With the European soccer season set to get into full swing this weekend it is time to bring back a staple of the original SBI, The SBI European Top 25.
Manchester United finished as the unquestioned choice for top team in Europe last year, winning the league and Champions League trophies. Things won’t be as easy this time around as Man U will not start the season in the top spot. Chelsea’s off-season improvements give the Blues the edge to start the season.
There aren’t many surprises to start the year. At least I don’t think there are. My darkhorse to be a breakout team is Atletico Madrid, which has compiled an even deeper talent pool than usual and Atletico could be this year’s Villarreal.
Just take note that this is the start of the season so the rankings will adjust over time so don’t get too bent out of shape if your club is lower than you think it should be.
Now, here is the first installment of the 2008 SBI European Top 25:
SBI European Top 25
This week: vs. Tottenham on Sunday.
Outlook: The addition of manager Luiz Felipe Scolar, midfield maestro Deco as well as fullback Jose Bosingwa have the Blues looking like EPL and Champions League title favorites. And that’s not including the potential Robinho signing.
This week: at Numancia on Sunday.
Outlook: Additions of Dani Alves, Alexander Hleb and Seydou Keita, as well as the team’s decision to keep Samuel Eto’o has the squad looking as talented as the squad that won the Champions League two years ago. Spain’s Euro stars, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Carles Puyol, lead a team that looks poised to erase the disappointment of last season.
3. Inter Milan
This week: at Sampdoria on Saturday.
Outlook: Arrival of Jose Mourinho makes Inter an intriguing pick to pull the double. Inter has the talent and should now have the organization. Is Mario Balotelli ready for primetime?
4. Manchester United
This week: Off in EPL (vs. Zenit St. Petersburg in UEFA Super Cup on Friday).
Outlook: Playing without Cristiano Ronaldo, reigning European and EPL champions are started slowly but are still among the world’s best
5. Real Madrid
This week: at Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday.
Outlook: Wesley Snjeider’s injury, Robinho’s uncertain status and the club’s inability to land any big-ticket summer signings has the La Liga champions looking vulnerable.
This week: at Aston Villa on Sunday.
Outlook: Additions of Robbie Keane and Albert Riera should help Reds shake the ‘underachiever’ label. The big questions are whether Fernando Torres can keep it up and whether Steven Gerrard can stay healthy.
7. Bayern Munich
This week: vs. Hertha Berlin.
Outlook: The slow start doesn’t bode well, but Bayern just has too much talent and the addition of new manager Juergen Klinsmann makes Bayen a favorite to repeat as Bundesliga champions and be a real threat in Champions League. Absence of Franck Ribery can’t be forgotten.
This week: at Fiorentina on Sunday.
Outlook: Additions of Amauri, Olof Mellberg and (possibly) Stephen Appiah could be the perfect mix for a Juve team that looks poised to challenge Inter for the Scudetto. Can Alessandro Del Piero and David Trezeguet repeat their amazing years?
9. AC Milan
This week: vs. Bologna on Sunday.
Outlook: Additions of Andriy Shevchenko, Ronaldinho and Mathieu Flamini give a boost to an aging club that needed some new blood. The questions are big ones though. Can Sheva regain his old Milan form? Can Ronaldinho work his La Liga magic in Serie A? Can Ronaldinho get into good enough shape to deal with the tight spaces in Serie A?
10. Atletico Madrid
This week: vs. Malaga on Sunday.
Outlook: Additions of Johnny Heitinga, Tomas Ujfalusi and Paulo Assuncao bolster the defense, and the late arrival of Ever Banega via loan could wind up being a huge addition. With Sergio Aguero, Diego Forlan and Maxi Rodriguez in attack, Atletico gets the edge over Villarreal for the last spot in the Top 10. They could be the biggest surprise in Europe this year.
- 11. Villarreal
- 12. Roma
- 13. Lyon
- 14. Arsenal
- 15. Ajax
- 16. Fiorentina
- 17. Fenerbahce
- 18. Schalke 04
- 19. PSV Eindhoven
- 20. FC Porto
- 21. Celtic
- 22. Zenit St. Petersburg
- 23. Everton
- 24. Standard Liege
- T25. Hamburg
- T25. Aston Villa
So yeah, it’s actually a Top 26. Let me know what you think of the initial rankings. I’m not married to these initial rankings, just a snapshot of how I think things shape up heading into the new season. I’m sure I will adjust them quite a bit as things shake out.
Feel free to list your own Top 10, and also share your thoughts on my rankings in the comments section below.