Nov 30, 2009

The world's top 25 soccer clubs, Nov. 30, 2009

A very telling weekend in world soccer is behind us. In England, Chelsea passed the latest test thrown its way thanks in no small part to the contributions of this man. In Spain, Real Madrid and Barcelona fought each other tooth and nail in a match that was decided in Barca's favor. In Italy, Inter Milan expanded its lead atop the Serie A standings--and has a new follower giving chase. How did it all reflect in the top 25? Take a look:

1. Chelsea
Last ranking: 1
Record (wins-losses-ties, in all competition; two-leg match-ups count as one): 18-2-1
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), won at then-No. 12 Porto (1-0, Nov. 25), won at then-No. 9 Arsenal (3-0, Nov. 29).
Commentary/recent results: It was a stellar week for Chelsea, who lived up to the billing of the best soccer club in the world. They first won at Porto to wrap up first place in their Champions League group. The second victory, at Emirates, was even more impressive. True, Gunners played them tough, particularly in the second half, and true Chelsea decided the game with two lightning quick plays in a three-minute span on the stroke of halftime. But there should be no doubt who the better team was on the pitch. The same one that's best in England, Europe, and the world.
Upcoming schedule: Play at Blackburn in a League Cup tie Wednesday and at Manchester City Saturday. The latter game could be tough. But probably not.

2. Barcelona
Last ranking: 3
Record: 14-1-5
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), beat then-No. 2 Inter Milan (2-0, Nov. 24), beat then-No. 7 Real Madrid (1-0, Nov. 29).
Commentary/recent results: A terrific week for Barca, who saw off two different top 10 clubs. Granted the second victory, over archrivals Real Madrid, was a little lucky as well. But props to Pep Guardiola for the Zlatan Ibrahimovic substitution, which turned the match in Barca's favor. The return match at the Bernabeu (sixth-biggest 'soccer mecca') is sure to be very interesting. Barca now have a two point lead in La Liga but you have the feeling we're just getting started with the title race, which should come down to the last weekend of the season.
Upcoming schedule: At Deportivo Xerez Wednesday and Deportivo La Coruna Saturday. The latter match could be interesting because La Coruna sit fifth in La Liga.

3. Inter Milan
Last ranking: 2
Record: 12-2-5
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), lost at then-No. 3 Barcelona (2-0, Nov. 24).
Commentary/recent results: The nerazzurri went down in flames at Camp Nou, but thanks to Rubin Kazan and Dynamo Kiev not doing each other any favors are still in good shape to advance out of their Champions League. But things are looking good domestically, where they dropped Fiorentina 1-0 on a late penalty yesterday. Along with Juventus' loss at Cagliari it gives Inter an eight point lead atop the Serie A table. That may be enough.
Upcoming schedule: The aforementioned Juventus are up Saturday. Win and the lead is 11 points. But the game is in Turin. Expect Juve to mount a challenge for this one, especially after losing yesterday.

4. Manchester United
Last ranking: 5
Record: 14-4-2
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 Chelsea (1-0, Nov. 8)
Commentary/recent results: Man United needed just a point from their midweek encounter with Besiktas Istanbul to book first place in their Champions League group. Besiktas has been complete crap so you really would have expected Red Devils to do at least that. But it didn't happen and Sir Alex' men lost 1-0 at Old Trafford. So now it will come down to the final matchday Dec. 8 when they host German champs Wolfsburg, again needing just a point to book first place. Anyway, what Man U did at Pompey on Saturday was significantly better. Avram Grant's new club did not look like a last-placed team and particularly in the first half were right there with Red Devils. But three second half goals put an end to that.
Upcoming schedule: Host Spurs in a League Cup match tomorrow. Visit West Ham on Saturday.

5. Girondins Bordeaux
Last ranking: 11
Record: 14-4-2
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), beat then-No. 6 Juventus at home (2-0, Nov. 25).
Commentary/recent results: Les girondins are back. Back in first place in Ligue Un after defeating Nancy 3-0 yesterday. Back as a veritable Champions League contender after beating Juventus by 2-0 and clinching first place in a very challenging group. Back in the top 10.
Upcoming schedule: Host Paris Saint Germain Saturday.

