Inter Milan, Barcelona and Bordeaux have healthy cushions in the Italian, Spanish and French title races respectively, while the situations at the top in England and Germany are a good deal tighter. FIFA.com previews the forthcoming action across Europe's major leagues.
Premier League: Last chance for Arsenal
The Gunners’ steadfast commitment to good football has brought them little success against their direct opponents for glory this season. Aside from two victories over Liverpool, Arsene Wenger’s side have come off second best whenever they have faced their fellow championship contenders. And another such defeat against leaders Chelsea this Sunday could prove terminal to their hopes of topping the table at the season’s end.
The Blues were glad to welcome back Didier Drogba from the CAF African Cup of Nations this week, especially as Arsenal seem to bring out the best in the Ivorian striker, who has scored some ten goals against them. In the big game up north, Liverpool take on Everton in the latest instalment of the Merseyside derby, while second-placed Manchester United host crisis-stricken Portsmouth at Old Trafford.
The question: Liverpool have not conceded a goal for three games, while Everton are unbeaten in nine. Will these two records still be intact come the final whistle on Saturday?
The big game: Chelsea-Arsenal, Sunday 17.00 CET, Stamford Bridge
The quote: “It has been a frustrating spell with the injury. Thank God it is over and I am ready to start. I am looking forward to playing in the Premier League again and getting a run of games,” Manchester City midfielder Patrick Vieira.
La Liga: War of nerves
Five points separate top dogs Barcelona from their closest challengers Real Madrid. As the rest of the field drop out of contention, all that remains to be seen now is who will start feeling the pressure first. The top two are both at home on Saturday, with the Catalans entertaining Getafe two hours before Los Merengues welcome Espanyol.
Valencia and Sevilla, the two sides immediately behind them in the table, ought to maintain their positions. Los Chés are at home to struggling Valladolid, while the Andalusians face a trip to relegation-zone occupants Real Zaragoza. Flirting with the wrong end of the table again after losing their last two matches, Atletico Madrid return to league action with a trip to Racing Santander, the side they humbled 4-0 in the first leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final on Thursday.
The question: Barça have gone 20 games without defeat and Real have strung together ten consecutive home wins. Which record will end first?
The big game: Barcelona-Getafe, Saturday 20.00 CET, Camp Nou
The quote: “Being around players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and Raul has been a dream for me. But, to be honest, as far as playing football’s concerned, I’ve wasted three years,” Real Madrid defender Christoph Metzelder.
Serie A: Inter out of sight?
Inter Milan’s derby victory over AC Milan last weekend seems to have ended any lingering suspense in Serie A. With no pursuers on the horizon, Jose Mourinho’s side have the chance of strengthening their position at the summit when Cagliari come calling at the San Siro this weekend.
The battle for the European places is warming up nicely, however. Winless since mid-January, Milan make the trip to Bologna with nothing but victory on their mind, especially with Roma, third after four straight wins, and Napoli, unbeaten in 15 games, having closed up on them. The in-form pair take on two of the season’s disappointments this weekend, with I Giallorossi visiting mid-table Fiorentina and the Southerners travelling to lowly Udinese.
The question: Can the Atalanta defence shackle rampaging Bari striker Paulo Barreto, who has hit nine goals in his last eight games?
The big game: Fiorentina-Roma, Sunday 20.45 CET, Estadio Artemio Franchi
The quote: “We’re all at fault for the poor results, not just one person. I feel sorry for Ciro (Ferrara) because he’s taking all the blame for us,” Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.
Bundesliga: Role reversal
Grafite’s magnificent solo effort in Wolfsburg’s 5-1 defeat of Bayern Munich was one of the highlights of last season, a season in which the men in green surprised everyone by snatching the famous old shield. Yet, only eight months on from that shock result, things could hardly be more different.
Having failed to win since November, the reigning champions lie 11th and have already gone through two coaches in a dismal first half of the campaign. In contrast, Bayern have recovered from a slow start to move ominously into second place. Unbeaten since last September, the Bavarians are anxious to get their attacking tandem of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery back in action and exert more pressure on frontrunners, Bayer Leverkusen, who visit Bochum on Saturday.
The question: Stuttgart have won three and drawn one since Christian Gross’s arrival. Can they keep that run going at Nuremberg?
The big game: Wolfsburg-Bayern Munich, Saturday 15.30 CET, Volkswagen Arena
The quote: “Obviously Bayern have had a fantastic run, but we’ll be doing everything we can make life difficult for them and stop them taking the points,” Wolfsburg midfielder Sascha Riether.
Ligue 1: Pressure on Bordeaux
The defending champions showed signs of weakness when they were held to a goalless draw by unfashionable Boulogne last weekend. Laurent Blanc’s men will not find it easy to get back to winning ways against their next opponents, the in-form Rennes, who have yet to experience defeat in 2010 and could help the chasing pack draw closer still to the leaders.
Revitalised by their 2-1 win over Paris Saint-Germain, Lyon have the opportunity to confirm their return to form with a visit to Toulouse, while seventh-placed Marseille have no option but to beat Valenciennes at the Stade Velodrome on Sunday if they are to stay in the title frame.
The question: Still marooned at the bottom of the table, can Grenoble find a way past an Auxerre defence that has not conceded a goal in its last four outings?
The big game: Rennes-Bordeaux, Saturday 21.00, Stade de la Route de Lorient
The quote: “We need to start playing to our full potential. The team was practically cut in two in the first half and that’s just not on. This win over Paris has to be a turning point,” Lyon coach Claude Puel.
It could be a potentially decisive weekend in the Netherlands as third-placed Ajax entertain Twente, nine points ahead of them in second and behind leaders PSV on goal difference only. The Amsterdam giants have gone five games without defeat and have the potential to check the visitor’s title ambitions.
In the big game in Turkey, fourth plays second as Kayserispor host Galatasaray on Saturday. A win for the men from Istanbul could take them top of the Super Lig, perhaps momentarily, as leaders Fenerbahce take on Diyarbakispor 24 hours later.
Finally in Switzerland, Basle have no choice but to beat leaders Young Boys if they are to reduce the seven-point deficit currently separating the sides and maintain their chances of winning the league.