Jonah Freedman
Thursday April 30th, 2009

It just doesn't feel right doing our rundown midway through the Champions League semis. Too many things are up in the air, and too much could change in less than a week. To make matters worse, we're doubting our own rule to include at least one non-European club in each edition as the inconsistency reigns in Latin America (and makes us, truth be told, start to look at Kashima Antlers for some spice this week). So we'll call this week's rundown -- to borrow a phrase we don't hear enough anymore -- the Hanging Chad Rankings.

Meanwhile, if you're missing a good e-mail spam scam to giggle at, check out the best one I've ever received at my Throw-Ins Blog -- this one was schemed up especially for us, fellow footie fanatics. Enjoy!

Note: All rankings, records and statistics are through April 29.

World Soccer Power Rankings
1FC Barcelona
Previously: 1
FC Barcelona
Could Barça have picked a worse time to look vulnerable? All of a sudden, their mega-showdown with Real this weekend at the Bernabéu is a must-win game. Should they lose to their archrivals, they'll be only one point up in La Liga. Meanwhile, they'll be without both starting center backs -- Rafa Márquez (out for the season) and Carles Puyol (card accumulation) -- next week for the second leg of the Champions League semis at Stamford Bridge, where they must keep Chelsea from scoring. In the span of four days, everything could come crashing down.
 
2Manchester United
Previously: 2
Manchester United
I thought long and hard as to whether the Red Devils deserved the top spot. Ultimately what it came down to is that their lead in the English Premier League is more precarious than Barça's in Liga, and their ouster by Everton in the FA Cup semis is a real stinger. It ends up being a case of which combination of trophies is worth more -- definitely a subjective call, and a return trip to the Champions League final is worth plenty.
 
3Chelsea
Previously: 3
Chelsea
This is precisely why Guus Hiddink is the Jedi master, perhaps the best tactician in the world. The way his Blues shut down that vaunted Barcelona attack was highly impressive, particularly the job José Bosingwa did on Lionel Messi and the neutralizing job Michael Essien pulled off on Xavi and Andrés Iniesta. Hiddink may have conceded the EPL crown but, if Chelsea can hold down the fort next week, a return trip to the Champions League final is 90 minutes away.
 
4Arsenal
Previously: 4
Arsenal
How bummed is Arsène Wenger that his newest toy, Andrei Arshavin, can't play for Arsenal in the Champions League because of his earlier action for Zenit St. Petersburg? The Russian scored in all kinds of different ways in that wacky 4-4 draw with Liverpool last week, and the boss sure could have used his creativity and unorthodox play at Old Trafford. Still, crazy as it sounds, you've got to figure Arsenal has a shot in the second leg at home, down only 1-0. Put down your prawn-and-sun-dried-tomato sandwiches, Gunners fans -- stranger things have happened.
 
5Real Madrid
Previously: 6
Real Madrid
For those of you who labeled Juande Ramos a failure in his 12 months with Tottenham, consider this: Since he took over for Bernd Schuster four months ago, Real has gone 18-1-0 in La Liga (thanks to du Nord for digging that up). To find their last loss, you'll have to go all the way back to last Dec. 13 when los Blancos fell to -- yep, you guessed it -- Barcelona. Need any more motivation than that?
 
6Liverpool
Previously: 5
Liverpool
Liverpool's year is starting to boil down to opportunities missed, and if that doesn't sound like a broken record to you, it should. Defensive breakdowns led to both the Reds' exit from the Champions League and a near loss in that back-and-forth 4-4 draw with Arsenal. Liverpool has nothing left to play for this season other than its first league crown since 1990. But do they really want it?
 
7Inter Milan
Previously: 7
Inter Milan
It's been pretty gloomy lately at the San Siro. Since the Nerazzurri crashed out of the Champions League, they've seen their Serie A lead whittled away (thanks to a three-game winless streak) and an embarrassing crash-out in the Coppa Italia to Sampdoria. On top of it all, now Zlatan Ibrahimovic says he may not stay, which especially hurts since Inter finally has cut Adriano loose. Paging Didier Drogba.
 
8FC Porto
Previously: 8
FC Porto
With six straight wins (and zero losses in their last 19 matches), the Dragons are marching to their fourth straight Portuguese Liga title and 17th in the past 25 years. And very soon, the biannual vulture-circling of Europe's heavyweights will begin. Chelsea and Liverpool reportedly are interested in near-Man U vanquisher, defender Bruno Alves.
 
9Hamburger SV
Previously: 10
Hamburger SV
Hamburg may be stuttering a bit in the Bundesliga, with two losses in its last three. But Martin Jol's men are still just three points off the pace and have another date with German rivals Werder Bremen -- which knocked them out of the German Cup on penalties -- in the UEFA Cup semis. "We have played a superb season and maybe we will get our revenge in the UEFA Cup," says midfielder Piotr Trochowski.
 
10Cruzeiro
Previously: --
Cruzeiro
Can someone explain to us why it is that virtually zero Latin clubs can maintain any consistency in both the Copa Libertadores and in league play? Incredibly, Cruzeiro is the only one that is experiencing success in both (and is in one of the most Mickey Mouse of the already rodent-like Brazilian state championships). Even that might be fleeting, since Cruzeiro was picked for Libertadores glory last year and was promptly blown out by Boca Juniors. Charity spot, indeed.
 
Honorable mentions: AC Milan, Olympique de Marseille, VfL Wolfsburg, São Paulo, AZ Alkmaar, Dynamo Kiev, Grêmio, Shakhtar Donetsk, Vélez Sarsfield
Dropped off: São Paulo

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