Nov 9, 2009

The world's top 25 soccer clubs, Nov. 9, 2009

There was a lot of action in topflight soccer last week, with a full suite of Champions League, Europa League and domestic competition on tap. After the dust settled, however, the number one team is the same one it's been for three weeks running now. Not that anybody should be surprised by that. There was plenty of movement elsewhere in the top 25 however. Enough for you to want to take a look. Here you go:

1. Chelsea
Last ranking: 1
Record (wins-losses-ties, in all competition; two-leg match-ups count as one): 15-2-1
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: Yesterday's showdown with Man United at Stamford Bridge was by no means a great game. In fact, it was barely good. Neither team seemed willing to take risks in the first half. Things opened up a bit in the second but it took John Terry's goal in the 76th minute to finally make things interesting. (Did Didier Drogba foul Wes Brown and did it affect the play? Who knows. The replays I've seen were not conclusive. But yes, Darren Fletcher did foul Ashley Cole on the play that led to the freekick that led to the goal) Chelsea held on for the victory. They now have a five point lead in the Prem, albeit with a game on hand over Arsenal. Man U are five points back as well, with the same amount of games played. Tottenham Hotspur sit fourth but we know that won't last.
Upcoming schedule: Host Wolves, but not until Nov. 21.

2. Inter Milan
Last ranking: 2
Record: 10-1-5
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 came back from a 1-0 halftime deficit to win at Dynamo Kiev in midweek Champions League action but suffered a slight hiccup in their Serie A game yesterday, managing just a 1-1 draw to AS Roma. This is not the AS Roma team that was in the Top 25 for parts of last season but one that is decidedly mediocre, occupying 13th place in the Italian topflight. Inter's lead over second-place Juventus shrinks to five points as a result. Will it matter? We'll have to wait and see.
Upcoming schedule: Visit Bologna after the break next week. Then things get very interesting. First it's off to Camp Nou (the seventh-biggest soccer mecca in the world) for a crucial Champions League tie, Fiorentina at home Nov. 29, at Juventus Dec. 5 and home to 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: 11-1-4
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 scoreless draw at Rubin Kazan at midweek. The result could be crucial because it gives the Russian side the tie-breaker over the Catalan one should they be tied on points at the end of the group stage. Barca did win 4-2 over Mallorca Saturday without breaking much of a sweat.
Upcoming schedule: Host Cultural Leonesa in the return leg of their Copa del Rey match-up. Barca won the away leg 2-0 and shouldn't have much trouble there. Visit Bilbao when play resumes Nov. 22 before a crucial Champions League match at home versus No. 2 Inter.

4. Real Madrid
Last ranking: 5
Record: 9-2-3
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 finished the midweek Champions League match at the San Siro in a 1-1 deadlock. There's still everything to play for in that group with the top three clubs separated by a mere point. Real then nearly blew a 3-0 (second half!) lead against city rivals Atletico late Saturday but held on to prevail 3-2.
Upcoming schedule: The return leg of the Copa del Rey match-up at home against Alcorcon, whom we hadn't heard of before either, before they trounced Real 5-0 in the first leg. Will Manuel Pellegrini's side make it interesting in the return leg? Maybe.

5. Sevilla
Last ranking: 6
Record: 10-2-2
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 drew one and won one last week. The draw, at VfB Stuttgart was enough to put them through to the next round of the Champions League. The victory came yesterday over Villareal and allowed Sevilla to hold on to third place in La Liga, where they trail Real Madrid by three points and Barcelona by four.
Upcoming schedule: The home leg of their Copa del Rey matchup with some minnow club. They won the first leg 4-2 so don't expect much noise from this one.

6. Manchester United
Last ranking: 4
Record: 12-3-2
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: The loss at Stamford Bridge hurts but at least Red Devils have nothing to worry about in the Champions League where they drew CSKA Moscow midweek. There's still everything to play for in the Prem race as well. Remember last year Chelsea had an eight point lead over Man United at one point. I don't feel this year's Man U squad is as good as last year's, however (and yes, the absence of CR7 has a lot, if not everything, to do with that) but we'll see. It's a long season.
Upcoming schedule: Host Everton Saturday, Nov. 21.

7. Arsenal
Last ranking: 9
Record: 12-2-2
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: A pair of 4-1 victories for Arsene Wenger and the gars last week. The first, over Dutch champions AZ Alkmaar, sees them through to the next round of the Champions League. The second, over Wolves, permits them to take over second place from Man United.
Upcoming schedule: Visit Sunderland when play resumes Nov. 21.

