Jonah Freedman
Thursday January 21st, 2010

You can blame the weather, I suppose. England's deep freeze has wreaked havoc on the Premier League calendar, which is great for U.S.-based fans -- there have been midweek (and therefore, mid-day) games galore, like Wednesday's Liverpool-Tottenham showdown of underachievers. In the meantime, both the FA and Carling Cups have been raging on, and selected other European action -- mixed in with some awesome African Cup of Nations games -- have made mid-January a smorgasbord of excellent soccer. Plus, with everyone finally off winter break, we can start picking apart the leftovers again. Enjoy this week's rundown -- we recommend you nuke on high for two minutes, flip, then zap for another two minutes on medium.

Note: All rankings, records and statistics are through Jan. 20.

World Soccer Power Rankings
1Chelsea
Previously: 2
Chelsea
Barça stumbles and Chelsea rolls on. The Blues have made a thunderous start to 2010, with a 5-0 thumping of Watford in the FA Cup and a 7-2 beat-down of hapless Sunderland in EPL play last weekend. Net-net, Chelsea is tied with Arsenal for first in league and has a one-point advantage over second-place Man. United, but with a game in hand over both rivals, too. In the absence of the team's African quartet, attackers Florent Malouda, Nicolas Anelka, starlet Daniel Sturridge and, especially, wing back Júliano Belletti all have stepped up.
 
2FC Barcelona
Previously: 1
FC Barcelona
A funny thing happened on Barça's way to defending its six titles: It actually came up short. A gutty Sevilla effort kept the Catalan giants from claiming a second straight Copa del Rey and denying them any trophy in a year-and-a-half. That's really the first blemish for Barcelona this season. Armed with a one-year contract extension, Pep Guardiola has watched his men win two straight in league, 5-0 over Tenerife and then 4-0 over that same Sevilla side for a four-point cushion in La Liga.
 
3Arsenal
Previously: 6
Arsenal
We all keep thinking the Gunners' luck will run out sooner or later, but like a good zombie, Arsenal just won't die. Even when it looked as if Everton would steal three points at the Emirates, Arsenal found a stoppage-time goal from Tomas Rosicky to salvage a draw. On Wednesday, after falling behind to Bolton 2-0, the squad staged a four-goal rally thanks to some added brilliance from Cesc Fàbregas. We're still dubious of their endurance in the EPL race, but it's a guaranteed show every time Arsène Wenger's boys take the pitch.
 
4Inter Milan
Previously: 3
Inter Milan
It hasn't been pretty, but Inter keeps on bagging points and sitting pretty atop Serie A. The Nerazzurri haven't lost in five straight and have seen Samuel Eto'o stand-in, Diego Milito, score three goals in his last two starts. Of some concern is a defense and banged-up defensive midfield that has conceded five goals in the last two league games. That's even more problematic with the Milan derby coming up on Sunday -- Inter's San Siro rivals are on fire. Set phasers to "kick-ass matchup."
 
5AC Milan
Previously: 7
AC Milan
And speaking of those Rossoneri, here they are, climbing to their highest place on these Rankings since winning the European Cup in 2007. The last time we saw Ronaldinho this hot, he was thumb-and-pinkie-wagging his way to a second straight FIFA World Player of the Year Award. 'Dinho isn't quite as fluid (or thin) as he was back then, but his dazzling performances are a big reason Milan has won eight of its last nine Serie A matches and is closing the gap. The Toothy One has seven goals in his last four games and a little of that old magic is reappearing.
 
6Real Madrid
Previously: 4
Real Madrid
Someone put out an APB on Cristiano Ronaldo, because the Portuguese winker hasn't found the goal in three straight games. Madrid won only one of those three and allowed Barcelona to pad its lead in La Liga. "I am not in a rut and the goals will surely come," he told Spanish daily Marca. Real fans had better hope so, because failing to score a single goal against teams like Osasuna and Athletic Bilbao just ain't acceptable.
 
7Girondins de Bordeaux
Previously: 5
Girondins de Bordeaux
Bordeaux's heroic draw against Marseille was merely the end of its seven-game win streak in Ligue 1, but it was enough to see its resounding league shrink by a point and expose some rust from the winter break. Wednesday's 3-1 rally over Grenoble was more like it, and this side looks primed to maintain its place in league. But distractions abound these days, from the Champions League round of 16 in a month's time to manager Laurent Blanc being connected in the press to every big job around, including French national-team boss and Sir Alex Ferguson's successor at Man. United.
 
8Manchester United
Previously: 8
Manchester United
Things haven't improved a ton for the three-time defending EPL champs since we last checked in. They salvaged a point at Birmingham and thumped Burnley 3-0 to stay a point back in the standings. But watching former United striker Carlos Tévez take his revenge on Ferguson and Gary Neville in Tuesday's Carling Cup semifinal first leg was painful. City may be nursing a 2-1 leg, but if Man. Utd has any pride, it'll come back with a thunder in the second leg next Wednesday at Old Trafford.
 
9PSV Eindhoven
Previously: 9
PSV Eindhoven
The undefeated start continues -- PSV hasn't lost through 31 games in all competitions. Fred Rutten's side is also on top of the Dutch Eredivisie on goal differential over FC Twente. But we'll know more about what this side is really made of in three weeks, when PSV resumes Europa League play against Hamburg in the round of 32. Feyenoord should be a good warm-up opponent in the Dutch Cup quarterfinals, too.
 
10Flamengo
Previously: --
Flamengo
Some of you have been asking why we obligatorily put a non-European team on here each go-around. That has been our policy here in Rankingsville since Day 1: At least one non-Euro club will appear so we can't be accused of Eurocentrism. That said, it's frustrating when no single power will step forward consistently in Latin America. For now, we'll put Brazil's most popular club back on here as it begins defense of its Rio State Championship title on the heels of its first Brazilian Championship in 17 years. Former CSKA Moscow star Vágner Love is now on board, too, joining Adriano as homesick stars who came running back to Brazil to get their careers back on track.
 
Honorable mentions: Bayern Munich, FC Twente, Valencia, SL Benfica, Panathinaikos, Monterrey
Dropped off: Estudiantes de La Plata

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