6. AC Milan
Last ranking: 10
Record: 10-3-6
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), drew against then-No. 22 Olympique Marseille (1-1, Nov. 25).
Commentary/recent results: The rossoneri take a healthy leap in the rankings but it might have been even greater had they managed to defeat Marseille at midweek. Instead the draw means they will likely need a result in the final matchday at FC Zurich (then again, how difficult should that be? Yes, we know Milan lost the first game at home. Don't expect history to repeat itself). More impressive was Milan's dramatic win over Catania yesterday. The two sides appeared headed for a scoreless draw when substitute Klaas Jan Huntelaar struck for two goals in stoppage time. Milan take over second place in Serie A with the result. Perhaps more importantly, that's the type of result that gives a team morale. Leonardo's side already have several "quality victories" to their credit (see above). Don't look now, but they haven't lost since that ugly home decision to FC Zurich back on Sept. 30.
Upcoming schedule: Host Sampdoria Saturday.

7. Real Madrid
Last ranking: 7
Record: 11-4-3
Results of note: Lost at then-No. 9 Sevilla (2-1, Oct. 4). drew at then-No. 17 AC Milan (1-1, Nov. 3), lost at then-No. 3 Barcelona (1-0, Nov. 29).
Commentary/recent results: The merengues had no problems with FC Zurich in midweek Champions League action, winning 1-0 to take first place in the group. They didn't play badly yesterday either, but lost 1-0 at archrivals Barcelona in a thrilling encounter at Camp Nou. Real dominated the early stages of the match and were unlucky to not get an early goal or two. Karim Benzema had the equalizer on his foot but it was not to be. Still, it was an encouraging performance from Real's point-of-view. The Liga race is sure to be very, very close. More importantly, for our purposes, Real are allowed to keep their place at No. 7 despite the loss.
Upcoming schedule: Host Almeira Saturday before finishing up the Champions League group stage at Marseille a week from tomorrow. They'll likely need to win that because FC Zurich can't be expected to give them much help against Milan.

8. Sevilla
Last ranking: 4
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: It was not a good week for los palanganas, who missed a chance to put the wraps on their Champions League group, losing 1-0 at Unirea Urziceni. The Romanian side now very well may end up winning the group--but probably not because Sevilla host hapless Glasgow Rangers on the final matchday. Then they blew two points at home against Malaga, though in fairness they did show some heart in coming back from a 2-0 halftime deficit to draw 2-2. Nevertheless, this is enough to discount their ranking by a significant margin.
Upcoming schedule: Host Valladolid Sunday.

9. Rubin Kazan
Last Ranking: 8
Record: 20-5-8*
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), drew then-No. 13 Dynamo Kiev at home (0-0, Nov. 24).
Commentary/recent results: The Russians had a golden opportunity to put some distance between themselves and everybody else in their Champions League group, facing their easiest task of their European schedule to date. Alas, they were unable to take advantage and dropped two crucial points in a scoreless home draw to Dynamo Kiev. Kazan did rebound to win their Russian league match yesterday but that was completely meaningless seeing as they had already wrapped up the title.
Upcoming schedule: The Russian campaign is over. The European one could be soon as well. That will be decided a week from Wednesday at the San Siro. Kazan will need a win to get past Inter and wrap up a spot in the elimination round. Lose and they could still survive to see Europa League action depending on what happens in Kiev between Dynamo and Barcelona. The Ukranian side are one point behind Kazan in the group.
*Russian league starts in the spring.

10. Arsenal
Last ranking: 9
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), lost to then-No. 1 Chelsea at home in Premiership (3-0, Nov. 29).
Commentary/recent results: Gunners had no problems with Standard Liege at midweek, but yesterday's loss to Chelsea hurts. It leaves Arsenal 11 points behind the leaders at this, the midpoint of the Premiership season. True, Gooners have a game in hand. Assuming they win that makeup game, they will still be eight points in arrears. Not entirely insurmountable. But they're going to need more weapons in the January transfer window.
Upcoming schedule: Visit Man City in a Carling Cup tie Wednesday. Host Stoke City Saturday.

