The other day SI.com released their world soccer Power Rankings. I know that these rankings don't really mean anything as they are just one person's opinion. If anything they just start conversation and maybe even stir up some controversy, which it has done for me. According to their latest rankings, Real Madrid claims the No. 1 spot, with Barcelona, Man U and Chelsea following as 2, 3 and 4 respectively. Chelsea did have a bad loss to Wigan, but I still wouldn't put Man U before them. Man U also had a bad early loss and doesn't look as strong as Chelsea. But at least there is a justifiable reason for dropping Chelsea below Man U.
The biggest issue I have with this poll is the dethroning of Barcelona. Johan Freedman, the man at SI making the rankings, doesn't really give a reason for dropping Barcelona, just mentions that Madrid has been rather dominant by outscoring its opponents 24-2. No one can argue that Madrid's offense hasn't been impressive thus far, the 24-2 goal differential and the fact that they are undefeated is pretty impressive, but they have hardly been tested. Besides their Champions League opponents, the only notable team in La Liga that Real has played was Deportivo de la Coruna (currently 5th in the standings) and they are responsible for the 2 goals that Real has given up this season.
A quick look at some stats should prove that Barcelona has been just as impressive as Real and hasn't done anything to deserve the demotion:
Combining the 5 La Liga games and the 2 Champions League games thus far this year, Barcelona has taken 114 shots, 50 of which were actually on goal. Which means 43% of all of their shots are actually on target. Real has taken 144 shots, 57 of which were on goal. 39% of their shots are on target.
Another statistic is time of possession and opponents' shots on goal. Barcelona in their league games, on average has possessed the ball for 69.6% of the game. Including two games where they possessed the ball for 78 and 79% of the entire game. Talk about frustrating for an opponent. Additionally, their opponents have taken 49 total shots, 14 of which have been on goal. In the Champions League, against arguably better opponents, Inter Milan and Dynamo Kiev, Barcelona has possessed the ball on average for 70.5% of the game. Inter and Kiev took 18 combined shots, with only 3 on goal, all by Inter. Dynamo didn't have one shot on goal.
Conversely, for Real Madrid in La Liga, they have possessed the ball on average for 54.8% of the game. Their opponents have taken 62 shots, with 20 actually on goal. In the Champions League, they have a time of possession of 59.5% with their opponents, Zurich and Marseille combining for 22 total shots with 11 on goal.
I understand that was a lot of numbers and stats. I also realize that some of them don't mean too much. Real and Barca have different styles of play. Real is constantly in an all out attack on goal. Possession isn't nearly as important to them, whereas Barca plays to possess the ball all game and tries to create the perfect opportunity on goal. Clearly because its more important to their style of play, Barcelona would have a higher time of possession. Real of course has more total shots since they play to just attack all game.
But I do think the numbers are telling in that they demonstrate that Barcelona has showed zero signs of slowing down. They haven't done anything to show that they aren't nearly as good or dominant as they were last year. They hold some opponents to zero shots! They possess the ball all game long and frustrate the heck out of teams. This was most notably demonstrated last season on the biggest stage when they played Man U in the Champions League finals. Have you ever seen a more frustrated team than Man U that night? Barca has incredible playmakers and still have the best midfield in the world.
Real is much improved from last year. Their offense is scary good. But anyone that has watched any of Real's games knows that they still have huge holes in their defense and that they give up a lot of shots. Anyone that saw the recent Marseille game knows that in typical Real Madrid fashion, if Iker 'the true galactico' Casillas wasn't in goal, the game would have been at least 3-2 (probably should have been 2-2 since the Penalty was debatable at best). It will be interesting this weekend when Real takes on third placed Sevilla without injured C. Ronaldo. Granted, the team still has Kaka, Benzema, Xabi Alonso, Sergio Ramos and Raul in the lineup, so they have no reason not to win. But Sevilla should give them a test and will show if they are a dominant power like Barcelona.
The first clash between Real Madrid and Barcelona takes place on Nov. 29 in Barcelona. If Real can go into the Camp Nou and take down Barcelona, then they have a legitimate claim to the throne. Until then, just because they have a crown on their logo, doesn't mean they get to wear it. It still belongs to Barcelona.