Mar 1, 2010

The world's top 25 soccer clubs, March 1, 2010

We are on the precipice of a crucial period of the season in world club soccer, where the pretenders are separated from the contenders. So pay close attention to this week's rankings because they may be about to be shaken, not stirred. Remember that we only count two-leg matchups as one result, so while the latest Europa League action is factored into this ranking, the Champions League's is not--yet. As a result the top eight spots don't change much. Okay fine, they don't change at all. But look closely because the whole thing might be shaken up very soon. Plus the second tier is extremely interesting anyway. Enjoy.

1. Barcelona
Last ranking: 1
Record (wins-losses-ties, in all competition; two-leg match-ups count as one): 27-3-6
Results of note: (chronological order) Beat Shakhtar Donetsk (at the time ranked 14th) 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), won at then-No. 15 Dynamo Kiev (2-1, Dec. 9), lost to then-No. 10 Sevilla in Copa del Rey, beat then-No. 10 Sevilla at home (4-0, Jan. 16).
Commentary/recent results: Barca have begun to struggle just a wee bit. There was the 1-1 draw at Stuttgart (which again is not taken into account here) and Saturday's hard-fought 2-1 win over Malaga, a team in the thick of a relegation battle. But there was also a 4-0 victory over Racing Santander since the last edition of the Top 25. All in all, it's enough to keep Barcelona tops. But it's getting kinda hectic.
Upcoming schedule: At Almeira, Saturday. Host Valencia Sunday, March 14. Then the return leg against Stuttgart.

2. Inter Milan
Last ranking: 2
Record: 22-3-10
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), lost at then-No. 11 Juventus (2-1, Dec. 5), beat then-No. 9 Rubin Kazan (2-0, Dec. 9), defeated then-No. 6 AC Milan (2-0, Jan. 24).
Commentary/recent results: The nerazzurri played thrice over the last two weeks and did not lose. That's the good news. The bad news is their 2-1 win over Chelsea is unlikely to hold up in the return leg of their Champions League matchup. Plus they dropped points again in a scoreless home draw to Sampdoria. Their Serie A lead is down to four points..
Upcoming schedule: Host Genoa on Sunday, visit Catania a week from Friday. The return leg at Stamford Bridge is the following Tuesday.

3. Chelsea
Last ranking: 3
Record: 28-6-6
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), beat then-No. 8 Arsenal at home (2-0, Feb. 7).
Commentary/recent results: Blues played probably their worst game of the season Saturday, losing to Manchester City 4-2 in an encounter that was overshadowed by Wayne Bridge refusing to shake John Terry's hand. Chelsea's lead over Man United is now one solitary point. It's going to be very interesting.
Upcoming schedule: Host Stoke City Saturday in FA Cup action, West Ham United a week later.

4. Real Madrid
Last ranking: 4
Record: 22-5-4
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), won at then-No. 12 Valencia (3-2, Dec. 12).
Commentary/recent results: The merengues are another club that can be glad we don't factor in the latest Champions League result into our rankings, because as we all know Real were soundly defeated at Olympique Lyon, though a 1-0 margin leaves plenty of opportunity for reversal. It's been a different story in the Spanish liga, with easy back-to-back victories over Villareal and Tenerife (6-2 and 5-1, respectively).
Upcoming schedule: Host Sevilla in a cracker Saturday. Will they be able to avenge the loss earlier this season? Then host the return leg v. Lyon on Wednesday, March 10.

5. Manchester United
Last ranking: 5
Record: 27-9-4
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), won at then-No. 5 Arsenal (3-1, Jan. 31).
Commentary/recent results: Red Devils rebounded from the loss at Everton, with a pair of wins. Yesterday's over Aston Villa gives them the first piece of silverware, the Carling Cup. The first of how many? We'll just have to wait and see.
Upcoming schedule: Visit Wolves Saturday. Then host AC Milan in the return leg of their Champions League match-up. Man U won the first, 3-2 and are clearly in the driver's seat to advance to the quarterfinals.

6. Girondins Bordeaux
Last ranking: 6
Record: 27-6-4
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), won at then-No. 21 Olympique Lyonnais (1-0, Dec. 13).
Commentary/recent results: Les Girondins defeated Lorient 4-1 in a French cup tie and dropped Olympiakos by 1-0 in the first (away) leg of their Champions League matchup. Yesterday's game with Le Mans was canceled.
Upcoming schedule: Host Montpellier Saturday. This is a big game folks; the two sides are now equal on points atop the League Un standings. Bordeaux have two games in hand, but still.

