Juventus, Real Madrid tied as top team in AP poll

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LONDON (AP) - Juventus and Real Madrid are at the top of this week’s Associated Press global soccer poll. Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo leads the player poll.

The two teams drew 2-2 in the Champions League last week and were the standout clubs for the AP panel of 22 global soccer writers on Tuesday.

Juventus beat Serie A title rival Napoli 3-0 on Saturday. Madrid routed Real Sociedad 5-1, with Ronaldo scoring his 23rd hat trick since joining the Spanish club.

“With what he has shown since Sepp Blatter’s critical comments about him, Cristiano Ronaldo has forced him to eat his words,” Cedric Rouquette of L’Equipe said. “His pride stung, he has replied on the pitch with breathless form. The Ballon D’Or was possibly decided in his favor on Nov. 10.”

Ronaldo has been the main competitor to Lionel Messi, who has won the world player award for the last four years. But with Messi facing at least six weeks out with a leg injury, Ronaldo’s prospects of winning the award on Jan. 13 have perhaps never looked better.

He polled 45 points ahead of fellow Ballon D’Or nominee Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Paris Saint-Germain, who also had a hat trick in a 3-1 defeat of Nice. Ibrahimovic and Ronaldo will face each other when their national teams meet in a World Cup qualifying playoff.

“Every weekend, regret grows at the absence of one of Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Cristiano Ronaldo at the 2014 World Cup,” Leonardo Bertozzi of ESPN Argentina said.

Andrea Pirlo and Paul Pogba were the most impressive performers in Juventus‘ win, and they were sixth and eighth, respectively.

Elsewhere in the team vote, nine points separate the top four clubs, with Bayern Munich and Barcelona second and third.

Munich extended its lead in the Bundesliga to four points by beating Augsburg 3-0 while Dortmund lost to Wolfsburg. Barcelona won 4-1 at Real Betis to maintain first place in La Liga.

“The club is unbeaten over a record 37-game stretch, and it’s starting to look like Guardiola will keep winning trophies at the rate he did in Barcelona,” Shintaro Kano of Kyodo news agency said.

Manchester United beat Arsenal 1-0 in the English Premier League and is fifth in the team poll, while goal-scorer Robin van Persie polled ninth in the player vote.

“Manchester United deserves a lot of credit even with a 1-0 victory,” Ubiratan Leal of trivela.com in Brazil said. “That is just a measure of how good Arsenal’s first months of the season have been and how hard it is to beat them.”

Luis Suarez, another Ballon D’Or nominee, was third after scoring twice in Liverpool’s 4-0 win against Fulham. Liverpool is ranked sixth among teams. Newcastle was 10th after beating Tottenham 1-0 away behind goalkeeper’s Tim Krul 14 saves.

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