Nov 23, 2009

The world's top 25 soccer clubs, Nov. 23, 2009

After all the drama surrounding the international games (specifically one hand ball by one Frenchman in overtime of one World Cup qualifier playoff match) it's good to get back to the relative serenity of club football. Granted this weekend was really just warmup for the week ahead, which besides Champions League action will also feature Barca v. Real and Arsenal v. Chelsea, among others. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Here this week's rankings:

1. Chelsea
Last ranking: 1
Record (wins-losses-ties, in all competition; two-leg match-ups count as one): 16-2-1
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), beat then-No. 4 Man United at home in Premiership (1-0, Nov. 8).
Commentary/recent results: Chelsea had absolutely no problem with Wolves Saturday, easily dispatching the West Midlands side by 4-0. The game was effectively over after 22 minutes, by which point Blues had a 3-0 lead.
Upcoming schedule: Things get a bit more interesting this week with a trip to Porto to decide first place in their Champions League group (both clubs have advanced to the elimination round) and a visit to the Emirates (stadium, not country) Sunday.

2. Inter Milan
Last ranking: 2
Record: 11-1-5
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), drew then-No. 13 Dynamo Kiev at home (2-2, Oct. 20), beat then-No. 13. Dynamo Kiev on the road (2-1, Nov. 4).
Commentary/recent results: The nerazzurri won their Serie A match at Bologna Saturday. Now things are about to get interesting.
Upcoming schedule: First it's off to Camp Nou (the seventh-biggest soccer mecca in the world) for a crucial Champions League tie tomorrow. They then host Fiorentina Sunday, play at Juventus Dec. 5 and host Rubin Kazan Dec. 9. By that point Inter could be anywhere from first in this list, to off of it altogether. Or more likely, some point in between.

3. Barcelona
Last ranking: 3
Record: 12-1-5
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), drew at then-No. 18 Valencia (0-0, Oct. 17), lost at home to then-No. 23 Rubin Kazan (2-1, Oct. 20), drew at then-No. 11 Rubin Kazan (0-0, Nov. 4).
Commentary/recent results: Barca played a 1-1 draw at Athletic Bilbao Saturday. The result drops them into second place in La Liga, one point behind Real Madrid. It's a forgivable offense though; Bilbao are always strong at home and this year are making inroads in the European spots of the Spanish league standings; at time of this writing they were eighth, just one point behind sixth place. That's just one of the reasons Barca are staying third. The other is the result of their Copa del Rey tie, which concluded with a 5-0 home victory Nov. 10 (remember we count two leg elimination match-ups as one result).
Upcoming schedule: A crucial Champions League match at home versus No. 2 Inter followed by a crucial Liga match against Real Madrid (also home) Sunday. A crucial week, in other words.

4. Sevilla
Last ranking: 5
Record: 12-2-2
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 completed their Copa del Rey victory over some minnow club before the internationals break and won 2-1 at Tenerife Saturday to keep place with leaders Real Madrid. Sevilla sit third, just two points behind Barcelona.
Upcoming schedule: A largely meaningless Champions League match at Unirea Urziceni tomorrow. Meaningless, that is, for Sevilla. Their Romanian hosts have everything to play for, holding on to second place in the group by a two point margin over VfB Stuttgart and three points over Glasgow Rangers.

5. Manchester United
Last ranking: 6
Record: 13-3-2
Results of note: Beat then No. 4 Arsenal at home (2-1, Aug. 29), beat then-No. 13 Manchester City (4-3, Sept. 20), lost at then-No. 20 Liverpool (2-0, Oct. 25), lost at then-No. 1 Chelesa (1-0, Nov. 8)
Commentary/recent results: Red Devils put on a convincing display in their 3-0 victory over Everton Saturday.
Upcoming schedule: Host Besiktas Istanbul in a largely meaningless Champions League encounter Wednesday. Visit Pompey for some more target practice Saturday.

6. Juventus
Last ranking: 8
Record: 10-2-5
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: The bianconeri dropped Udinese 1-0 yesterday to stay five points behind Inter.
Upcoming schedule: Visit Bordeaux Wednesday and Cagliari Sunday. A clash with Inter looms a week from Saturday.

