Monday, December 8, 2008

No. 2 Barcelona

Based only on what has happened from August to December, Barcelona has been the best team in Europe.
Barca has a goal differential of +35 from 14 games in La Liga, scoring 44 and conceeding nine. Cameroon international Samuel Eto'o leads the league with 14 goals , while Argentine Lionel Messi has nine and France's Thierry Henry has seven.
The 18-time La Liga winners are in position to hoist another trophy, especially with rivals Real Madrid nine points back in fifth place.
Barca's run in the Champions League has also been impressive. Barca qualified for the Group Stage with a 4-1 aggregate win over Wisla Krakow (Poland) and haven't slowed down since. Barca has four wins and one draw from five Group C games, already clinching the top spot and a place in the knockout round.

Why they are here: Barca leads the Champions League with 16 goals in the Group Stage, four more than the next team, Lyon (France). The +11 goal differential is also tops, three clear of Arsenal.

Why they might not be here in May: Because they might be first. Barca sold players like Deco (to Chelsea) and Ronaldinho (to A.C. Milan) but the continued emergence of Eto'o and Messi and the additions of Daniel Alves (from Sevilla) and Alexander Hleb (from Arsenal) have more than made up for those departures. That's not even to mention three players who were on Spain's winning side in Euro 2008 - mifielders Xavi and Andres Iniesta, and defender Carlos Puyol. The team is loaded.

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