7. Bayern Munich
Last ranking: 7
Record: 22-4-8
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), won at then-No. 8 Juventus (4-1, Dec. 8).
Commentary/recent results: The Bayern resurgence continues as Louis van Gaal's club moves into first place in the Bundesliga for (I think) the first time this season. The catalyst was a dull 1-0 victory over Hamburg SV yesterday. Bayern will take it. Their lead in the German Bundesliga is now two points over Leverkusen, which could be more had Bayern not dropped points in a 1-1 draw at Nurnberg on Feb. 20. They also take a 2-1 lead into the return leg with Fiorentina.
Upcoming schedule: Visit Cologne Saturday. The aforementioned return leg in Florence is a week from tomorrow.

8. Arsenal
Last ranking: 8
Record: 24-9-5
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), beat then-No. 20 Aston Villa at home (3-0, Dec. 27), lost at home to then-No. 8 Manchester United (3-1, Jan. 31), lost at then-No. 2 Chelsea (2-0, Feb. 6)
Commentary/recent results: Gunners booked a pair of easy Premiership victories after going down 2-1 at Porto. They defeated Sunderland on Feb. 20 and bounced back from an early deficit to beat Stoke City 3-1 on Saturday. They're suddenly back in the thick of the Premiership race.
Upcoming schedule: Host Burnley, Saturday. Then host Porto for the return leg, needing a win by either 1-0 or two goals to advance. Visit Hull City the following Saturday. Gunners have an easy Premiership schedule the rest of the way; other than a match at White Hart Lane on April 10, only Man City (April 24) and Fulham (May 9) should be potential stumbling blocks. And both those games are home.

9. Sevilla
Last ranking: 10
Record: 21-5-4
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), beat then-No. 1 Barcelona in Copa del Rey, lost at then-No. 1 Barcelona (4-0, Jan. 16), beat then-No. 13 Valencia at home (2-1, Jan. 31).
Commentary/recent results: Los palanganas played a disappointing scoreless draw with Bilbao yesterday. They previously defeated Mallorca and notched an important 1-1 away draw at CSKA Moscow in the first leg of their Champions League matchup. The Mallorca victory was massive as they have a three point edge over that team in the Liga standings. Sevilla are fourth, three points behind Valencia.
Upcoming schedule: Visit Real Madrid Saturday. Host Deportivo La Coruna a week from Sunday. The return leg with CSKA is the following Tuesday.

10. Benfica Lisbon
Last ranking: 11
Record: 22-3-4
Results of note: Lost at then-No. 22 Sporting Braga (2-0, Oct. 31), trounced Everton 5-0 in Europa League (Oct. 22), defeated then-No. 11 Porto at home (1-0, Dec. 20).
Commentary/recent results: Benfica had no problems with Hertha Berlin in the Europa League, advancing easily by an aggregate score of 4-1. They also defeated Leixoes by the same score in Liga Sagres on Saturday. Their lead in the Portuguese league is one point over Sporting Braga.
Upcoming schedule: Host Pacos de Ferreira Sunday before the next stage of the Europa League ensues. Benfica host Olympique Marseille in the first leg a week from Thursday. That should be interesting.

11. Olympique Lyonnais
Last ranking: 20
Record: 22-8-7
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), lost at home to then-No. 4 Bordeaux (1-0, Dec. 13)
Commentary/recent results: Don't look now but l'OL has not given up a goal since Jan. 31. We had all but written off their season a few weeks ago. But now they're just two points behind co-leaders Montpellier and Bordeaux in Ligue Un and on the cusp of a major upset in the Champions League elimination round. In their last two league matches they defeated Sochaux by 4-0 and Nice by 2-0. We did say we wouldn't take the Real Madrid match into consideration until the return leg is played, but we're moving Lyon up just in case...
Upcoming schedule: Visit Boulogne Saturday followed by the all-important return leg match at the sixth-biggest soccer mecca in the world. Lyon take a 1-0 lead into that match. The way they're playing now it might just be enough. We'll see.

12. AC Milan
Last ranking: 13
Record: 19-7-9
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), lost at then-No. 4 Inter Milan (2-0, Jan. 24).
Commentary/recent results: The 3-2 home loss to Man United in the first leg of their Champions League matchup was unfortunate and will in all likelihood lead to Milan's exit from said tournament. But they rebounded nicely with three wins in a row in Serie A, to narrow their deficit to first-placed Inter Milan to four points. There's still everything to play for in Serie A. Of course that could be all that's left to play for as well, depending on how the Champions League return legs play out.
Upcoming schedule: Visit Roma Saturday in a crucial Serie A encounter. Then it's to Old Trafford and the return leg vs. Man United on Wednesday, March 10.

13. Porto
Last ranking: 12
Record: 21-6-3
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), lost at then-No. 18 Benfica (1-0, Dec. 20).
Commentary/recent results: The Dragoes beat up on second-placed Sporting Braga a week ago but yesterday went down 3-0 at Sporting Lisbon. The loss is significant because it leaves Porto nine points behind leaders Benfica. I don't know if they can come back from that (though they do host Benfica on the penultimate Liga Sagres matchday, May 2). There was also that little 2-1 first leg victory over Arsenal but we'll have to wait and see if that holds up.
Upcoming schedule: Host Olhanense Sunday before the trip to Emirates a week from tomorrow.

