Football fans across Europe feasted themselves on another round of gripping action this weekend, as the continent’s leading leagues were marked either by pacesetters pulling away from the pack or surprise changes at the top of the standings.
France and Spain both boast new frontrunners in the form of Auxerre and Real Madrid, while Bayer Leverkusen, Chelsea and Inter Milan confirmed their status as the teams to beat in Germany, England and Italy. FIFA.com casts a glance back at the major stories to emerge from a busy weekend of matches in Europe's most illustrious championships.
Premier League: Chelsea surge ahead
Chelsea tightened their grip on the Premier League after making light work of Wolverhampton Wanderers, consigning the promoted team to a 4-0 setback courtesy of a Michael Essien double and additional efforts from Ashley Cole and Florent Malouda. The Blues lead nearest rivals Manchester United by five points, the Old Trafford outfit having beaten Everton 3-0 and profited from a Darren Bent winner in Sunderland’s 1-0 victory over Arsenal to climb up to second.
Tottenham Hotspur recorded the performance of the weekend as their fans were regaled with a 9-1 rout of Wigan Athletic, Jermain Defoe hitting five of the goals to help lift the north London club up to fourth. Liverpool failed to reacquaint themselves with victory, on the other hand, as they could only manage a 2-2 draw with Manchester City. They lie seventh, just behind Mark Hughes’s troops but a distant 13 points shy of the leaders.
Top three: Chelsea (33 points), Manchester United (28), Arsenal (25)
Bottom three: Bolton (11), Wolves (10), Portsmouth (7)
Leading scorers: Jermain Defoe (11 goals) Fernando Torres (10), Didier Drogba, Darren Bent (both 9)
Weekend stat: 9 – Spurs became the first side to fire nine goals in a Premier League encounter since Manchester United dismantled Ipswich 9-0 on 4 March 1995.
Serie A: Inter resume forward momentum
Held by Roma last time out, champions and frontrunners Inter put themselves back on track by seeing off Bologna 3-1, and there was joy too for city rivals AC Milan as they downed Cagliari in a spectacular 4-3 success. Juventus lie between the two San Siro giants in second thanks to their positive 1-0 outcome against Udinese.
Parma were one of the major beneficiaries of the weekend in Italy as they emerged 3-2 winners away against Fiorentina and leapfrogged their beaten opponents into fifth spot. One rung higher, Sampdoria strengthened their presence in the upper reaches by edging Chievo 2-1, while a hat-trick from Francesco Totti powered Roma to a useful 3-1 triumph over Bari. Towards the bottom of the table, Atalanta aided their cause by prevailing 2-0 at Siena and the Sicilian derby ended 1-1 between Palermo and Catania.
Top three: Inter Milan (32 points), Juventus (27), AC Milan (25)
Bottom three: Livorno (12), Catania (9), Siena (6)
Leading scorers: Antonio di Natale, Francesco Totti (both 9 goals), Diego Milito, Giampaolo Pazzini (both 8)
Weekend stat: 3 – After three weeks out, Totti signalled his return to action with a masterful trio of goals. He is now joint-leader at the top of the scoring charts.
La Liga: Real take over at the top
Dumped out of the Copa del Rey by lower-league opposition, Real Madrid restored some pride by grasping hold of the reins in the Liga on Saturday. Barcelona’s 1-1 stalemate at Athletic Bilbao allowed the capital outfit to rocket to the summit by overcoming Racing Santander 1-0, and they will now hope to extend their one-point advantage against their eternal rivals next weekend.
Sevilla remain third courtesy of a 2-1 win over Tenerife and there was no change in fourth either as Valencia dealt Osasuna a 3-1 defeat. Atletico Madrid are still mired into the relegation zone, meanwhile, having been subjected to another late winner in their 2-1 loss to Deportivo La Coruna. In contrast, Villarreal swept aside Real Valladolid 3-1 to hoist themselves further away from danger.
Top three: Real Madrid (28 points), Barcelona (27) Sevilla (25)
Bottom three: Atletico Madrid, Xerez (both 7), Malaga (6)
Leading scorers: David Villa (8 goals), Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Lionel Messi (both 7)
Weekend stat: 0 – After racking up five wins and six reverses, Getafe have yet to play out a single draw this term.
Bundesliga: Bayern fail to sink leaders
Werder Bremen enjoyed the view from the Bundesliga summit for 24 hours thanks to their sparkling 6-0 win over Freiburg, but they had to relinquish it again when Leverkusen maintained their unbeaten start to the season at Bayern Munich. Louis van Gaal’s seventh-placed side could only muster a 1-1 draw in Bavaria as Leverkusen moved one point clear in pole position. The leaders also profited from Hamburg’s lapse, HSV spurning a chance to increase the pressure at the top by succumbing 1-0 at home to Bochum.
Schalke climbed up to third by posting a 2-0 triumph over a Hanover side still in mourning following the death of former goalkeeper Robert Enke on 10 November, while Hoffenheim, in fourth, handed Koln a heavy 4-0 reverse. In the weekend’s other games, champions Wolfsburg went down 3-2 at home against Nuremburg and third-bottom Stuttgart contested a 1-1 draw with basement outfit Hertha Berlin that suited neither party.
Top three: Bayer Leverkusen (27 points) Werder Bremen (26) Schalke (25)
Bottom three: Stuttgart, Bochum (both 11), Hertha Berlin (5)
Leading scorers: Stefan Kiessling (8 goals), Andreas Ivanschitz, Kevin Kuranyi, Zvjezdan Misimovic, Claudio Pizarro (all 6)
Weekend stat: 1 – Less a statistic than a number, Enke’s former Hanover colleagues all wore a special commemorative shirt with his old squad number on the front, circled in black.
Ligue 1: Auxerre move into position
Little went as expected in France as champions as leaders Bordeaux suffered a 1-0 home loss to Valenciennes, on the same day that Lyon could only draw 1-1 away against bottom side Grenoble. Those results made it possible for unfancied Auxerre to rise to the summit, their 2-0 victory over Monaco taking them a point clear of both UEFA Champions League hopefuls.
In the rescheduled match between Marseille and fierce rivals Paris Saint-Germain, OM returned to winning ways courtesy of former PSG defender Gabriel Heinze’s decisive strike in a 1-0 success. That left Didier Deschamps’s side in seventh, six places higher than the club from the capital. In Sunday’s games, impressive Lorient continued to shine via a 2-0 win at Saint-Etienne.
Top three: Auxerre (26 points), Bordeaux, Lyon (both 25)
Bottom three: Boulogne (9), Le Mans (8), Grenoble (2)
Leading scorers: Nene (9 goals), Asamoah Gyan, Loic Remy (both 7)
Weekend stat: 39 – Bordeaux had not lost at home in Ligue 1 for more than two years since Lyon plundered a 3-1 triumph in wine country on 7 October 2007.
In Russia, Rubin Kazan retained their championship crown after playing out a goalless draw at home against Zenit St. Petersburg on Saturday. With one match left to play, Rubin boast 60 points, five more than Spartak Moscow, who suffered a 3-2 defeat by CSKA Moscow on the same day.
The highly anticipated meeting between the leading duo in Ukraine ended in favour of Dynamo Kiev on Saturday as the defending champions overcame Shakhtar Donetsk 3-0. The capital side now lead Mircea Lucescu’s troops by seven points.