Yes, they’re back. I like doing these things, but it’s such a pain to compile them, particularly the way I did it. By way of explanation, teams get three points for each win, one for each draw, plus extra points for winning cup or league titles. I didn’t give teams extra points for competing in the “top leagues.” If you’re shocked that, say, Manchester United is so low in the rankings, then keep in mind that they’re not in first place in the league, and the only silverware they’ve won is the Community Shield. Any thoughts?
1. Barcelona (44-12-4). Titles won: European Supercup, Club World Championship, Spanish Supercopa. Still competing: Copa Del Rey. After getting knocked out of the Champions League and having their La Liga title all but wrested from their grasp, this could go down as the most disappointing season ever for a team that could still finish with three trophies and the most wins in all competitions. Best possible finish: 1st
2. Real Madrid (43-7-5). Titles won: La Liga (basically). Still competing: None. Madrid are currently in second in the rankings, but will likely drop below Chelsea or Bayern (or both) after one of those teams wins the Champions League final. Best possible finish: 2nd
3. Bayern Munich (37-5-10). Titles won: None. Still competing: Champions League, DfB Pokal. Winning the Champions League would be great, and winning the DfB Pokal would give Bayern some form of payback over Dortmund for winning the league. No treble this year, though. Best possible finish: 1st
4. Chelsea (31-14-11). Titles won: None. Still competing: Champions League, FA Cup. Chelsea’s surprise trip to the Champions League final still has them with a shot of finishing No. 1 on this list, though it’s unlikely. Best possible finish: 1st
5. Borussia Dortmund (30-7-8). Titles won: Bundesliga. Still competing: DfB Pokal. Dortmund’s poor play in continental competitions is the only thing keeping it from being a contender for top spot. Best possible finish: 4th
6. Porto (28-8-8). Titles won: Portuguese Superliga, Portuguese Supercup. Still competing: None. Porto were surprisingly bad in Europe this year, but will take home the Superliga title and Supercup once again. Best possible finish: 4th
7. Monterrey (25-10-13). Titles won: CONCACAF Champions League. Still competing: Mexican Primera. The two-time Champions League winners are also in the mix for their fifth Primera title. Best possible finish: 2nd
8. Benfica (32-9-7). Titles won: Portuguese League Cup. Still competing: None. Benfica will likely drop in the rankings once league titles and cups are decided elsewhere. Best possible finish: 7th
9. Athletic Bilbao (23-11-12). Titles won: None. Still competing: Europa League, Copa Del Rey. A victory in the Copa Del Rey would give Athletic 24 such trophies, second only to Barcelona (who they are playing). Beating Atletico Madrid in the Europa League final would give them their first continental title. Best possible finish: 4th
10. Manchester United (32-8-11). Titles won: Community Shield. Still competing: Premier League. Winning the Premier League would probably be the only thing that would salvage what has been a miserable season, at least by United’s standards. Best possible finish: 4th
11. Al-Sadd (21-7-13). Titles won: AFC Champions League. Still competing: None. Best possible finish: 7th
12. Manchester City (35-7-11). Titles won: None. Still competing: Premier League. Best possible finish: 4th
13. Zenit St. Petersburg (24-15-5). Titles won: Russian League. Still competing: None. Best possible finish: 9th
14. Liverpool (24-11-12). Titles won: League Cup. Still competing: FA Cup. Best possible finish: 9th
15. Atletico Madrid (23-11-14). Titles won: None. Still competing: Europa League. Best possible finish: 6th
16. AC Milan (27-13-9). Titles won: Supercopa Italia. Still competing: Serie A. Best possible finish: 5th
17. Lyon (24-4-14). Titles won: Trophee des Champions. Still competing: None. Best possible finish: 11th
18. Tigres UANL (21-13-8). Titles won: Mexican Primera Apertura. Still competing: Mexican Primera Clausura. Best possible finish: 4th
19. Arsenal (30-8-14). Titles won: None. Still competing: None. Best possible finish: 14th
20. Juventus (24-15-0). Titles won: None. Still competing: Serie A, Coppa Italia. Best possible finish: 5th
Keep an eye on: Santos (Brazil), Boca Juniors (Argentina), Jeonbuk Motors (Korea), Paris St. Germain, Montpellier (France), Napoli
By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood | Only Love Soccer
Though I do appreciate the football that Barcelona (and to a lesser extent, Real Madrid) play, I generally find La Liga incredibly boring – at this point in the season, there is a 29-point gap between second place and third place, and a team other than the big two has finished first or second only once since 2004. The last time another team won the league (Valencia) was in the 2003-04 season. This year will be the third consecutive season with at least a 20-point gap between them and the third-placed team, and likely one of the two teams will also win the Champions League. This is probably due to the fact that they take half of the TV revenue for La Liga between them, while the other 18 teams split the difference.
