I warned everybody last week that all hell was going to break loose in the WCR Top 25 and I didn’t lie. This week we have eight new clubs in the WCR Top 25, including five teams debuting in the Top Ten, including Lazio, Valencia and Bayer Leverkusen. The reason for this is that last season’s results were removed from the statistics used to determine the countdown and the numbers got jumbled in England, Germany, Italy and Spain. (Rather than explaining the criteria for the WCR Top 25 each week, I’ve posted an entry detailing the efforts, to which I’ll occasionally link.) Of the domestic leagues that are still taking last season’s data into consideration, only the Dutch and Portuguese leagues have clubs in the WCR Top 25.
Among the clubs that have departed from the WCR Top 25 are Manchester United, Roma, AC Milan and Bayern Munich. I expect all of these clubs will return to the Top 25 soon, but since none of these clubs are in the top five of their domestic leagues their numbers for the season thus far are not high enough to qualify for the Top 25. Don’t worry, I’m sure that if your favorites are gone, they will be back once they have managed to work their way up their respective leagues. They just have a little work to do.
If those clubs have departed, then who took their place? Chelsea is on top of the Premiership, but other leagues have some surprise visitors at the top spot, if only temporarily. Lazio currently is on top in Serie A, Valencia in La Liga Primera Division and Hamburger in the Bundesliga. The difference is particularly clear in Serie A, where the top clubs include not only Lazio but also Napoli and Udinese, while AC Milan, Fiorentina and Roma are nowhere to be found in the top five.
Early in the season, and for the next several weeks, the Top 25 is very volatile and promises vast changes on a weekly basis. How volatile? If Arsenal had not been upset by Hull City at Emirates Stadium, it may very well have been ranked number one. It lost, however, and is ranked thirteenth.
Even though much has changed, some things remain the same. Most notably, Chelsea remains at the top spot of the WCR Top 25 for a third consecutive week. And with eight new clubs, that still means that sixteen other clubs join Chelsea in its return trip to the rankings.
This week will see Matchday Two in the Champions League, so we will, of course, see lots of great matchups including Top 25 clubs. Over the weekend, there will be one matchup between a pair of ranked clubs, when Chelsea takes on newcomer Aston Villa. Without further adieu, below is the all new WCR Top 25.
World Club Rankings – Top 25 Clubs in the World – September 29, 2008
1. Chelsea (Eng) (1) – Chelsea remains at Number One despite losing all of its statistics from last season. Chelsea appears to be even better this season that they were last season, especially at this point of the season. This week, Chelsea defeated Portsmouth to advance in the Carling Cup and defeated Stoke City 2-0 to advance to the top of the Premiership. This week, Chelsea attempts to improve upon Roma’s result against CFR Cluj in Champions League action. This weekend, Chelsea will host Aston Villa in a battle of clubs near the top of the Premiership.
2. Lazio (Ita) (NR) – From the poorhouse to the penthouse, Lazio has started this season 180 degrees differently from the disappointments of last season. This week, Lazio defeated Fiorentina 3-0 and Torino 3-1 to move into the top spot of the Italian Serie A and the upper echelons of the WCR Top 25. This week, Lazio takes on Atalanta in the Italian League Cup and will attempt to maintain its place on the Serie A pinnacle when it hosts Lecce this weekend.
3. Valencia (Esp) (NR) – Like Lazio, Valencia is coming back from its disappointing season of a year ago with a vengeance, leading the Primera Division after five matches, defeating Malaga 2-0 and Deportivo La Coruna 4-2 this week. Coming up, Valencia will host Maritimo in the UEFA Cup return leg and will play Real Valladolid this weekend.
4. Liverpool (Eng) (14) – I’ve been telling you for weeks that Liverpool was destined for a higher spot in the rankings and here it is. Liverpool defeated Crewe Alexandra to advance in the Carling Cup and defeated Everton 2-0 in the Merseyside Derby this week. Coming up, Liverpool will host PSV Eindhoven in Champions League action and will take on a new and improved Manchester City club in the Premiership.
5. Villarreal (Esp) (13) – Last season, I thought that Villarreal’s success may have been a fluke, but it is following up last season’s successes with even more, defeating Racing Santander 2-0 and Sporting de Gijon 1-0 this week. On Tuesday, Villarreal gets another international test when it hosts Celtic. This weekend, the Yellow Submarine will host Real Betis in Primera Division play.
6. Bayer Leverkusen (Ger) (NR) – Okay, this one really surprised me, but the numbers do whatever they want to do. After advancing in the DFB Pokal, Leverkusen defeated Bochum 3-2 in its Bundesliga match. Next weekend’s match will take place against Hertha Berlin.
7. Lyon (Fra) (8) – Lyon extended its lead in Ligue Un by defeating Nancy Lorraine 2-1. Lyon goes to Germany in the Champions League to take on Bayern Munich. This weekend, Lyon stays on the road when it takes on Stade Rennais.
8. Real Madrid (Esp) (3) – Real drops after having last season’s numbers fall away, despite having a great week, defeating Sporting de Gijon 7-1 and Real Betis 2-1. This week, Real Madrid heads east to play Zenit St. Petersburg in Champions League action, then returns to take on Espanyol in domestic play.
9. Napoli (Ita) (NR) – Napoli is another of the surprise entrants into the Top Ten, arriving, in part, due to victories this week over both Palermo and Bologna. This week, Napoli will play two away matches, against Benfica in the UEFA Cup and Genoa in Serie A.
10. Udinese (Ita) (NR) – For a while last season, Udinese challenged for a Champions League spot. Will it finally break through this season? We’ll see. It’s there for now, though, after defeating Bologna 3-0 and Siena 2-1 this week. Udinese will take on Borussia Dortmund in UEFA Cup play this week and will host Torino domestically.