7. Real Madrid
Last ranking: 4
Record: 10-3-3
Results of note: Lost at then-No. 9 Sevilla (2-1, Oct. 4). drew at then-No. 17 AC Milan (1-1, Nov. 3).
Commentary/recent results: The merengues were unable to make the return leg of their Copa del Rey match with lowly Alcorcon at all interesting. They won 1-0 but exit the tourney 5-1 on aggregate. A disappointing result for Manuel Pellegrini's men--and one that we had not weighted into the rankings until now. That's why Real drop three spots despite winning back first place in La Liga, which they did Saturday with a 1-0 home victory over Racing Santander.
Upcoming schedule: Host FC Zurich in the Champions League Wednesday. A win and they're in to the elimination round--likely as group winners (depending on what happens in the other match between Olympique Marseille and AC Milan). Then it's a trip to Camp Nou and Barcelona, Sunday.

8. Rubin Kazan
Last Ranking: 10
Record: 19-5-7*
Results of note: In Champions League group stage lost at then-No. 20 Dynamo Kiev (3-1, Sept. 16), drew then-No. 6 Inter Milan at home (1-1, Oct. 6), won at then-No. 1 Barcelona (2-1, Oct. 20), drew then-No. 3 Barcelona at home (0-0, Nov. 3).
Commentary/recent results: Played Zenit St. Petersburg to a scoreless draw Friday, which was enough to defend the Russian league title. One matchday remains with Kazan's lead now an insurmountable five points.
Upcoming schedule: Now on to European glory? Kazan can effectively clinch a spot in the Champions League eliminations round if they beat Dynamo Kiev at home tomorrow.
*Russian league starts in the spring.

9. Arsenal
Last ranking: 7
Record: 12-3-2
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), beat then-No. 20 Liverpool at home in League Cup (2-1, Oct. 28).
Commentary/recent results: Gunners lost a game they really couldn't afford to Saturday, coming up on the short end of a 1-0 result at Sunderland. The loss drops Arsene Wenger's side eight points behind league-leading Chelsea (though they do have a game in hand). Still, you can't be very comfortable about Arsenal's title chances now.
Upcoming schedule: Host Standard Liege tomorrow and No. 1 Chelsea Sunday. If they lose that their title hopes are almost officially shot.

10. AC Milan
Last ranking: 13
Record: 9-3-5
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), won at then-No. 2 Real Madrid (3-2, Oct. 21), drew then-No. 5 Real Madrid at home (1-1, Nov. 3).
Commentary/recent results: The rossoneri beat Cagliari in a 4-3 thriller at San Siro yesterday to keep place with the league leaders with whom they share said stadium (which incidentally was ranked 10th among world "soccer meccas" by yours truly).
Upcoming schedule: Host Olympique Marseille in a crucial Champions League tie Wednesday. Win, and Milan advance to the elimination round. Lose, and they relinquish control of their own destiny.

11. Girondins Bordeaux
Last ranking: 9
Record: 12-4-2
Results of note: A scoreless draw at then-No. 18 Olympique Marseille (Aug. 30), drew at then No. 5 Juventus (1-1, Sept. 15), beat then-No. 16 Bayern Munich at home (2-1, Oct. 21), won at then-No. 19 Bayern Munich (2-0, Nov. 3).
Commentary/recent results: Bordeaux lost their second Ligue Un match in a row, 1-0 to Valenciennes at home. They relinquish first place with the result.
Upcoming schedule: Host Juventus in the Champions League Wednesday. First place in the group is on the line (Bordeaux have the edge by two points). Also visit Nancy (it's the name of a French city, not just a woman's first name) Sunday.

12. Porto
Last ranking: 11
Record: 10-3-1
Results of note: Lost at then-No. 3 Chelsea in Champions League group stage (1-0, Sept. 15).
Commentary/recent results: None. The Dragoes' Saturday cup tie was canceled for some reason.
Upcoming schedule: Host Chelsea in the Champions League Wednesday and some Portuguese team I've never heard of Sunday.

13. Dynamo Kiev
Last ranking: 16
Record: 13-3-3
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, drew at then-No. 4 Inter Milan (2-2, Oct. 20), lost at then-No. 22 Shakhtar Donetsk in domestic cup (2-0, Oct. 28), lost at home to then-No. 2 Inter Milan (2-1, Nov. 4), defeated then-No. 14 Shakhtar Donetsk (3-0, Nov. 21).
Commentary/recent results: Dynamo won their weekend match over Shakhtar Donetsk to expand their lead in the Ukrainian league to six points.
Upcoming schedule: Visit Ruben Kazan tomorrow in a game they need to win to have any hope of advancing to the eliminations round of the Champions League (though they'll likely stay alive with a draw as well).