11. Juventus
Last ranking: 6
Record: 10-6-5
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), lost at then-No. 11 Bordeaux (2-0, Nov. 25).
Commentary/recent results: The bianconeri had a very, very bad week. They lost at Bordeaux, 2-0 and now face the very real possibility of missing the elimination round if they lose the final group stage match at home to Bayern Munich a week from tomorrow. Then they were defeated by the identical score at Cagliari to drop eight points behind Serie A leaders Inter Milan. Not good.
Upcoming schedule: A crucial week looms. First host Inter Saturday before facing Bayern Munich a week from tomorrow. Win or draw the latter match and they're through. Lose, and it's Europa League time.

12. PSV Eindhoven
Last ranking: 16
Record: 15-0-5
Results of note: Drew at Twente (1-1, Aug. 9).
Commentary/recent results: This ranking might be a bit generous but everybody else in the second tier lost games. Fact is PSV are unbeaten in all competition which counts for something. Last week they won at Sparta Rotterdam 3-2 on Friday to preserve their unbeaten record in all competition.
Upcoming schedule: Host Sparta Prague in (meaningless) Europa League action Thursday before returning to Eredivisie action Sunday. Next week a date with defending Dutch champions AZ Alkmaar is on the schedule.

13. Porto
Last ranking: 12
Record: 11-4-1
Results of note: Lost at then-No. 3 Chelsea in Champions League group stage (1-0, Sept. 15), lost at home to then-No. 1 Chelsea (1-0, Nov. 25).
Commentary/recent results: The Dragoes lost at home to Chelsea in a match that was almost entirely meaningless. They'll advance to the elimination round as the second-placed team in the group. They rebounded to win their weekend domestic league match, which allowed them to pick up two points on league leaders Benfica (who played a scoreless draw in the derby with Sporting).
Upcoming schedule: Visit Vitoria Guimaraes before playing out the Champions League string at Atletico Madrid next week.

14. Dynamo Kiev
Last ranking: 13
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), drew at then-No. 8 Rubin Kazan (0-0, Nov. 24).
Commentary/recent results: A pair of scoreless draws for Dynamo, the first one a decent result (at Rubin Kazan) that nevertheless does them no favors in the Champions League "group of death" (yes, we're going there) the second one less so (at home against some Ukrainian club). They still maintain a four point lead in the Ukrainian league despite the result.
Upcoming schedule: Host Barca in the final Champions League matchday next week.

15. Valencia
Last ranking: 14
Record: 9-1-6
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 drew Mallorca 1-1 at home. Mallorca are sixth, but Valencia were supposed to be the 14th-best club in the world.
Upcoming schedule: A crucial Europa League match against Lille. It's the penultimate match day and Lille, Valencia and Genoa are in a logjam for the two top spots; Lille currently have a one point edge over the other two. So Wednesday's match, which Valencia host, is crucial. They also visit Athletic Bilbao Sunday.

16. Bayer Leverkusen
Last ranking: 19
Record: 8-1-6
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: Bayer trounced VfB Stuttgart 4-0 yesterday. The same VfB Stuttgart that might very well make it to the Champions League elimination round. Bayer increase their Bundesliga lead to three points.
Upcoming schedule: Visit Hannover 96 Saturday.

17. Shakhtar Donetsk
Last ranking: 17
Record: 14-3-3
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: Won their domestic league match 3-0 on Saturday.
Upcoming schedule: Host Bruges in a meaningless Europa League encounter Thursday and some Ukrainian club Sunday.

18. Olympique Lyonnais
Last ranking: 15
Record: 12-3-5
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: It was not a good week for l'OL, who lost at Fiorentina and managed just a scoreless home draw with Stade Rennes. They relinquish a share of first place with the latter result. The former didn't cost them anything because it eliminated Liverpool. Still, our faith in Lyon is waning...
Upcoming schedule: At Lille Sunday.

