Lille and Borussia Dortmund, leaders in France and Germany respectively, both marked their return from the winter break with wins, proving that their appetite for success remains as strong as ever. In Spain, first-placed Barcelona also secured three points, and while AC Milan and Manchester United were forced into a share of the spoils, both stay top of their respective leagues. FIFA.com takes a look back at all the highlights from a busy weekend in Europe’s major championships.
Premier League: United and City neck and neck
The town of Manchester currently dominates the upper echelons of the Premier League, with both of its clubs now level on points at the top. While the Red Devils were grinding out a 0-0 stalemate with Tottenham at White Hart Lane, the Citizens’ 4-3 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers suggested that they may be in it for the long haul. Arsenal and Chelsea should not be discounted either, as proved by their comfortable wins against West Ham and Blackburn Rovers respectively.
Elsewhere, no fewer than three mouth-watering derbies were on the menu this weekend, but not one was able to produce a winner. The Sunderland-Newcastle and Birmingham City-Aston Villa clashes both ended in 1-1 draws, while a lively Merseyside derby between Liverpool and Everton finished 2-2.
Top three: Manchester United, Manchester City (both 45 points), Arsenal (43)
Bottom three: Wigan Athletic (22), Wolverhampton Wanderers (21), West Ham (20)
Leading scorers: Dimitar Berbatov, Carlos Tevez (both 14 goals), Andrew Carroll (11)
Weekend stat: 600 – The number of Premier League appearances clocked up by 37-year-old Welsh winger Ryan Giggs, following his appearance for Manchester United against Tottenham on Sunday.
La Liga: Barça march on
Barcelona’s unquenchable thirst for league points was again on display at the Camp Nou on Sunday evening, as another impressive performance from Los Blaugrana saw them dispose of Malaga 4-1. Second-placed Real Madrid, meanwhile, were held to a surprising 1-1 draw away to relegation-threatened Almeria, and consequently find themselves four points behind their great rivals.
Both Villarreal and Valencia, desperate not to lose touch completely with the top two, kept up some momentum with solid wins over Osasuna and Deportivo La Coruna respectively. Sevilla, who are not enjoying the best of seasons, were ambushed 2-1 at home by high-flying Espanyol.
Top three: Barcelona (52), Real Madrid (48), Villarreal (39)
Bottom three: Zaragoza (16), Levante (15), Almeria (14)
Leading scorers: Cristiano Ronaldo (22), Lionel Messi (18), David Villa (14)
Weekend stat: 52 – Accustomed to making history in recent times, Barcelona have now set yet another league record, this time by accumulating a massive 52 points during the first half of the Spanish season.
Serie A: Big guns taste victory while leaders flounder
Italy’s traditional heavyweights got back to winning ways this weekend after slipping up during the last round of fixtures. Lazio beat Sampdoria 1-0, Roma defeated Cesena by the same scoreline and Juventus saw off Bari 2-1. And Leonardo appears to have found the recipe for success at Inter Milan, I Nerazzurri running out comfortable 4-1 winners versus Bologna.
The teams occupying the top two spots did not enjoy such fruitful outings, however. AC Milan could only manage a 1-1 draw with Lecce, while pursuers Napoli were unable to find a way past the Fiorentina defence in a match that ended 0-0.
Top three: AC Milan (41), Napoli, Lazio (both 37)
Bottom three: Brescia, Lecce (both 18), Bari (14)
Leading scorers: Antonio di Natale (14), Edinson Cavani (13), Marco di Vaio, Samuel Eto’o, Zlatan Ibrahimovic (all 11)
Weekend stat: 4 – the number of successive wins secured by Inter Milan since appointing Leonardo.
Bundesliga: Dortmund stretch lead
Borussia Dortmund’s relentless march to the German title shows no sign of letting up. In making light work of Bayer Leverkusen away from home, Jurgen Klopp’s charges increased their lead at the top of the table to 12 points. It was a satisfactory weekend all round for fans of die Schwarzgelben, as they watched nearest challengers Mainz lose 1-0 at Stuttgart. Hannover, 3-0 winners over Eintracht Frankfurt, also benefitted from this slip-up by replacing Mainz in second spot.
Bayern Munich's inconsistent season continued with a draw at Wolfsburg, while Schalke’s mini-revival was brought to an abrupt end by Hamburg, who had Ruud van Nistelrooy to thank for the winning goal in their 1-0 away success.
Top three: Borussia Dortmund (46), Hannover (34), Mainz, Bayer Leverkusen (both 33)
Bottom three: Cologne (16), Stuttgart (15), Borussia Monchengladbach (13)
Leading scorers: Papiss Demba Cisse (15 buts), Theofanis Gekas (14), Mario Gomez (12)
Weekend stat: 2 – After dropping another two points versus Wolfsburg, and losing Franck Ribery to injury for two weeks, the likelihood of Bayern Munich finishing any higher than second place in the Bundesliga now seems very low.
Ligue 1: No change at the top
The leading quartet in France all put their opponents to the sword this weekend. Lille overcame Nice 2-0, holding on to first place in the process, while Paris Saint-Germain beat mid-table Sochaux 2-1, Rennes cruised to a comfortable 4-0 triumph over Arles-Avignon, and Lyon beat Lorient 3-0. These three teams currently find themselves in joint second place, on the same number of points.
Marseille got the better of Bordeaux, 2-1, in a high-profile clash at the Velodrome. In the lower reaches of the table, Lens and Caen pulled off invaluable victories over Saint-Etienne and Brest respectively.
Top three: Lille (35), Paris Saint-Germain, Rennes, Lyon (all 34)
Bottom three: Monaco (20), Lens (19), Arles-Avignon (8)
Leading scorers: Moussa Sow (15), Nene (13), Youssef El Arabi (11)
Weekend stat: 5 – For the fifth week in a row, Auxerre’s league fixture ended in a 1-1 draw.
In Greece, Olympiakos and Panathinaikos saw off less-fancied opponents by the same scoreline, with Panseriakos and Kavala both on the end of 4-2 defeats. Things are not so close between the Athens-based clubs in the league table, however, where Olympiakos hold a five-point lead over their great rivals.
Porto maintained their unbeaten record and eight-point lead at the top of the Portuguese League by comfortably beating Naval 3-1. Nearest challengers Benfica won 1-0 at Academica, while Sporting Lisbon are now 16 points off the pace following their 3-2 home loss to Pacos de Ferreira.