A great weekend of action, with all-timers of games between Roma- Milan and Valencia- Villarreal. Let’s see what this weekend’s games did to my top 25. Previous ranking in parentheses.
1. FC Barcelona (1)
Weekend result: won at Osasuna 3-2.
GENEROUS BECAUSE: You could nitpick and say that a team of Barcelona’s quality should not take that long to do away with Osasuna. But this is not a generous ranking, as the Blaugrana have a death grip on the La Liga title.
2. Inter Milan (2)
Weekend Result: Draw vs Cagliari 1-1
CRUEL BECAUSE: Inter are top of Serie A and it can be argued that the Italian top flight is tougher this season than La Liga.
GENEROUS BECAUSE: That is 2 points lost no matter how you look at it. Cagliari have some good players but should not be able to hold Inter away.
3. Manchester United (4)
Weekend Result: Win vs Chelsea 3-0
CRUEL BECAUSE: The World, European, and English Champions are starting to hit their stride, and on their day are every bit as good as Barcelona and Inter. That was a total team performance in thrashing Chelsea.
GENEROUS BECAUSE: over the next few weeks we’ll find out how impressive the Chelsea win actually is. The Blues are a team in freefall.
4. Juventus (6)
Weekend Result: Win vs Siena 1-0
CRUEL BECAUSE: It’s not a cruel ranking. The Old Lady are consistently finding ways to win and are closing in on Inter. Manninger is deputising well for Buffon.
GENEROUS BECAUSE: Would this team win a one-off over Liverpool or Bayern? Juventus need more scoring options in the run of play when Amauri is quieted, they can’t keep waiting for a Del Piero free kick.
5. Bayern Munich (5)
Currently on Winter Break
CRUEL BECAUSE: It really can’t be, until Bayern start playing again we won’t know if they deserve a better ranking.
GENEROUS BECAUSE: It’s likely that the Bundesliga stinks this year, and winning their Champions League group over Lyon and Fiorentina might not be that big of a deal.
6. Liverpool (3)
Weekend Result: Draw at Stoke 0-0
CRUEL BECAUSE: Despite the run that Manchester United is on, Liverpool still lead the Premier League, and beat the Red Devils.
GENEROUS BECAUSE: The biggest reason the title could slip away from them is all the dropped points against teams they SHOULD beat. 2 goalless draws with relegation-threatened Stoke is not Premier-League winning material.
7. Real Madrid (17)
Weekend Result: win 3-0 at Mallorca
CRUEL BECAUSE: The turnaround under Juande Ramos is taking great shape and this team has the quality to compete with any of the top 6.
GENEROUS BECAUSE: It can’t be. They took a full 3 points from Valencia and Villarreal in recent games.
8. Aston Villa (9)
Weekend Result: Win 2-1 vs West Bromwich Albion
CRUEL BECAUSE: They held Manchester United and Liverpool and they’re only 8th? Martin O’Neill’s men have proven they can compete with the best in England.
GENEROUS BECAUSE: While they are a legitimate threat for the top 4, the lack of depth in the squad is worrying.
9. Arsenal (11)
Weekend Result: Win vs Bolton 1-0
CRUEL BECAUSE: On their day, Arsenal can play with anyone and Wenger is proving that he has the resources to cope with injuries to Fabregas and Walcott. Djourou is turning into a solid central defender.
GENEROUS BECAUSE: They don’t often always play to their talent level. They needed all 90 minutes to beat a depleted Bolton side 1-0.
10. Chelsea (7)
Weekend Result: Lost at Manchester United 0-3
CRUEL BECAUSE: After all they played Manchester United at Old Trafford, and there may not be a team in Europe that will win there this year. However……
GENEROUS BECAUSE: This team is looking more and more in disarray. Their attack on Sunday had very litte purpose and while they have talented, experienced veteran players, they are players with a lot of miles on them.
11. Olympique Lyonnais (8): Still top of French Ligue 1 but they should do better than 1-1 at home against Lorient.
12. Sevilla (12): Impressive 3-1 win over Deportivo at the weekend.
13. Hoffenheim (10): Victimized by the winter break and other teams putting on good performances while they sit idle.
14. Bordeaux (19): A 4-0 thrashing of Paris- Saint Germain that wasn’t even that close. Gourcuff’s star keeps rising.
15. Villarreal (14): fought bravely to earn a draw at Valencia in one of the games of the weekend.
16. Valencia (15): Twice had the lead, and twice dropped points. Only 5 of a possible 15 from Barca, Real Madrid, Sevilla, Villarreal and Atletico Madrid.
17. AC Milan (16): Played with a lot of possession and created a lot of chances at Roma, but defensively still showing their age.
18. Atletico Madrid (13): A home defeat to Athetic Bilbao is hardly going to help their cause for staying in the Champions League next season.
19. Olympiakos (20): The win over Xanthi has them now 9 points clear in Greece. Also here on the strength of some impressive UEFA Cup performances.
20. Panathinaikos (21): Chasing Olympiakos now after a nice run in the Champions League Group stage.
21. Benfica (NR): Nice 1-0 win over Braga to stay top of the Portuguese League.
22. AZ Alkmaar (22): The Dutch leaders are still on Winter break.
23. Sporting Lisbon (NR): The 2-0 win over Maritimo puts them 2nd in Portugal.
24. Napoli (NR): Picked up a crucial 3 points to beat Catania and grab 4th in Serie A.
25. Ajax (25): Currently on Winter Break.
In last time, out this time: Fiorentina (18), FC Porto (23), Paris Saint Germain (24).
Watching out for: Everton, Wigan, Rennes, Marseille, Deportivo La Coruna, Celtic, and Rangers