With this in mind, and because I’m weirdly interested in this kind of stuff, I figured out the La Liga table if Barcelona and Real Madrid didn’t exist at all (though obviously ignoring the question of where players like Xavi, Iker Casillas, et al…would play if the two teams weren’t there). And the result? Well, actually, the league wouldn’t be markedly different – but it would certainly be more competitive. I’m not going to bore you with a rundown of each team’s record against other clubs and so on, but Valencia would finish first, and Malaga (currently fourth) would finish second. The biggest benefactors of the exclusion of the two heavyweights are Atletico Madrid (who moves up to third with a +16 goal differential) and Osasuna (mostly due to their 8-0 loss to Barcelona earlier in the year). Interestingly, the team that suffers the most is Villareal, who drop into the relegation zone thanks to two draws at home against Barcelona and Real Madrid (though they did get spanked in their away matches).
So what does this tell us? Well, maybe the power base of Spanish football isn’t dramatically altered among the other 18 teams, but La Liga would be a vastly more interesting league if these two teams, say, shared an equal amount of revenue with the others. Next up: How about the Premier League without the Big 4 and Manchester City? DUN-DUN-DUN!
Only four days removed from their El Clasico horror show, Real Madrid supporters, officials and team had to be glad for the furor over the World Cup 2018 and 2022 bids to take off a bit of the limelight from them. Well, they would be more glad if Spain had been awarded the World Cup, but I digress … anyway, now football pundits are back, and, well, they want to talk about Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi and Real Madrid and Barcelona all over again.
On SI.com, the always excellent Sid Lowe examines the endless debate over whether Ronaldo is the “more complete” player than Messi. It’s a wonder people are still having that conversation, the way Barcelona has thrashed Real Madrid in the Pep Guardiola era. Gee, mom, which match highlights Ronaldo’s completeness more, the 5-0 loss at the Nou Camp this year, or Real Madrid’s two losses to Barcelona last year?
It is true that what makes Messi appear so remarkable are his headline skills. He has a ridiculous number of goals — 70 in his last 72 games. He has also out-dribbled Ronaldo this season — completing 50 successful dribbles to the Portuguese’s 30. But it is not about that. It is about the other things. All the other things. It is about the fact that, contrary to the assumptions that Messi is a player who only does the extraordinary, he does the simple things too. Messi, in short, can play. When Ronaldo is no longer an athlete, he will probably not be much of a player. Messi will.
Adding insult to injury in the Ronaldo-Messi/Real Madrid-Barcelona debate is this video, which the average Blaugrana fan will probably enjoy a bit more than Real Madrid supporters. Thanks to Who Ate All The Pies for finding it.
Just for the sake of debate, let’s look at the statistics for both players, since most people seem to avoid that for some reason that we don’t quite understand. Since coming to Madrid, Ronaldo has 40 goals and 12 assists in 41 matches in La Liga and 10 goals and 1 assist in 13 matches outside La Liga. He has also scored four goals in 19 matches for Portugal. Real Madrid have finished runners-up to Barcelona once, fell at the round of 32 in the Copa Del Rey, and lost in the knockout round of the Champions League. Both teams are still alive in the Copa Del Rey and Champions League this year. In three appearances against Barcelona as a member of Real Madrid, Ronaldo has yet to score and Real Madrid have yet to win.
