Jonah Freedman
Thursday September 17th, 2009

We now return you to your regularly scheduled Rankings. Sorry for the near month-long lapse, but it's been a busy few weeks of international play. What we're left with here is a funny window of time early in the season in which some of the power clubs are taking their time to warm up, while other teams are making early shots across the bow of their respective leagues. That's why you'll find, for instance, Manchester City up high this week, yet Arsenal and Liverpool -- both winners in their Champions League openers -- are missing due to some dodgy league results. In the meantime, we've got a couple of clubs on here that aren't at the summit of their leagues, but sometimes, you've just got a feeling. As usual, give me an earful here, and enjoy this week's rundown.

Note: All rankings, records and statistics are through Sept. 16.

World Soccer Power Rankings
Previously: 2
It hasn't always been pretty, but Chelsea has been the better team in every game it has played so far this season, and is off to a perfect start in the English Premier League and in the Champions League. Carlo Ancelotti has his choice of toys out of the Blues' delicious depth chart. And this squad had better be good -- it'll be the same one you see for the next 18 months. That's how long Chelsea will have to wait to make a signing, if FIFA's punishment for the club's tampering infraction holds up.
2FC Barcelona
Previously: 1
FC Barcelona
Strange to see the marquee matchup of the Champions League group stage come this early, but a point isn't a bad haul for Barça to take home from the San Siro. The story so far has been the same -- one of the most dominant possession teams we've ever seen, and so far the results have backed Pep Guardiola up. The Blaugrana drop a spot based on Chelsea's colossal start to the season, but we're thinking they're just warming up.
3Real Madrid
Previously: 3
Real Madrid
Well, the offense sure is clicking -- that was never in doubt. Madrid has six goals through two Spanish league games and blasted FC Zürich for five in its Champions League opener. Between Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Kaká, Gonzalo Higuaín and Raúl, this team is going to score lots and lots of goals this season. But it also has been lax in defense, particularly in its La Liga opener against Deportivo La Coruña and then again on Tuesday against the Swiss club. That's a problem Manuel Pellegrini needs to address, and soon.
4Manchester United
Previously: --
Manchester United
"Keep me in, coach"-whining Wayne Rooney & Co. have responded to that sad loss to Burnley with three straight resounding victories in EPL play -- including huge wins over Arsenal and Tottenham -- and then marching into Istanbul and pulling out a 1-0 win over Besiktas in the Champions League in one of the toughest stadiums to play in the entire world. All in all, an excellent run from a side many already had written off.
Previously: 8
Big disappointment to see Juve pull out only a draw at home in its Champions League opener against Bordeaux, especially after starting the Serie A season undefeated. The Bianconeri clearly missed injured Diego in the midfield in Turin, but more so, couldn't beat the elements when a downpour made the conditions at the Stadio Olimpico downright horrible. Juve missed a number of chances to grab a win; for now, let's chalk this up to an ugly night. The prospect of carrying on without four injured starters, however, is much, much uglier.
6Manchester City
Previously: 9
Manchester City
How about those Citizens systematically taking Arsenal apart last Saturday? With four straight victories, City is off to its best start in 48 years as a member of England's top division. This club is most likely a powerhouse on the rise, and without any European play this season (which is a guarantee to hurt its odds in this space), it has depth and necessary days off to outlast some of the EPL powers. Are the Big Four in reach? Far too soon to say. Let's just hope the volatile Emmanuel Adebayor doesn't become the EPL version of Ron Artest.
7Inter Milan
Previously: 4
Inter Milan
Very strange to see the Nerazzurri sit back and absorb pressure at home against Barça on Wednesday as if they were facing a team four divisions above them. Then again, maybe they were -- as's Greg Lalas told me yesterday, "Barcelona's making them look like a bunch of 14-year-olds out there." Sad, because Inter's 4-0 smokeout of AC Milan last month was inspiring. But if it plays as constipated as it did against Barcelona, José Mourinho's men won't even win Serie A, much less compete in Europe.
Previously: --
Lost in the shuffle of the orgy of spending one-upsmanship between Barcelona and Real Madrid is the fact that Valencia -- a club that was in serious financial trouble until a few months ago -- is still an awfully good team. As long as David Villa and David Silva are in the fold (and more budding stars like 21-year-old winger Juan Mata come down the pipe), Los Che will remain a factor in the Spanish race. Valencia kicks off its Europa League campaign Thursday at Lille.
9Bayern Munich
Previously: --
Bayern Munich
They're five points behind Hamburg (which has yet to be tested this season) for the Bundesliga lead, but that sizzling sound you hear is Bayern heating up fast. The Bavarians have won two straight after a slow start to the German season, including a 5-1 demolition at Borussia Dortmund last weekend, and smashed a hapless Israeli opponent to open Champions League play. Bayern's attack of Franck Ribéry, Mario Gómez and Arjen Robben is going to scare a lot of defenses this year.
10SC Internacional
Previously: --
SC Internacional
It's the charity stripe, for sure. But O Colorado has had a tougher run than you think. For one, Tite's men are assaulting the table in the underrated marathon stretch of the Brazilian Championship and are just a point off the lead (their first loss in five games on Sunday was a tight one to Copa Libertadores finalist Cruzeiro). But they're also doing so despite being stretched thin by reaching the Brazilian Cup final and readying to defend their Sudamericana crown starting next week vs. Universidad de Chile.
Honorable mentions: Olympique Lyonnais, Girondins de Bordeaux, Sevilla, Hamburger SV, Genoa, Vélez Sarsfield, Palmeiras
Dropped off: Arsenal, Estudiantes de La Plata, VfL Wolfsburg, Liverpool

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