The top clubs in Spain, England and Germany all avoided slip-ups at the weekend. Barcelona, Chelsea and Bayer Leverkusen maintained their leads in the standings, while chief pursuers Real Madrid, Manchester United and Bayern Munich all won as well.
In France, the champions unexpectedly dropped points, but a promoted team continued to hit the headlines. In Italy, Serie A leaders Inter Milan’s match in Parma fell victim to the winter weather. FIFA.com reviews the weekend action from around the continent’s leading leagues.
La Liga: Big two march on
Barcelona and Real Madrid continue to stride clear of the rest in the Spanish top flight. The Catalan side won away to 11th-placed Sporting Gijon, Pedro netting the only goal of the game, while the men from the capital travelled to sixth-placed La Coruna and won 3-1.
Mallorca, handily placed for a UEFA Champions League qualifying spot in fifth before the start of play, dropped valuable points in a 2-1 defeat away to tail-enders Xerez. The win was just promoted Xerez’s second of term. In the weekend’s biggest clash, Sevilla beat Valencia 2-1. The losers of that match remain third, but the winners are now just a place and three points behind. After the weekend results, the bottom three places are exclusively populated by last season’s promoted clubs.
Top three: Barcelona (52 points), Real Madrid (47), Valencia (39)
Bottom three: Zaragoza, Tenerife (both 17 points), Xerez (11)
Leading scorers: Lionel Messi (15 goals), David Villa (14), Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Gonzalo Higuain (both 11)
Weekend stat: 2.5 and 0.5 – FIFA Club World Cup winners Barcelona currently average 2.5 goals per game (50 in 20 matches). By contrast, Pep Guardiola’s men have only conceded a goal every second game on average.
Bundesliga: Bayer and Bayern with matching form
Twenty games into the season, Bayer Leverkusen remain undefeated at the top of the Bundesliga. Jupp Heynckes’ side beat struggling Freiburg 3-1 on Sunday to maintain their two-point advantage over Bayern Munich, who despatched promoted Mainz 3-0 the previous afternoon.
Schalke defeated Hoffenheim 2-0 to remain in touch with the leading pair. Felix Magath’s men lie just a point off Louis van Gaal’s Bayern. Fourth-placed Borussia Dortmund tasted defeat for the first time since 26 September last year. Resurgent Stuttgart beat the men from the Ruhr Valley 4-1 to go tenth. Hamburg in fifth equalised with the last kick of the match to salvage a point at home to champions Wolfsburg on Friday. Sixth-placed Werder Bremen lost 4-3 away to mid-table Monchengladbach, and are now fully seven points off Hamburg and a European qualifying berth.
Top three: Leverkusen (44 points), Bayern (42), Schalke (41)
Bottom three: Hanover (17 points), Nuremberg (16), Hertha Berlin (11)
Leading scorers: Stefan Kiessling (13 goals), Kevin Kuranyi (11), Lucas Barrios (10)
Weekend stat: 3 – Albert Bunjaku netted a hat-trick in Nuremberg’s crucial 3-1 victory away to fellow strugglers Hanover. The Switzerland international moves into the top five in the Bundesliga scoring chart.
Serie A: Roma close gap to Milan
Third-placed AS Roma made up ground in the 22nd round of matches, beating Siena 2-1 to go level on points with AC Milan, who were held 1-1 at home by Livorno. Leaders Inter were idle at the weekend after heavy snowfall caused the postponement of their match in Parma.
Among the chasing pack, fourth-placed Napoli may yet rue the points dropped in a goalless draw with mid-table Genoa. Sixth-placed Palermo fared even less well, losing 4-2 away to promoted Bari. Crisis club Juventus installed a new coach in midweek, but only partially reversed their miserable trend of recent weeks. The Turin giants remain fifth after a 1-1 draw with relegation-threatened Lazio.
Top three: Inter (49 points), AC Milan (41), AS Roma (41)
Bottom three: Catania (20 points), Atalanta (17), Siena (13)
Leading scorers: Antonio di Natale, Diego Milito (both 13 goals), Barreto, Giampaolo Pazzini (both 11)
Weekend stat: 30 – the number of points amassed by AS Roma from their last 12 matches (nine wins, three draws). The men from the capital were last defeated on 28 October 2009, a 2-1 reverse against Udinese.
Premier League: Chelsea out front, United beat Gunners
Chelsea captain John Terry scored the winning goal as the Premier League leaders won 2-1 away to Burnley. In the biggest clash of the weekend, second won away to third as Manchester United beat Arsenal 3-1 in north London. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side remain hot on the heels of Carlo Ancelotti’s leaders.
In the battle for Champions League places, fourth-placed Spurs were held 1-1 away to promoted Birmingham. Liverpool continued their recovery with a 2-0 victory over Bolton Wanderers. Manchester City beat seemingly doomed Portsmouth 2-0 and now lie sixth, level on points with Liverpool. The Monday evening game pits Sunderland (13th) against Stoke City (12th).
Top three: Chelsea (54 points), Manchester United (53), Arsenal (49)
Bottom three: Burnley, Hull City (both 20 points), Portsmouth (15)
Leading scorers: Wayne Rooney (20 goals), Jermain Defoe (15), Darren Bent, Didier Drogba (both 14)
Weekend stat: 6 –Liverpool’s unbeaten run in the league now stretches to six games. Rafael Benitez’s men were last beaten on 19 December last year by Portsmouth.
Ligue 1: New boys continue to impress
Promoted Montpellier remain firmly on track for a coveted UEFA Champions League berth, cementing their grip on second spot with a 2-0 home win over Marseille. The victory moved Montpellier to within six points of leaders Bordeaux, as Laurent Blanc’s side were surprisingly held to a goalless draw by second-from-bottom Boulogne-sur-Mer.
Third-placed Lille and fifth-placed Monaco beat Lens (1-0) and Nice (3-2) respectively. Late on Sunday evening, fourth-placed Lyon went a goal down to Paris Saint-Germain, but turned the game on its head with goals from Bafetimbi Gomis and Cris. At the wrong end of the table, Grenoble have won just one of their 22 matches so far and can probably begin planning for life in Ligue 2.
Top three: Bordeaux (48 points), Montpellier (42), Lille (40)
Bottom three: Le Mans, Boulogne-sur-Mer (both 16 points), Grenoble (7)
Leading scorers: Nene (13 goals), Gervinho (11), Pierre-Alain Frau, Lisandro Lopez, Mamadou Niang, Mevlut Erdinc (all 9)
Weekend stat: 12 – the number of clean sheets kept by leaders Bordeaux so far this term. The champions possess the best defence in Ligue 1 with just 14 goals against.
The Super League in Greece featured an Athens derby on Sunday evening when leaders Panathinaikos met fifth-placed AEK. The clash ended 1-1, allowing second-placed Olympiakos to close to within six points of the leaders courtesy of a 1-0 win over Panionios.
The big game in the Netherlands between Feyenoord and Ajax also ended 1-1. The Amsterdam side remain third, four points ahead of their long-term rivals from Rotterdam, who are fourth. PSV Eindhoven and Twente are level on points in the top two spots in the Eredivisie.