Whether they have virtually one hand on the trophy or find themselves just a few short steps away, the teams leading the dance in Europe's major leagues all clinched important results at the weekend. In Germany, Bayern Munich can add even more swagger to their step as they are now all but home and dry, while Chelsea and Marseille took significant strides closer to their respective targets in the Premier League and Ligue 1. Elsewhere, Barcelona and Inter Milan remain firmly in control of their own destinies too, despite continued pressure from Real Madrid and Roma in the Spanish and Italian standings. FIFA.com reviews the latest developments, and also catches up on the weekend’s coronations in the Netherlands and Croatia.
Premier League: Chelsea clear penultimate hurdle
In superb form of late, Chelsea kept themselves at the Premier League summit thanks to an impressive 2-0 success away against a Liverpool team now assured of missing out on the Champions League next term. Scheduled to face Wigan Athletic in their final fixture on Sunday, the Blues look well-placed to secure their fourth English league crown. They must nonetheless remain wary of Manchester United after the holders triumphed 1-0 at Sunderland, thanks to Nani's goal, to preserve their slim hopes.
While Arsenal have already guaranteed themselves a top-four finish ahead of their Monday meeting with Blackburn Rovers, England's final Champions League place will almost certainly be taken either by Tottenham Hotspur or Manchester City. Spurs downed Bolton Wanderers 1-0 to maintain their one-point cushion in fourth, while City saw off Aston Villa 3-1 to ensure plenty of drama when the two ambitious outfits lock horns on Wednesday.
Top three: Chelsea (83 points), Manchester United (82), Arsenal (72)
Bottom three: Hull City (28), Burnley (27), Portsmouth (19)
Leading scorers: Wayne Rooney, Didier Drogba (both 26 goals), Darren Bent (24)
Weekend stat: 6 – Defeat for Liverpool extinguished their Champions League qualification prospects once and for all, thus ending their six-year run in the competition.
Serie A: Inter keep their heads
Having lost their grip on the summit when they succumbed to Sampdoria a fortnight ago, Roma needed to get the better of Parma to keep their title challenge alive. Francesco Totti’s right foot and the head of Rodrigo Taddei helped them post a 2-1 victory that took them temporarily top, but four days after memorably dumping Barcelona out of the Champions League semi-finals, Inter then kept their focus to win 2-0 at Lazio.
AC Milan remain third after returning to winning ways with a 1-0 success against Fiorentina, Ronaldinho registering the all-important strike from the penalty spot. One spot lower, Sampdoria are desperate to hold on to their Champions League play-off berth but cannot shake off Palermo, who lie two points back after a 2-1 defeat of Siena that consigned the losers to the second tier.
Top three: Inter Milan (76 points), Roma (74), AC Milan (67)
Bottom three: Atalanta (35), Siena (30), Livorno (29)
Leading scorers: Antonio di Natale (26 goals), Diego Milito (20), Fabrizio Miccoli (18)
Weekend stat: 8 – Held to a 1-1 draw away against Catania, Juventus now lie eight points out of fourth spot and will thus miss out on the Champions League next season.
Bundesliga: Bayern all but sure
The penultimate instalment of matches proved telling as Bayern Munich emerged virtually assured of their 22nd German crown. Second-placed Schalke lost 2-0 at home to a Werder Bremen side desperate to take third and a UEFA Champions League berth, and that allowed Bayern to move three points clear – with a vastly superior goal difference – by downing Bochum 3-1. Thomas Muller plundered a hat-trick as the second-bottom visitors were nudged closer to relegation.
In the race for European places, fourth-placed Bayer Leverkusen and the teams immediately beneath them – Borussia Dortmund and Stuttgart – all had to settle for draws, against relegated Hertha Berlin, Wolfsburg and Mainz respectively. In the lower reaches, Hanover did their survival hopes a world of good with a 6-1 victory over Borussia Monchengladbach that lifted them out of the danger zone.