14. Valencia
Last ranking: 15
Record: 9-1-5
Results of note: Defeated then-No. 9 Sevilla at home (2-0, Aug. 30), drew then-No. 1 Barcelona at home (0-0, Oct. 17).
Commentary/recent results: Los xotos finished off Alcoyano in their Copa del Rey match and won at Osasuna yesterday. They're fourth in La Liga, four points behind Real Madrid.
Upcoming schedule: Host sixth-placed Mallorca Saturday.

15. Olympique Lyonnais
Last ranking: 12
Record: 12-2-4
Results of note: Beat then-No. 18 Fiorentina at home in Champions League group stage (1-0, Sept. 16), won at then-No. 20 Liverpool (2-1, Oct. 20).
Commentary/recent results: L'OL inexplicably dropped two points at last-placed Grenoble Saturday, drawing the lowly cellar dwellers 1-1. The result is even more embarrassing because the point is Grenoble's second this season. That and they equalized after having one of their players sent off. Incredibly weak stuff by Lyon, who are nevertheless third in Ligue Un, only a point behind new leaders Auxerre.
Upcoming schedule: Visit Fiorentina tomorrow in a game that is more important to Liverpool than just about anybody. For Reds to have any chance at making it to the knockout round, Lyon need to win the game. But L'OL have already qualified. Will they bother putting up a fight? First place in the group is still on the line, so we would expect so. But who knows?

16. PSV Eindhoven
Last ranking: 18
Record: 14-0-5
Results of note: Drew at Twente (1-1, Aug. 9).
Commentary/recent results: Had no problem with Heracles Almeto, winning 4-0 at home yesterday. The win allows PSV to keep pace with leaders Twente, whom they trail by two points in the Dutch Eredivisie. Both clubs are unbeaten.
Upcoming schedule: Visit Sparta Rotterdam Friday.

17. Shakhtar Donetsk
Last ranking: 14
Record: 13-3-3
Results of note: Lost UEFA Supercup to then-No. 2 Barcelona (1-0 in overtime, Aug. 28), beat then-No. 10 Dynamo Kiev at home in domestic cup match (2-0, Oct. 28), lost at then No. 16 Dynamo Kiev (3-0, Nov. 21).
Commentary/recent results: Shakhtar suffered a setback at Dynamo Kiev Saturday, losing 3-0 to drop to third place in the Ukrainian league, seven points behind the leaders.
Upcoming schedule: Host some Ukrainian team Saturday.

18. Werder Bremen
Last ranking:-
Record: 13-1-6
Results of note: Drew at Bayern Munich (1-1, Aug. 18), drew at Leverkusen (0-0, Sept. 20)
Commentary/recent results: Here's all you really need to know about Werder Bremen: Thomas Schaaf's side have lost just once all season and that was in August. Early August in fact; Aug. 8, the first Bundesliga matchday. Granted some of their six draws have fallen short of expectations (Austria Vienna anyone?) but Werder have booked a trip in the Europa League elimination round, probably as victors of the group (which also includes Athletic Bilbao and Portugal's Nacional Funchal).
Upcoming schedule: Host the defending champions Wolfsburg Saturday.

19. Bayer Leverkusen
Last ranking: 19
Record: 7-1-6
Results of note: Won at then-No. 15 VfL Wolfsburg (3-2, Sept. 12), drew at then-No. 14 Hamburg SV (0-0, Oct. 17), drew at then-No. 24 Bayern Munich (1-1, Nov. 22).
Commentary/recent results: There was no winner in the marquee matchup of the Bundesliga round in Munich yesterday. Bayer Leverkusen drew Bayern Munich 1-1. Their lead atop the Bundesliga standings shrink to a point as a result.
Upcoming schedule: Host VfB Stuttgart Sunday.

20. Ajax Amsterdam
Last ranking:-
Record: 12-2-4
Results of note: Lost at PSV Eindhoven (4-3, Aug. 16), drew at RSC Anderlecht in Europa League (1-1, Oct. 1), lost at Twente (1-0, Nov. 11)
Commentary/recent results: Ajax make their first appearance in the Top 25 since August 2008, which is a lengthy absence for a club of Ajax' stature. The return is well deserved though. The team's record speaks for itself but they are also tied for first place in their Europa League group (with Anderlecht, whom we'll discuss in a bit). Most years a record with two losses might be good enough for first place in their domestic table at this point of the season. But Twente and PSV Eindhoven are both unbeaten. Still, a six point deficit is not is not fatal at this point of the season. Could this be the season Ajax return to domestic and continental glory? Yes. Will it? No clue.
Upcoming schedule: At Vitesse Arnheim Sunday.