19. Olympiakos
Last ranking: 23
Record: 13-3-4
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: Olympiakos missed a chance to book their spot in the elimination round of the Champions League when they played AZ Alkmaar to a scoreless draw in Holland at midweek. Now they might need a point from their encounter with Arsenal next week, depending on what happens in the other game between Alkmaar and Standard Liege. So why did Olympiakos take such a leap in the rankings? That's because of what happened over the weekend, when they defeated Panathinaikos 2-0 to take over first place from the Athens side. And as everybody knows (right?) extra weight is given to teams that hold first place in their domestic league. Well, sometimes.
Upcoming schedule: Visit AO Xanthi Saturday, before the aforementioned clash with Arsenal.

20. Twente
Last ranking: -
Record: 17-4-1
Results of note: Lost a Champions League qualifier against Sporting Lisbon (1-1 on aggregate), defeated Ajax Amsterdam at home (1-0, Nov. 8).
Commentary/recent results: Twente return to the Top 25 for the first time since Oct. 19. Since that time they've rattled off seven straight victories, including one over Ajax Amsterdam.
Upcoming schedule:

21. Werder Bremen
Last ranking: 18
Record: 13-1-7
Results of note: Drew at Bayern Munich (1-1, Aug. 18), drew at Leverkusen (0-0, Sept. 20)
Commentary/recent results: Drew defending champions Wolfsburg 2-2 at home Saturday.
Upcoming schedule: Host Nacional Funchal in the Europa League Thursday (they've already advanced but can win the group with a victory) and visit Cologne Sunday.

22. Bayern Munich
Last ranking: 24
Record: 11-4-7
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 passed both tests last week, beating Maccabi Haifa at home to stay alive in the Champions League (they need to win at Juventus though to advance) and winning at Hannover 96 yesterday.
Upcoming schedule: Host Borussia Moenchengladbach Friday before the aforementioned clash with Juventus a week from tomorrow.

23. Ajax Amsterdam
Last ranking: 20
Record: 13-2-4
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: Won easily at Vitesse Arnheim, 5-1 yesterday. Ajax sit third in Holland's Eredivisie, six points behind Twente. Yes, we've moved them and Anderlecht down despite wins. The overall body of work just isn't as impressive.
Upcoming schedule: A meaningless Europa League game Wednesday followed by FC Utrecht.

24. RSC Anderlecht
Last ranking: 21
Record: 15-4-4
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: Won their Jupiler League game Friday night to maintain their five point lead over FC Bruges. Yes, we've moved them and Ajax down despite wins. The overall body of work just isn't as impressive.
Upcoming schedule: Host Dynamo Zagreb in meaningless Europa League action Thursday, followed by another Jupiler League game Sunday.

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 defending Copa Libertadores champions are well on their way to an improbable "double", with victory in the Copa Sudamericana now just 90 minutes away after they trounced Brazil's Fluminense 5-1 in the first leg of the final.
Upcoming schedule: The return leg at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro Wednesday.

Dropping Out:
Olympique Marseille (22) after losing at home to Lens, though they did manage a 1-1 draw at AC Milan and have an outside shot at advancing to the Champions League elimination round;

Also receiving consideration (in rough order of consideration received):
CFC Genoa, Schalke 04, Besiktas Istanbul.

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.

As you can tell there was a significant shakeup in the rankings. The top spot remains as before, but nearly everything else was rearranged. The big winner of the week was Girondins Bordeaux, who reestablished themselves as a team to be reckoned with. Another big winner was AC Milan and that without even winning both their games! But Milan are for real and deserve the perch we've placed them on. So there. Their countrymen Juventus, on the other hand, fell sharply thanks to two losses. Time will tell if they can recover, but this week may very well go down as when they disappeared from the list of contenders for the elusive season-ending top spot. Sevilla also suffered from a lackluster week but we have not yet seen them tested by teams outside of Spain. That will happen in the Champions League elimination round. Some (okay, a lot) of the luster has faded from the Eastern European upstarts Rubin Kazan and Dynamo Kiev. Will either be able to recapture it? That will be determined next week.

Over to you, readers:
Do you agree with Chelsea as the top ranked club? Or did Barca show enough yesterday to warrant the billing? Is Sevilla's rating inflated? What about PSV's? Should other clubs be included here? If so, who are they?

Photo taken from without permission.


  1. Arsenal's game with Man City is for the Carling Cup. Therefore it's not a "make-up" game. Do your research before posting.

  2. Thanks for the, uh, notice. I will make the change.