Top three: Bayern Munich (67 points), Schalke (64), Werder Bremen (60)
Bottom three: Nuremberg (27), Bochum (28), Hertha Berlin (24)
Leading scorers: Stefan Kiessling, Edin Dzeko (both 21 goals), Lucas Barrios, Kevin Kuranyi (both 18)
Weekend stat: 17 – Bayern boast a goal difference of +39 compared to Schalke’s +22, meaning that even if they lose their last match at Hertha and Schalke win at Mainz on Saturday, it would take an extraordinary set of scorelines to hand the Gelsenkirchen outfit the title.
Ligue 1: Marseille within touching distance
Marseille can feel themselves closer than ever to their ninth French title after holding out for a 0-0 draw away against nearest challengers Auxerre, thus protecting their healthy five-point advantage with three rounds to go. Only a calamitous collapse can now deny Didier Deschamps’s men their first league crown in 18 years. Behind the leading duo in third, Lille defeated Nancy 3-1 to consolidate their grip on France’s final Champions League slot.
Les Dogues cannot relax, however, as they are being chased by a Lyon side who recovered from their midweek European exit to triumph 1-0 at Montpellier. As for outgoing champions Bordeaux, in fifth, they kept themselves in the hunt courtesy of their first win in seven outings, a 1-0 victory over Toulouse. In the French Cup final, meanwhile, Paris Saint-Germain salvaged their season via Guillaume Hoarau’s extra-time winner in a 1-0 defeat of Monaco.
Top three: Marseille (72 points), Auxerre (67), Lille (64)
Bottom three: Le Mans 72 (29), Boulogne (28), Grenoble (19)
Leading scorers: Kevin Gameiro, Mamadou Niang (both 15 goals), Nene (14)
Weekend stat: 8 – PSG’s eighth French Cup success took them a little closer to L'OM’s French record of ten wins.
La Liga: Barça back on their feet
Judging by Saturday’s 4-1 win at Villarreal, Spanish champions Barcelona are clearly determined not to bid farewell to their crown. The Catalan club were devastated by their Champions League exit to Inter in midweek, but they quickly composed themselves to add another three points to their title defence. That result kept them top of the pile too, as Real Madrid came back to seal a nervy 3-2 victory over Osasuna, Cristiano Ronaldo’s 89th-minute effort keeping the capital side a point shy of the summit.
Third-placed Valencia are now all but assured of joining the top two in the Champions League after they prevailed 2-0 against Espanyol. Fourth spot is still up for grabs, on the other hand, current incumbents Mallorca having beaten Athletic Bilbao 3-1 to stay two points clear of Sevilla, who downed Atletico Madrid by the same scoreline. Seven points adrift of Mallorca, Villarreal are not completely out of the running yet either. As for the tussle to avoid the drop, with three encounters to go no team has yet to lose all hope of preserving their elite status.
Top three: Barcelona (90 points), Real Madrid (89), Valencia (65)
Bottom three: Tenerife (35), Valladolid (33), Xerez (30)
Leading scorers: Lionel Messi (29 goals), Gonzalo Higuain (25), Cristiano Ronaldo (22)
Weekend stat: 90 – Barcelona have set a new record for points accrued in La Liga’s current format (three points for a win and 20 teams), with their current total of 90 outstripping their final haul of 87 from last season.
Comfortably superior to their rivals in Croatia once again this year, Dinamo Zagreb secured their fifth title in a row, and their 12th since independence, by recording a goalless draw against Hajduk Split on Saturday.
In contrast, Twente are celebrating their first ever championship crown in the Netherlands thanks to a 2-0 victory at NAC Breda on the last day of action. The Enschede outfit finished one point ahead of Ajax, who also ended their campaign with a win.
The big game in the Czech Republic failed to provide a winner, lastly, as joint leaders Sparta Prague and Banik Ostrava played out a 1-1 draw. That allowed Jablonec to close within a point in third via a 4-0 humbling of Bohemians Prague.