21. RSC Anderlecht
Last ranking:-
Record: 14-4-4
Results of note: Lost Champions League qualifier against Olympique Lyon, drew Ajax Amsterdam at home in Europa League group stage (1-1, Oct. 1)
Commentary/recent results: There is obviously very little separating the Belgian side from the Dutch juggernauts they trail by one spot (yes, Holland and Belgium are distinct countries). This was on display Oct. 1 when they drew 1-1 at Anderlecht. Ajax get the edge because they play in a tougher league and have a better overall record and also because the aforementioned game was played in Belgium (which again is a different country from Holland). They meet again in the Dutch capital on Dec. 17. Anyway, Anderlecht do lead their domestic league by five points over Bruges.
Upcoming schedule: Some Belgian club Friday. Dynamo Zagreb in Europa League action next week but that shouldn't matter because Ajax and RSC have a stranglehold on the group, pretty much.

22. Olympique Marseille
Last ranking: -
Record: 8-4-4
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), lost at then-No. 1 Real Madrid (3-0, Sept. 30), drew at then-No. 12 Olympique Lyon (5-5, Nov. 8).
Commentary/recent results: L'OM defeated archrivals Paris Saint Germain 1-0 Saturday to keep in touch with the top of the table. They trail first-placed Auxerre by just four points and have a game in hand to boot. They're still alive in a tough Champions League group as well, but need to get a result this week...
Upcoming schedule: Visit AC Milan Wednesday and Lens Saturday. The first of these is of particular importance because l'OM sit third in the group, one point behind both Real Madrid and AC Milan. That's better than many had expected them to be at this point. If nothing elese a Europa League spot should be in the cards.

23. Olympiakos
Last ranking: 22
Record: 12-3-3
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: Drew at PAOS Ionnina 2-2 Saturday but fortunately did not give up any ground to leaders Panathinaikos, who drew 1-1 at home to Asteras Tripolis. Two points separate the two clubs atop the Greek Super League table.
Upcoming schedule: Visit AZ Alkmaar in a crucial Champions League game tomorrow. Win and they're probably in to the next round (assuming third-placed Standard Liege lose at Arsenal). Lose and they may not make the Europa League cutoff.

24. Bayern Munich
Last ranking: 24
Record: 9-4-7
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), lost at then-No. 17 Girondins Bordeaux (2-1, Oct. 21), lost at home to then-No. 7 Bordeaux (2-0, Nov. 3), tied then-No. 19 Bayer Leverkusen at home (1-1, Nov. 22).
Commentary/recent results: Bayern managed a 1-1 draw at home to Bundesliga leaders Leverkusen to hang in the race (though seventh, they sit just six points behind the leaders) as well as onto their top 25 spot.
Upcoming schedule: A must win Champions League match against Maccabi Haifa at home Wednesday. A spot in the eliminations round is probably shot anyway, but at least a victory would assure a spot in the Europa League after new years.

25. LDU Quito
Last ranking: 25
Record: 11-2-4
Results of note: Defeated Velez Sarsfield in the Copa Sudamericana quarterfinals.
Commentary/recent results: The Ecuadorian side are no strangers to the Top 25 with their last appearance coming in March it appears. The defending Copa Libertadores champions are through to the finals of the Copa Sudamericana after beating up on Uruguay's River Plate by 7-0 (!) in the return leg of the semifinal (they were down 2-1 from the first leg in Uruguay).
Upcoming schedule: Face Brazil's Fluminense in the two-legged final. The first leg is in Ecuador Wednesday.

Dropping Out:
Fiorentina (17) after losing at home to Parma, Wolfsburg (20) after losing at home to Nurnberg, Fenerbahce (21) after losing 3-0 at Besiktas Istanbul, Galatasaray (23) after drawing Manisaspor at home.

Also receiving consideration (in rough order of consideration received):
Twente, Panathinaikos, Schalke 04.

Please Note:
We've officially dropped the goofy "bylaw" that required placing clubs from South and Central America in this list regardless if they deserved it. We'll still include those teams if the situation calls for it, but not just because.

Sorry Spurs fans, as impressive as your beatdown of Wigan might be, it still does not a quality win make. But some big games over the next week and a half (Villa, Man U., Everton) give Tottenham a definite chance to have their say. Will they take it? What do the rest of you think of the rankings? Any clubs you think should have been included? (Be reasonable, please, keeping in mind this is about a club's current form, not its historical status).

Photo taken from without permission.

1 comment:

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