11. Porto (Por) (12) – Porto’s only match this week saw it defeat Pacos de Ferreira 2-0 on Friday. This will be a huge week for Porto as it will take on Arsenal in Champions League play and will take on Sporting CP domestically over the weekend.
12. Aston Villa (Eng) (NR) – After “bubbling under” for most of the season, Aston Villa finally debuts in the WCR Top 25 after defeating Sunderland 2-1 and despite falling from the Carling Cup by virtue of a loss to Queen’s Park Rangers. This week, Aston Villa will take on PFC Lovech in the UEFA Cup and will face it’s biggest test of this young season when it takes on Chelsea this weekend.
13. Arsenal (Eng) – What a shocking loss. I don’t know if anybody could have predicted Arsenal losing to Hull City at Emirates Stadium, but it did. Can’t do anything but bounce back now. In the Champions League, Arsenal will host Porto this week before heading northeast to take on Sunderland over the weekend.
14. PSV Eindhoven (Ned) (11) – Despite victories over Jong PSV in the KNVB Beker and Volendam in the Eredivisie, PSV is still in second place. This week will be much tougher as PSV travels to England to take on Liverpool and then take on De Graafschap domestically this weekend.
15. Gremio (Bra) (9) – Gremio is still in first place in the Brasileiro, but only by virtue of goal differential, after falling 1-4 to Internacional on Sunday. Things are starting to look bleak for Gremio as numerous clubs are now moving closer to the top of the league. Gremio will see if they can slow the inevitable fall this weekend against Botafogo.
16. Ajax (Ned) (17) – Ajax was victorious twice this week, first 2-0 against Utrecht in the KNVB Beker and later 3-0 against Vitesse in the Eredivisie. This week, Ajax will take on Borac Cacak in UEFA Cup play and will play a good Heerenveen club over the weekend.
17. Werder Bremen (Ger) (19) – Werder advance in the DFB Pokal and then outscored Hoffenheim 5-4 to move closer to the top of the Bundesliga. This week, Werder Bremen will attempt to somehow perform better against Inter Milan than it did Anorthosis Famagusta in the Champions League and will take on VfB Stuttgart in the Bundesliga.
18. San Lorenzo (Arg) (20) – San Lorenzo defeated Arsenal de Sarandi 2-0 to maintain its lead in the Argentine Apertura. To maintain that lead, San Lorenzo likely will have to defeat Velez Sarsfield this weekend.
19. Hamburger (Ger) (NR) – Hamburger SV is on top in the Bundeliga after beating Borussia Monchengladbach 1-0, but is having problems gaining traction in the rankings with a goal differential of only +2 in five matches. This week, Hamburger plays two away matches, against Unirea in the UEFA Cup and against Energie Cottbus in the Bundesliga.
20. Rangers (Sco) (21) – Rangers defeated Partick Thistle 2-1 to advance in the Scottish League Cup and defeated Hibernian 3-0 on Sunday to maintain its lead in the SPL. This week, Rangers take on St. Mirren to see if it can maintain that position.
21. Inter Milan (Ita) (2) – Uninspired play led Internazionale to fall 0-1 to its cross-town rivals in the best matchup of the weekend after defeating Lecce by the same score at midweek. The Inter Milan match against Werder Bremen promises to be entertaining. Over the weekend, Inter will take on Bologna as it tries to climb its way back to the top of Serie A.
22. Sevilla (Esp) (NR) – Sevilla scored a huge victory in Madrid this weekend against Atletico, 1-0. This week, Sevilla will try to recapture some past glory when it takes on Salzburg in the UEFA Cup. In Primera Division action, Sevilla will host Athletic de Bilbao this weekend.
23. Barcelona (Esp) (15) – After a rough start to the season, Barcelona had a great week this time around, defeating Real Betis 3-2 and Espanyol 2-1. We’ll see if the good times continue in the Ukraine when Barcelona takes on Shakhtar Donetsk in Champions League play. Domestically, Barcelona will take on Atletico de Madrid in what promises to be the Primera Division game of the week.
24. Palmeiras (Bra) (22) – Palmeiras played two matches this week and didn’t score a single goal. Nevertheless, Palmeiras managed to tie Gremio at the top of the Brasileiro Serie A after a goalless draw with Nautico. This week, Palmeiras follows up its scoreless draw against Sport Ancash with the return leg in the second round of the Copa Sudamericana. Domestically, Palmeiras will take on Atletico Belo Horizonte as it waits for Gremio to further self-destruct.
25. Marseille (Fra) (18) – It’s beginning to look like this isn’t the season that somebody challenges Lyon in Ligue Un after Marseille managed only a 1-1 draw against Le Mans after Sochaux eliminated Marseille from the Coupe de Ligue. This week, Marseille goes to Spain to take on Atletico de Madrid in Champions League play and then returns home to host Caen in La Championnat.
Bubbling Under (alphabetically): Catania (Ita), Celtic (Sco), Sao Paulo (Bra), Schalke 04 (Ger), West Ham United (Eng).
Top 5 CAF: (98) ES Sahel (Tun), (130) Al Ahly (Egy), (152) Club Africain (Tun), (177) El Ismaily (Egy), (184) ES Tunis (Tun).
Matches Between Top 25 Clubs This Week:
30 September – (11) Porto at (13) Arsenal
1 October – (14) PSV Eindhoven at (4) Liverpool\
1 October – (17) Werder Bremen at (21) Inter Milan
5 October – (12) Aston Villa at (1) Chelsea