8. Juventus
Last ranking: 10
Record: 9-2-5
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 did the bare minimum in defeating Maccabi Haifa 1-0 at midweek, then trounced Atalanta Bergamo 5-2 over the weekend. But let's not get too excited about that: Bergamo are one spot away from relegation.
Upcoming schedule: Host Udinese on Sunday, Nov. 22.

9. Girondins Bordeaux
Last ranking: 7
Record: 12-3-2
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: After the impressive midweek victory over Bayern Munich to effectively knock the German club out of the tournament, Bordeaux lost 2-0 at Lille yesterday. They're still first in Ligue Un, but by a solitary point.
Upcoming schedule: Host Valenciennes when play resumes Nov. 21.

10. Rubin Kazan
Last Ranking: 11
Record: 19-5-6*
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: The Russian champs played Barcelona to the letter again, but this time drew the Spanish champs 0-0. They then won 2-0 at fellow Champions League participants CSKA Moscow over the weekend. Kazan lead the Russian league by four points with just two matchdays remaining.
Upcoming schedule: Host Zenit St. Petersburg Nov. 20.
*Russian league starts in the spring.

11. Porto
Last ranking: 8
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: The Dragoes won at Nikosia to clinch a spot in the next stage of the Champions League at midweek. Their weekend was far less successful, however, as they lost 1-0 at Martimo Funchal. Fortunately for Porto, first-place Sporting Braga also lost so they didn't lose any ground. They remain five points behind the leaders.
Upcoming schedule: A cup match when play returns Nov. 22.

12. Olympique Lyonnais
Last ranking: 12
Record: 12-2-3
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 missed knocking Liverpool out of the Champions League when they drew Reds just 1-1 at home last week. As it is, Liverpool are still likely to miss the elimination round. But the draw does secure Lyon's spot in the next stage. Felicitations! Then they played a wild 5-5 draw (not a typo) against Olympique Marseille yesterday. A win would have put Lyon top in France's Ligue Un. Instead they're second, one point behind leaders Bordeaux.
Upcoming schedule: Visit Grenoble when play resumes Nov. 21.

13. AC Milan
Last ranking: 17
Record: 8-3-5
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: After the 1-1 draw with Real Madrid, Milan won at Lazio Rome, 2-1 to hold onto third place in Serie A and move within five points of leaders Inter.
Upcoming schedule: Host Cagliari on Nov. 22.

14. Shakhtar Donetsk
Last ranking: 15
Record: 13-2-3
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).
Commentary/recent results: Shakhtar won at Toulouse in midweek Europa League action, their fourth win in as many games in said tournament. Their weekend league match was canceled, as were all in the Ukraine.
Upcoming schedule: Visit Dynamo Kiev, Nov. 21.

15. Valencia
Last ranking: 14
Record: 8-1-5
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 managed just a 2-2 draw at Slavia Prague in midweek Europa League action, a disappointing result because the Czech side sit dead last in that group while Valencia are in the midst of a three-team race for two spots in the knockout round; Lille leads the group with seven points, followed by Valencia at Genoa on six each. Two matchdays remain. Valencia also defeated Zaragoza yesterday to remain fourth in La Liga, five points behind leaders Barca.
Upcoming schedule: Host the return leg of their Copa del Rey matchup with Alcoyano tomorrow. Valencia won the first leg, 1-0.

16. Dynamo Kiev
Last ranking: 13
Record: 12-3-3
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).
Commentary/recent results: Dynamo lost a tough one at home to Inter Milan at midweek. Their weekend league match was canceled. Not sure why. Hope it's not political.
Upcoming schedule: Host Shakhtar Donetsk Nov. 21.

17. Fiorentina
Last Ranking: 21
Record: 8-3-3
Results of note: Beat Sporting Lisbon in the Champions League qualifier, lost at then-No. 13 Olympique Lyon (1-0, Sept. 16), beat then-No. 13 Liverpool at home (2-0, Sept. 29), tied at then-No. 8 Juventus (1-1, Oct. 17).
Commentary/recent results: La Viola won both games they played last week, over Debreceni in the Champions League and at Udinese in Serie A. The latter victory moves them up to fourth in Italy's top flight, eight points behind first-placed Inter.
Upcoming schedule: Host Parma when league play resumes Nov. 21.