14. Rubin Kazan
Last Ranking: 18
Record: 21-6-8
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), lost at then-No. 5 Inter Milan (2-0, Dec 9).
Commentary/recent results: The Russian champs had no problem with Israeli club Hapoel Tel Aviv, winning 3-0 on aggregate to advance to the round of 16 in the Europa League.
Upcoming schedule: Face German champions VfL Wolfsburg in the next stage of the Europa League. The Russian league kicks off March 14.

15. AS Roma
Last ranking: 9
Record: 22-7-7
Results of note: Lost at home to then-No. 5 Juventus (3-1, Aug. 30), beat then-No. 18 Fiorentina (3-1, Sept. 20), drew at then-No. 2 Inter Milan (1-1, Nov. 8)
Commentary/recent results: We labeled Roma the hottest team in Europe a fortnight ago. That may have been true at the time, but it isn't anymore. Yes, the gialorossi kept their unbeaten streak in Serie A alive and are now in third place. But the team also exited the Europa League at the hands of Panathinaikos, who weren't even on our radar (but are now, as you'll see in a bit).
Upcoming schedule: Host AC Milan, Saturday, the team they trail by three points. First placed Inter are seven points afield. But that deficit too can still be negated. The two sides meet Mach 28 in Rome.

16. Bayer Leverkusen
Last ranking: 15
Record: 13-1-11
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: The good news is Leverkusen is still unbeaten in league play this season. The bad news is they're no longer first after a pair of disappointing draws with Werder Bremen and Cologne.
Upcoming schedule: Visit Nurnberg Sunday. Then host Hamburg SV on Sunday, March 14. A clash with Bayern Munich looms April 10.

17. Valencia
Last ranking: 16
Record: 19-6-9
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), lost at home to then-No. 7 Real Madrid (3-2, Dec. 12), lost at then-No. 11 Sevilla (2-1, Jan. 31).
Commentary/recent results: Los xotos defeated FC Bruges in the Europa League 3-1 on aggregate and beat Getafe last Monday but yesterday they came undone against Atletico Madrid, losing 4-1 in their home ground. Valencia remain third in La Liga, 15 points off the pace of Barcelona. Sevilla is four points behind them. That race has obviously run its course, but there's still everything to play for in Europe.
Upcoming schedule: Host Racing Santander a week from today. The next round of the Europa League ensues the following Thursday with Werder Bremen, at home.

18. Olympiakos
Last ranking: 17
Record: 19-6-6
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 drew Ergotelis, lost at home to Bordeaux in the first leg of their Champions League matchup, before rebounding with a win over Atromitos Halkidona yesterday. They obviously have their work cut out for them in Europa, but in the Greek Super League they trail leaders Panathinaikos by just two points.
Upcoming schedule: At Iraklis Saloniki Saturday, followed by another Greek league match the following weekend. The return leg at Bordeaux is March 17.

19. Dynamo Kiev
Last ranking: 19
Record: 16-4-3
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), lost at home to then-No. 1 Barcelona (2-1, Dec. 9).
Commentary/recent results: Dynamo won their first match of 2010, against some Ukrainian club. They maintain a two point lead atop the standings, with a game in hand over second-placed Shakhtar Donetsk.
Upcoming schedule: It's just domestic action the rest of the way, so Dynamo will have to play their cards right to keep their spot in the Top 25. Their next match against Shakhtar isn't until May 5, the penultimate match day.

20. Olympique Marseille
Last ranking: 23
Record: 22-9-7
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), drew at then-No. 13 AC Milan (1-1, Nov. 25), lost at then-No. 7 Real Madrid (3-1, Dec. 8), drew at then-No. 2 Bordeaux (1-1, Jan. 17).
Commentary/recent results: Four straight wins for l'OM, including an easy one over Copenhagen in the Europa League. They're still in the hunt for the Ligue Un title as well; just three points behind co-leaders Montpellier and Bordeaux and one behind second-placed Lyon with a game in hand on all but Bordeaux.
Upcoming schedule: Host Lorient Saturday, followed by the first leg of their next Europa League encounter, with Benfica Lisbon. That one should be interesting.

21. RSC Anderlecht
Last ranking: 22
Record: 26-7-5
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: Anderlecht defeated Atletic Bilbao by an impressive 5-1 on aggregate and followed this up with a 2-1 win at Roeselare, whoever that is. They now have a nine point lead in the Jupiler League with a game on hand over second-placed FC Bruges with only two matchdays remaining. Can that be true?
Upcoming schedule: Host Genk Saturday, then face Hamburg SV in what promises to be a tough Europa League Round of 16.

