Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Sportszilla's European Football Power Poll - August
By Imtiaz Mussa

Each month, I will give you my ranking of the top ten teams in European football. I figure now would be the best time to give the first one. The German Bundesliga and French Ligue 1 are already underway and the English Premiership starts this weekend with the Italian Serie A and the Spanish Primera Liga just around the corner.

1. FC Barcelona (Primera Liga)
Won the Champions League and Primera Liga last season. Then, they buy Gudjohnsen, Zambrotta, and Thuram in the summer while only losing Larsson. And the last time we checked, Ronaldinho, Deco, Eto’o, and Messi are still there. All of this adds up to the boys from the Catalan capital making a strong run at defending both titles.

2. Chelsea (Premiership)
Jose Mourinho has only one obsession: Win the Champions League. To help with that, he buys Andriy Shevchenko from AC Milan and gets Michael Ballack on a free transfer. Ashley Cole may be on his way as well. How much is all of this costing Roman Abramovich? Don’t ask.

3. Inter Milan (Serie A)
No team benefited more from what happened to Juventus. Not only have they been named last year’s Serie A Champions but they also bought Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Patrick Vieira from the demoted club. They also acquired Hernan Crespo from Chelsea on a two year loan. All of these new arrivals have to motivate Adriano.

4. Real Madrid (Primera Liga)
It’s a new era in Madrid and with new president Ramon Calderon and manager Fabio Capello, came some new galacticos. Cannavaro and Emerson arrive from Juventus and Ruud van Nistelrooy signed from Manchester United. Jose Antonio Reyes could be signing from Arsenal before the August 31 deadline. Whether or not this team will have the necessary chemistry is of great debate but we do know that the fans will miss Zidane.

5. Manchester United (Premiership)
United enter the season with a massive chip on their shoulder. Only winning the Carling Cup and coming in second in the Premiership will not do for a club that has only known excellence since the Premiership formed. Losing van Nistelrooy’s goalscoring prowess hurts but Rooney and Saha can expect plenty of service from new midfielder Michael Carrick. Ballwinning midfielder Marcos Senna could join before the deadline.

6. Liverpool (Premiership)
Rafael Benitez has been tremendous since joining Liverpool in 2004. He shipped out the disappointing Cisse and replaced him with Craig Bellamy who has shown he can score in the Premiership. No matter how hard Chelsea try, Steven Gerrard and Xabi Alonso might be the best central midfield partnership in Europe.

7. Bayern Munich (Bundesliga)
Germany’s defending champions are back with a new forward in the form of Lukas Podolski who made a name for himself during the World Cup. Oliver Kahn may not have played a meaningful game in June but he is still a quality goalkeeper. Just how much the team misses Michael Ballack is the question.

8. Arsenal (Premiership)
Sol Campbell and Robert Pires are gone. Ashley Cole and Jose Antonio Reyes might be heading out. Getting Tomas Rosicky was a great addition by Arsene Wenger. Cesc Fabregas is a fantastic young midfielder but he is not the same type of player as Patrick Vieira who they still haven’t replaced. If Cole departs, the defense will not be good enough for Arsenal to compete at any high level. Also remember, Arsenal made the Champions League this season only because Tottenham Hotspur collapsed on the final day of the season.

9. Olympique Lyon (Ligue 1)
Former Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier went back to France and led Lyon to the top last season. Lyon has the most talented roster in France and should be considered a darkhorse in European competition. They are big fans of winger Franck Ribery and would love to add him to a midfield that is already loaded with internationals.

10. AC Milan (Serie A)
Thank the appeals process for bailing AC Milan out. They will be in the Champions League this season and have seen their point deficit cut. Thanks to that, they have managed to hold on to their players and avoid getting gutted. However, they have to find a way to score goals. Losing Shevchenko is going to hurt real bad.

Just Missing the Cut
Valencia (Primera Liga)
Hamburg SV (Bundesliga)
AS Roma (Serie A)
Porto (Portugal)
PSV Eindhoven (Eredivisie)


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