18. PSV Eindhoven
Last ranking: 20
Record: 13-0-5
Results of note: Drew at Twente (1-1, Aug. 9).
Commentary/recent results: Played FC Kopenhagen to a 1-1 draw in Europa League action and won easily at The Hague by a 5-1 score. PSV remain second in the Dutch Eredivisie, two points behind Twente.
Upcoming schedule: Host Heracles Almeto when play resumes Nov. 21. That sounds like a club from Greece or Spain or Portugal or something but they appear to be Dutch.

19. Bayer Leverkusen
Last ranking: 24
Record: 7-1-5
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),
Commentary/recent results: Leverkusen defeated Eintracht Frankfurt 4-0 to hold onto first place in the German Bundesliga. Their lead over second-placed Werder Bremen is three points. Is this the year Leverkusen finally, finally break through and win the title?
Upcoming schedule: Visit Bayern Munich a week from Sunday.

20. VfL Wolfsburg
Last ranking:
Record: 9-5-4
Results of note: Lost at home to then-No. 20 Hamburg SV (4-2, Aug. 23), lost at Bayern Munich (3-0, Aug. 29), lost at home to Bayer Leverkusen (3-2, Sept. 12), lost at then-No. 4 Manchester United (2-1, Sept. 30).
Commentary: The Wolves are back in the top 25 for the first time since the very early days of the season: Two wins, one a vital one at Besiktas Istanbul in the Champions League that may be enough to put Wolfsburg through to the elimination round. They then won at Hoffenheim, 2-1 on Saturday. They move up to fifth in the Bundesliga with the latter victory, five points behind the leaders Leverkusen.
Upcoming schedule: Host Nurnberg ahead of a crucial Champions League game at Moscow.

21. Fenerbahce Istanbul
Last ranking: 25
Record: 12-2-1
Results of note: Beat Galatasaray (3-1, Oct. 25)
Commentary/recent results: Fener won both games last week, at home against Steaua Bucharest in Europa League actoin and against last-placed Ankaraspor yesterday. They maintain their three point lead atop the Turkcell League or whatever it's called.
Upcoming schedule: Play at Besiktas Istanbul Nov. 22.

22. Olympiakos
Last ranking: 16
Record: 12-3-2
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: It was not a good week for Olympiakos, who lost at Standard Liege 2-0 and failed to wrap up a spot in the Champions League knockout stage. They then managed to just draw Iraklis Saloniki at home in weekend domestic action.
Upcoming schedule: At PAOS Ioannina Nov. 21.

23. Galatasaray
Last ranking: -
Record: 13-2-2
Results of note: Lost at Fenerbahce (3-1, Oct. 25)
Commentary/recent results: Galatasaray make their return to the top 25 after nearly six weeks' absence (Sept. 28 was the last time they were seen in these parts) on the strength of a two-win week. The Turkish side blew away Dinamo Bucharest in a midweek Europa League match and won their weekend domestic game as well. They are second in Turkey, three points behind Fenerbahce and have assured advancement out of their Europa League group.
Upcoming schedule: More domestic action, none against teams I've ever heard of.

24. Bayern Munich
Last ranking: 19
Record: 9-4-6
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).
Commentary/recent results: Bayern lost at home to Bordeaux in a Champions League match they couldn't afford to lose and drew Schalke at home 2-2. So why are they still in the Top 25? Simple, because of all the other dropouts. In a normal week Bayern would be gone but they get a stay of execution this time.
Upcoming schedule: They'll have a chance to show they belong and a chance to perhaps rescue their season when they host first-placed Bayer Leverkusen Nov. 22.

25. LDU Quito
Last ranking: -
Record: 9-2-4
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 semifinals of the Copa Sudamericana (which is the spring version of the tournament. Spring being fall in South America). I don't know how many clubs have won that double in their entire history, much less in one year's time. Domestically, Quito appear to be second but that information is tough to come by (good luck finding any in English).
Upcoming schedule: Face Uruguay's River Plate in the Sudamericana semis. The first leg is at Uruguay Thursday. The return leg in the Ecuadorian capital a week hence.

Dropping Out:
Manchester City (18), Sporting Braga (22), Hamburg SV (23)

Also receiving consideration (in rough order of consideration received):
RSC Anderlecht, Olympique Marseille, Ajax Amsterdam, Standard Liege

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.

The next top 25 will appear Nov. 23.

Photo taken from The Independent

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