1-0, Sept. 16), lost at then-No. 12 Arsenal in Champions League group stage (2-0, Sept. 29).
Commentary/recent results: The Greek side rebounded from their midweek loss at the Emirates, defeating Levadiakos 3-0 Saturday. They maintain first place in Greece with the victory.
Upcoming schedule: Host Asteras Tripolis Oct. 18 before hosting Standard Liege two days later in a Champions League tie.

17. Bayern Munich
Last ranking: 17
Record: 6-2-4
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), drew then-No. 5 Juventus at home in Champions League group stage (0-0, Sept. 30).
Commentary/recent results: A pair of scoreless draws last week, both at home. The first, against Juventus, is forgivable. The second, against Cologne, is not.
Upcoming schedule: Visit Freiburg Saturday, Oct. 17. A clash with Girondins Bordeaux looms Oct. 21.

18. Valencia
Last ranking: None
Record: 4-1-3
Results of note: Defeated then-No. 9 Sevilla at home (2-0, Aug. 30).
Commentary/recent results: Valencia book a pair of solid victories last week, forcing us to take notice and include them in the Top 25 for the first time this season. It also helped that they are the only club in the world to have defeated Sevilla this season (even if it did come in August). At midweek they defeated a very solid CFC Genoa side 3-2 in Europa League action before booking a 1-nil win at Racing Santander. Los xotos move up to fifth in La Liga with the latter victory.
Upcoming schedule: Host No. 1 Barcelona when league play resumes next week. We have that to look forward to.

19. Standard Liege
Last ranking: None
Record: 5-1-6
Results of note: Lost against then-No. 14 Arsenal at home in Champions League group stage (3-2, Sept. 16).
Commentary/recent results: Standard's unlucky home loss to Arsenal was their only loss of the season (though it is true that they've drawn a bunch). Last week they drew former Top 25 side (and Dutch champions) AZ Alkmaar 1-1 in their second Champions League group game. The fourth team in the group is Olympiakos so a Round of 16 spot is there for the taking. Stay tuned.
Upcoming schedule: Visit Westerlo (shouldn't that be "Westward Ho"? Never mind) Sept. 27 before traveling to Olympiakos in the ensuing Champions League round.

20. Shakhtar Donetsk
Last ranking: 18
Record: 9-2-2
Results of note: Lost UEFA Supercup to then-No. 2 Barcelona (1-0 in overtime, Aug. 28).
Commentary/recent results: Had no problem with Partizan Belgrade in their Europa League match, winning 4-1. This weekend's escapade was less successful, with a 2-2 draw at Dnepr Dnepropetrovsk (if I spelled that right it's only because I copied and pasted it correctly). After nine games, Shakhtar train Dynamo Kiev by four points in the Ukrainian Premier Liga.
Upcoming schedule: Host Karpaty Lvov (see Dnepr Dnepropetrovsk above) when league play resumes Oct. 17. Then host Toulouse in Europa League action. In case, you're wondering: the first meeting with Dynamo Kiev is Nov. 21.

21. Sporting Braga
Last ranking: 22
Record: 7-0-0
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: Beat Vitoria Setubal 2-0 at home Saturday. Braga are unbeaten and untied. They don't have to worry about European competition, however. But they've faced (and defeated) some quality sides in Portugal (see above).
Upcoming schedule: A cup tie at Sporting Corvilha when they return from international break, Oct. 18.

22. Twente
Last ranking: None
Record: 9-3-1
Results of note: Lost a Champions League qualifier against Sporting Lisbon (1-1 on aggregate).
Commentary/recent results: Go ahead and laugh. Twente's have not lost since the unfortunate Champions League qualifier back in July and August. Even then they didn't actually lose but were eliminated due to the away goal rule (which we count as a loss). Their run since is good enough for first place in the Dutch Eredivisie. Perhaps most impressive was their Sept. 17 victory at Fenerbahce Istanbul in a Europa League game (which they followed up with a disappointing scoreless draw at home to Steaua Bucharest last week. But we don't need to talk about that).
Upcoming schedule: Host defending champs AZ Alkmaar Oct. 17.

23. Sampdoria
Last ranking: 21
Record: 5-1-1
Results of note: Beat then-No. 5 Inter Milan at home (1-0, Sept. 26).
Commentary/recent results: Managed just a 1-1 draw against Parma at home yesterday, relinquishing first place in Serie A in the process (though they're still level on points with Inter).
Upcoming schedule: Visit Lazio when league play resumes a week from Sunday. A trip to Juventus looms Oct. 28.

24. Velez Sarsfield
Last ranking: None
Record: 7-0-2
Results of note: Defeated Boca Juniors in the first round of the Copa Sudamericana.
Commentary/recent results: Argentina's reigning Clausura champs drew at Chile's Union Espanola to advance to the Copa Sudamericana quarterfinals where they'll face LDU Quito.
Upcoming schedule: Host Argentinos Juniors Friday and Lanus Saturday. Can that be? Games on back-to-back days?

25. Deportivo Toluca
Last ranking: None
Record: 8-2-1
Results of note: None yet.
Commentary/recent results: Drew San Luis at home, 1-1 yesterday. The diablos rojos have the best record of any team in Mexico, but we are seriously close to dropping our requirement that one team in the Top 25 must come from CONCACAF. Especially now that they aren't even playing the Copa Sudamericana anymore.
Upcoming schedule: Host Tigres, Sunday.

Dropping Out:
Galatasaray (19), Benfica Lisbon (20), Estudiantes (23), Glasgow Rangers (24), Club America (25).

Also receiving consideration (in rough order of consideration received):
Bayer Leverkusen, PSV Eindhoven, Fenerbahce Istanbul, Aston Villa.

Photo taken from palanganas.com.

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