A series of surprises unfolded across Europe at the weekend. Manchester United lost, allowing Chelsea to surge clear at the English summit, the top three failed to win in Germany, and Inter Milan and Panathinaikos dropped points as their respective leads in Italy and Greece were cut. With Barcelona and Real Madrid recording emphatic victories, FIFA.com takes a closer look at the latest developments.
Premier League: Chelsea go clear as United stumble
Handed a 3-1 reverse at Everton, Manchester United suffered the same fate as leaders Chelsea, who were downed 2-1 at Goodison Park two weeks ago. The Blues were winners this weekend, though, profiting from that result to go four points clear of their closest rivals courtesy of a 2-0 triumph at Wolverhampton Wanderers, Didier Drogba firing both goals. In third, Arsenal closed the gap on the Red Devils to two points by recording a 2-0 home win over Sunderland.
Behind the leading trio, the battle for fourth place intensified as rivals Manchester City and Liverpool could only manage a 0-0 draw. That outcome played into the hands of Tottenham Hotspur, who took possession of the last UEFA Champions League spot by prevailing 3-0 at Wigan Athletic, with Aston Villa a point back following their 5-2 defeat of Burnley. Towards the bottom, West Ham United had the most reason to cheer among the clubs vying to stave off relegation after they saw off Hull City 3-0.
Top three: Chelsea (61 points), Manchester United (57), Arsenal (55)
Bottom three: Bolton Wanderers, Burnley (both 23 points), Portsmouth (16)
Leading scorers: Wayne Rooney (21 goals), Didier Drogba (19), Jermain Defoe (16)
Weekend stat: 1 - Just one point is all that separates the four teams battling to finish fourth, namely Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City, Liverpool and Aston Villa.
La Liga: Top two on fire
Beaten by Atletico Madrid last weekend, Barcelona bounced back with a 4-0 reverse of Racing Santander that helped allay any growing concerns. Real Madrid responded to the doubters, too, putting their midweek Champions League loss to Lyon behind them with a spectacular 6-2 dismantling of Villarreal at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday.
The mission for Valencia will be to consolidate their hold on third when they take on Getafe this evening. As for Sevilla, in fourth, they ended Mallorca’s unbeaten home record courtesy of a 3-1 victory, and that allowed Deportivo la Coruna to move into fifth at the islanders’ expense after they downed Xerez 2-1. Elsewhere, Almeria brought a halt to Atletico’s resurgence by overcoming Los Rojiblancos 1-0 thanks to a goal by diminutive Argentinian winger Pablo Piatti.
Top three: Barcelona (58 points), Real Madrid (56), Valencia (43)
Bottom three: Valladolid, Tenerife (both 20 points), Xerez (11)
Leading scorers: Lionel Messi (16 goals), David Villa (15), Gonzalo Higuain (14)
Weekend stat: 300 – On target after just three minutes in the game against Santander, Andres Iniesta marked his 300th appearance for Barcelona in the best possible fashion.
Bundesliga: Top three slip up
Nuremberg brought Bayern Munich’s 13-match winning run in all competitions to an end with a 1-1 stalemate on Saturday, and that could have allowed Bayer Leverkusen to streak ahead in the Bundesliga title race. Unable to take advantage, Jupp Heynckes's men were instead held to a 2-2 draw at Werder Bremen. Schalke lie third and missed an opportunity to close in on the leaders as they slumped to a 2-1 defeat at Wolfsburg.
Hamburg’s weekend yielded a goalless draw with Eintracht Frankfurt, while Borussia Dortmund compounded struggling Hannover’s miseries by dealing the third-bottom club a 4-1 reverse. However, the most impressive performance belonged to Stuttgart and Cacau, with the Brazil-born striker hitting four goals to inspire a 5-1 win over Cologne. Lastly, basement team Hertha Berlin hauled themselves to within four points of safety thanks to a 3-0 victory at fourth-bottom Freiburg.
Top three: Bayer Leverkusen, Bayern Munich (both 49 points), Schalke (45)
Bottom three: Hannover, Nuremberg (both 17 points), Hertha Berlin (15)
Leading scorers: Stefan Kiessling (13 goals), Kevin Kuranyi (12), Lucas Barrios, Albert Bunjaku (both 11)
Weekend stat: 23 – Sunday’s draw in Bremen made it 23 matches without defeat for Bayer this term, equalling the record set by Bayern in the 1988/89 season, when they were guided by current Leverkusen coach Heynckes.
Serie A: Inter treading water
Down to nine men after just 38 minutes, Serie A pacesetters Inter Milan had to settle for a 0-0 draw at home to Sampdoria, their third consecutive stalemate in the league. That presented Roma with the chance to close the gap at the top to five points, and Claudio Ranieri’s men did not disappoint as they beat Catania 1-0. AC Milan kept themselves in the running with a 2-0 win at Bari, Marco Borriello and Alexandre Pato grabbing their goals.
Napoli could only manage a goalless draw away to bottom side Siena and that opened the door for Juventus to climb back up to fourth, I Banconeri clearly enjoying a return to form following their 2-1 triumph at Bologna. Fiorentina also gave themselves a lift with a 2-1 comeback win over Livorno, while Lazio lost 3-1 at Palermo.
Top three: Inter Milan (55 points), Roma (50), AC Milan (48)
Bottom three: Livorno (23 points), Atalanta (21), Siena (17)
Leading scorers: Antonio di Natale (17 goals), Diego Milito (14), Giampaolo Pazzini (12)
Weekend stat: 5 – Mirko Vucinic obviously enjoys taking to the field against Catania. The Montenegrin striker hit his fifth goal in six outings against the Sicilian club to end their five-game unbeaten run and earn Roma three precious points.
Ligue 1: Montpellier miss their chance
With Bordeaux’s game against Auxerre postponed, second-placed Montpellier took on Saint-Etienne knowing they could move level on points with Laurent Blanc’s men at the top. Instead they lost 1-0, which allowed Lille to close to within a point in third thanks to their late winner in a precious 2-1 triumph at Rennes. Hat-tricks for Michel Bastos and Mamadou Niang helped fourth-placed Lyon and fifth-placed Marseille, respectively, remain in contention, with Les Gones downing Sochaux 4-0 and OM defeating Nancy 3-1.
Guillaume Hoarau helped Paris Saint-Germain clinch their first victory in 2010 as they saw off Toulouse 1-0 at the Parc des Princes, and Le Mans collected their very first away win this term at Boulogne, posting a 3-1 success that could be crucial to their survival bid. Also in the lower reaches, Lens gave themselves breathing space by sweeping aside Monaco 3-0.
Top three: Bordeaux (51 points), Montpellier (48), Lille (47)
Bottom three: Le Mans (20 points), Boulogne (16), Grenoble (10)
Leading scorers: Mamadou Niang (14 goals), Nene (13), Gervinho (11)
Weekend stat: 100 – Thanks to his treble against Nancy, Niang took himself out in front in the Ligue 1 scoring charts and also broke the 100-goal barrier in France’s top flight.
In the Belgian Jupiler League, the high-profile meeting between Club Brugge and Standard Liege ended in a 2-1 success for the former, who sit second in the standings behind Anderlecht, 2-0 winners over Mechelen. The capital side lead the way by seven points and possess a game in hand.
There was a tightening at the top in the Super League Greece as second-placed Olympiacos could only claim a 1-1 draw against Ergotelis in Crete. As a result, PAOK moved level on points courtesy of a 2-1 win over leaders Panathinaikos, who now possess a slender two-point lead over their pursuers.