As for Messi, he has 47 goals and 21 assists in 46 games in La Liga the last year and a half. In 26 matches in all other competitions, Messi has 23 goals and 4 assists. The last two years for Argentina, Messi has 5 goals in 20 appearances. Barcelona got to the round of 16 last year in the Copa Del Rey, while winning the Supercopa de Espana, Spanish Supercopa and the Club World Cup. In his three appearances against Real Madrid the last year and a half, Messi has one goal and two assists.
Ronaldo is a great player, no matter how much he preens and postures. His combination of size, speed and technique is virtually unmatched in world football. But if you look at the statistics, at least since he joined Real Madrid, it’s no contest.
Monday’s El Clasico between Barcelona and Real Madrid was interesting, not for the football on display, of which there was one clear victor, but rather because it allowed us to see the rare glimpse of a Jose Mourinho-coached team get utterly battered by their opponents. It was the worst loss ever by a Mourinho-coached team – the previous worst being a 3-0 loss to I think, Middlesbrough (go figure, right?). While this match certainly wasn’t a title-decider – Only 13 games in, Barcelona is leading by just two points, but Madrid fans and players have to be concerned by the way their team capitulated, particularly on defense, where they played as if they’d never seen, nor heard, about Barcelona’s style of play. In the end, Barcelona ended up with 67 percent possession, outshot Madrid 15-5, and probably could’ve scored more than five goals.
Some stats: In six matches against Barcelona, Cristiano Ronaldo has yet to score. Xavi Hernandez completed 110 passes before being subbed, most in La Liga this season. For some perspective, Stoke City completed 195 passes as an entire team against Manchester City. Real Madrid gave up five goals after conceding six total in their previous 12 matches in La Liga.
Scorers: Xavi (10), Pedro (18), Villa (55, 58), Jeffren (90+)
Valdes, GK – 6: Didn’t have anything to do, but never looked like he would give up a goal
Puyol, D – 7: Typically rugged and uncompromising performance.
Pique, D – 6.5: Didn’t even notice him out there, but it didn’t matter.
Abidal, LB – 7: A good attacking display; also kept di Maria quiet on the right.
Alves, RB – 6.5
Busquets, DMF – 7: I know it seems weird to give relatively low scores in such a defeat, but Madrid were so ineffective I can’t say much about his play.
Iniesta, MF – 8.5: Typically great with passing. Along with Xavi, dominated the Madrid midfield.
Xavi, MF – 9: Scored a great goal, passed excellently. Typically world class.
Pedro, RW – 8: Scored second goal. Has been in good form lately, with six goals and an assist in his last six matches, all competitions.
Villa, LW – 8.5: Set up Pedro’s goal, then scored a brace in three minutes after the break.
Messi, F – 8.5: Assisted on both of Villa’s goal. Typical excellent passing and movement.
Bojan, SUB – 7: Nearly scored twice after coming on.
Keita, SUB – NR
Jeffren, SUB – NR
Casillas, GK – 6: Has looked suspect lately, fumbling Villa’s pass for Pedro’s goal and letting Villa nutmeg him for the fourth goal.
Carvalho, D – 5.5: Yellow-carded for a handball, and probably lucky not to get a card for elbowing Messi earlier.
Pepe, D – 5: Seemed more eager to fight and argue than actually play defense.
Marcelo, LB – 4.5: Has been one of Madrid’s best players this year, but continually misplaced passes and was left for dead a couple times by Pedro.
Ramos, RB – 3: Might have been too caught up in the emotion of the game, making several mistakes in defense, then getting sent off for an idiotic foul and an even more idiotic slap at Puyol late in the game.
Xabi Alonso, MF – 4: A bystander as Xavi and Iniesta dictated the play in midfield.
Khedira, MF – 4.5: See Xabi Alonso’s description.
Ozil, AMF – 3.5: Utterly and completely missing in this match. Far below his abilities as a player. Withdrawn at half-time.
Ronaldo, LW – 5: Occasionally looked dangerous, then just petulant as the outcome of the match was decided early.
di Maria, RW – 5.5: Didn’t have the best match, but deserves credit for at least trying in the second half, more than you could say for many Real Madrid players.
Benzema, F – 5: Didn’t have a chance to have any effect on the game.
Diarra, SUB – 5
Arbeloa, SUB – 5