Jonah Freedman
Thursday April 16th, 2009

Was this the best round of Champions League play in recent memory? That 4-4 draw between Chelsea and Liverpool on Tuesday didn't feature particularly good soccer, but it was about as thrilling a game as you'll find: changes in momentum, last-minute heroics and more fuel to what has become perhaps England's best rivalry. Porto didn't disappoint against Manchester United, and went down valiantly. Meanwhile, Arsenal finished off Villarreal, but Theo Walcott's pretty chip on Wednesday was a nice bookend to Emmanuel Adebayor's goal of the year in the first leg. And Barcelona -- well, you know how dazzled we are by the Blaugrana in this space. Enjoy.

Note: All rankings, records and statistics are through April 15.

World Soccer Power Rankings
1FC Barcelona
Previously: 1
FC Barcelona
If you're Chelsea right now and your defense and goalkeeping look as bad as they did against Liverpool, you've got to be extremely worried about facing the most prolific team in Europe. Barça is averaging 3.4 goals per game in the Champions League, and that's on top of its near-three per game in domestic play (and differential of plus-63!). Worse, no single team has found a way to slow down Lionel Messi, while Samuel Eto'o is back to abusing defenders and Thierry Henry finally has found his niche in a vicious three-pronged attack. Be afraid, Chelsea.
 
2Manchester United
Previously: 2
Manchester United
Porto is gone, and the hunt for the quintuple goes on. You knew it had to be Cristiano Ronaldo to step into the hero role when Man. U needed a result on his home soil. The former Sporting Lisbon product delivered a dagger to the gut of his old Portuguese rivals and reminded all of Red Devil nation why United players pleaded with Sir Alex Ferguson to break the bank to sign him as a teenager six years ago. "It looks like the fans have a new hero," Fergie said at the time. CR7 hasn't let up since.
 
3Chelsea
Previously: 4
Chelsea
While the Blues' performance in that first leg at Anfield was breathtaking, their sleepwalking turn in the second leg was not. Still, Tuesday's 4-4 thriller at the Bridge is probably the game of the year in terms of excitement. Beyond those defensive concerns, however, is the form of Petr Cech, who gave up seven goals in back-to-back games. It's sad to admit it, but the Czech keeper hasn't been the same since that horrific noggin-to-knee collision with Reading's Stephen Hunt two seasons ago.
 
4Arsenal
Previously: 8
Arsenal
Man. United vs. Arsenal; Ferguson vs. Arsène Wenger. Enough said. Who would have thought we'd be staring down this classic in the semis after the Gunners were busy losing to Hull, Stoke and Burnley earlier this season? And all of a sudden, Arsenal has reminded us why it's part of the Big Four and is the hottest team in the EPL to boot, on a five-game winning streak and undefeated in 18 straight. Yes, eighteen games in a row. Why is it, again, that we keep doubting the boss?
 
5Liverpool
Previously: 3
Liverpool
Admit it: Even you started to think, "My God, they're going to do it again." We've learned time and again that you can never bet against Rafa Benítez in a tournament, and the 'Pool nearly pulled a shocker that may even have eclipsed Istanbul '05. Instead, the Reds are left with only the EPL title to chase, a finality that seems even more damning considering that the rest of the Big Four are still in FA Cup semi action this weekend.
 
6Real Madrid
Previously: 5
Real Madrid
While the feud between manager Juande Ramos and bullfight truant Sergio Ramos seems to be off the front burner, keeper Iker Casillas says the team needs more bodies to stay competitive in Europe. And he may get them if Galáctico-era architect Florentino Pérez reclaims the club presidency in June's elections. With names like David Villa, Xabi Alonso, Maicon and -- yes -- Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaká being bandied about again, things at the Bernabéu may look different next season. Where have we heard that one before?
 
7Inter Milan
Previously: 6
Inter Milan
The Nerazzurri machine finally was slowed a little in Serie A this past weekend as Inter faded down the stretch and gave up two equalizing goals at home to Palermo. The draw was only the second time Inter has failed to win in 12 league matches. Luckily, second-place Juventus is starting to fade, too. In the meantime, if you didn't catch Luis Bueno's Q&A with José Mourinho last week, check it out -- it sure sounds like the Special One is starting to close the books on his Italian adventure.
 
8FC Porto
Previously: 7
FC Porto
The Dragons have every reason to hold their heads up high. Going into the Champions League quarters, no one gave them a chance. To steal two away goals at Old Trafford is a huge accomplishment and, with a few bounces of the ball, Porto would be in the semis. I'll admit, I wrote this group off after its heavy losses last offseason, but I've been dazzled by the play of revelations Hulk, Cristian Rodríguez and Bruno Alves in particular, to go along with what I expect out of Argentines Lucho González and Lisandro López. They'll be back.
 
9São Paulo
Previously: 9
São Paulo
With its passage to the knockout rounds of the Copa Libertadores secured, it sure looked like the Brazilian powerhouse took its foot off the gas last weekend in the first leg of the Paulista championship against Corinthians. But even without injured keeper and captain Rogério Ceni, expect Muricy Ramalho to throw everything at his team's crosstown rivals in the second leg on Sunday in front of the home crowd at the Morumbí. This one's worth watching, folks (if you get GolTV) -- it's when these plodding Brazilian state tournaments actually get good. Oh, and did we mention the visitors have some guy named Ronaldo?
 
10Hamburger SV
Previously: --
Hamburger SV
Martin Jol's men are back -- for the time being, anyway, providing they can hang onto their 3-1 advantage in Thursday's UEFA Cup quarterfinal second leg at Manchester City. Hamburg is now the only remaining German team with any shot of a domestic and European double. Still just three points back of upstart Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga, it's going down to the wire. Sit back and enjoy the fireworks from Mladen Petric, José Paolo Guerrero and Ivica Olic (before he joins Bayern next season).
 
Honorable mentions: Olympique de Marseille, Paris Saint-Germain, VfL Wolfsburg, AZ Alkmaar, Dynamo Kiev, Cruzeiro, Libertad
Dropped off: Bayern Munich

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