22.OSC Lille
Last ranking: -
Record: 19-11-6
Results of note: Beat then-No. 7 Girondins Bordeaux at home (2-0, Nov. 8), lost at then-No. 14 Valencia (3-1, Dec. 2), beat then-No. 18 Olympique Lyon (4-3, Dec. 6), lost at then-No. 23 Olympique Marseille in cup tie (2-1, Jan. 27), beat then-No. 21 Fenerbahce Istanbul in Europa League (3-2 on aggregate).
Commentary/recent results: We have to give l'OSC credit for their victory over Fenerbahce, whom we (erroneously, it turned out) deemed the better club. But Lille lost a costly game yesterday against Auxerre and are now fifth in Ligue Un. But they're still very much alive for the title, just four points behind co-leaders Bordeaux and Montpellier.
Upcoming schedule: Play at St. Etienne Saturday. Host Liverpool a week from Thursday in what promises to be an interesting Europa League matchup. It had better be or one of the teams will exit the Top 25 probably for good.

23. Panathinaikos
Last ranking: -
Record: 26-6-3
Results of note: Lost Champions League qualifier with then-No. 17 Atletico Madrid (5-2 on aggregate), lost at home to then-No. 18 Galatasaray in Europa League group play (1-0, Sept. 17), lost at then-No. 19 Olympiakos (2-0, Nov. 29), beat then-No. 9 AS Roma in Europa League round of 32 (6-4 on aggregate).
Commentary/recent results: It's been some time coming, but we finally give Panathinaikos their due after a stirring upset of AS Roma in the Europa League. Truth is, every other time they were on the threshold of the Top 25, the lack of "quality wins" kept them out. No longer. Roma's number nine rank might have been a bit inflated but it's hard to dispute they were the best club Panathinaikos faced all season. There is also the matter of sitting in first place in the Greek Super League
Upcoming schedule: Host Levadiakos Saturday. The Europa League resumes with Standard Liege the following Thursday.

24. PSV Eindhoven
Last ranking: 14
Record: 26-2-7
Results of note: Drew at Twente (1-1, Aug. 9), defeated Ajax Amsterdam at home (4-3, Aug. 16)
Commentary/recent results: PSV were ousted by Hamburg SV in the Europa League round of 32. It was close, with HSV advancing only by virtue of the away goal rule. Unfortunately this means we'll never truly know how good this team is. They're best in Holland, obviously, but how good is that?
Upcoming schedule: Visit NAC Breda Saturday before visiting Ajax Amsterdam in a match that could decide the Eredivisie title, or at least determine if Ajax is going to have anything to do with the outcome. The Amsterdam club sit third, seven points behind PSV. Second-placed Twente are a point behind the leaders.

25. Liverpool
Last ranking: 25
Record: 17-13-7
Results of note: Lost at then-No. 4 Chelsea (2-0, Oct. 4), lost at home to then-No. 8 Olympique Lyon (2-1, Oct. 20), beat then-No. 3 Man United at home (2-0, Oct. 25), lost at then-No. 12 Arsenal (2-1, Oct. 28) in league cup, drew at then-No. 12 Olympique Lyon (1-1, Nov. 4), lost at home to then-No. 11 Arsenal in Premiership (2-1, Dec. 12), won at then-No. 20 Aston Villa (1-0, Dec. 29), lost at then-No. 8 Arsenal (1-0, Feb. 10) in Premiership.
Commentary/recent results: Reds manage to keep their top 25 spot one week after returning from a long absence. They defeated Unirea Urziceni (themselves a Top 25 club at one point) in their Europa League matchup, played a scoreless draw at Manchester City and yesterday defeated Blackburn 2-1. They're sixth in the Prem, but only one point behind fourth-placed Tottenham.
Upcoming schedule: Play at Wigan a week from Monday, followed by the first leg of what promises to be a tricky Europa League matchup with Lille. A crucial visit to Old Trafford is up March 21. Reds won the first encounter, if you'll recall...

Dropping Out:
Fenerbahce (21) after being eliminated by Lille in the Europa League, Shakhtar Donetsk (24) after being eliminated by Fulham in the Europa League.

Also receiving consideration (in rough order of consideration received):
Chivas de Guadelajara (perfect through eight games of the Mexican Clausura, which I think is some kind of record), Sporting Lisbon (3-0 victory over Porto, eliminated Everton in Europa League), Juventus (unbeaten since Jan. 28, defeated Ajax Amsterdam in Europa League), Velez Sarsfield (5-1-2 in all competition including 2-0 in Copa Libertadores), Allianza Lima (4-1-2 in all competition including 2-0 in Copa Libertadores, with a 4-1 victory over defending champions Estudiantes)

Note: The next episode of the Top 25 will appear March 15.

Photo taken from ESPN Soccernet without permission.

1 comment:

  1. Very extensive! I like the rankings keep them going!