The top teams in Europe's leading leagues enjoyed mixed
fortunes at the weekend. Three of the title-chasing clubs in the
Bundesliga won comfortably, but two others suffered bitter defeats.
In England, the pacesetters' failure to win threw the Premier
League championship race wide open, as their two chief rivals
closed in, while, by contrast, the team in pole position in La Liga
stretched their advantage.
The defending champions continue to set the pace at the top of Ligue 1, but a sleeping giant from the sunny south has begun to dream of a UEFA Champions League place. Finally, Internazionale suffered a first Serie A loss since 18 April 2007 as Roma made ground. FIFA.com reflects on a weekend of twists and turns across the continent.
Premier League: Duo close on Arsenal
Nicklas Bendtner netted with only moments remaining to snatch Arsenal a 1-1 draw with Aston Villa. However, the five-point cushion the Gunners enjoyed over Manchester United a few weeks ago has been whittled down to a single point. United comfortably defeated second-bottom Fulham 3-0, while third-placed Chelsea won 4-0 at West Ham United courtesy of goals from Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, Michael Ballack and Ashley Cole.
In the battle for European qualifying places, Liverpool earned a vital 3-1 win away to Bolton Wanderers, although the Reds still lie short of the Champions League spots as city rivals Everton defeated Portsmouth by the same scoreline.
Top three: Arsenal (65 points), Manchester United
(64), Chelsea (58)
Bottom three: Reading (25 points), Fulham (19), Derby County (10)
Top scorers: Cristiano Ronaldo (21 goals), Emmanuel Adebayor (19), Fernando Torres (15)
Weekend stat: Newcastle United have played eight Premier League games this calendar year, but have drawn or lost all of them. New coach Kevin Keegan has yet to deliver a win.
Bundesliga: Bayern keep rivals at bay
Following a 1-0 home defeat by leaders Bayern Munich, Schalke 04 have little choice but to pack away their German title ambitions for another year, as a daunting 12 points now separate the Royal Blues and their conquerors on Saturday. Rubbing salt into the wound, the men from Gelsenkirchen slipped out of the UEFA Cup qualifying places, as promoted Karlsruher went fifth with a 3-1 success over Wolfsburg.
Bayern's closest pursuers Werder Bremen and Hamburg both won to keep the pressure on Ottmar Hitzfeld's men. Second-placed Bremen eased to a 2-0 home win over Borussia Dortmund, with HSV treating their fans to a 4-1 reverse of Eintracht Frankfurt. Fourth-placed Bayer Leverkusen fell to a surprise 2-0 defeat in Bochum to drop nine points off the pace.
Top three: Bayern Munich (47 points), Werder Bremen (43), Hamburger (41)
Bottom three: Nurnberg, Energie Cottbus, Duisburg (all 17 points)
Top scorers: Luca Toni (13 goals), Mario Gomez, Mladen Petric (both 11)
Weekend stat: Bayern striker Miroslav Klose ended a 647-minute scoring drought in the league with the winner against Schalke, sealing his side's first victory in Gelsenkirchen for a decade.
La Liga: Madrid win away but Barcelona slip
Real Madrid ended the minor crisis triggered by consecutive league defeats with a 3-2 win away to relegation candidates Recreativo Huelva. The result served to restore the leaders' five-point margin over runners-up Barcelona, as none other than Real's city rivals Atletico Madrid condemned the Catalan giants to defeat.
Frank Rijkaard's men took the lead but ultimately ended up on the wrong end of a 4-2 scoreline, a result which enabled Atletico to cement their grip on the fourth Champions League qualifying spot. Espanyol, 2-0 winners over Valencia, remain on Atletico's heels.
Top three: Real Madrid (59 points), Barcelona (54), Villarreal (47)
Bottom three: Recreativo Huelva (29 points), Real Murcia (23), Levante (19) Top scorers: Luis Fabiano (19 goals), Diego Milito (14), Raul, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Joseba Llorente (all 12)
Weekend stat: Just four points separate tenth-placed Getafe, who have 33 points to their name, and the first club in the drop zone Recreativo Huelva, in 18th on 29 points.
Serie A: First defeat for Inter, Juventus lose
Inter Milan's first Serie A defeat since 18 April 2007 came at the unlikely hands of promoted Napoli. The home hero on Sunday evening was Uruguay international Marcelo Zalayeta, scorer of the only goal against the leaders.
Elsewhere, Juventus suffered a setback with a 3-2 defeat in the biggest game of the weekend at home to Fiorentina, Pablo Daniel Osvaldo striking the decisive goal in the last minute of an absorbing contest. The Turin outfit remain third, but are now just a point clear of the men from Florence.
On Saturday, Roma underlined their determination to fight off their challengers for second place with a 4-0 win over Parma. In fact, the weekend's results rekindled Roma's lingering title hopes, as the gap to Inter is down to six points. AC Milan's 1-1 draw at home to Lazio dealt a blow to the Rossoneri's drive to finish in the Champions League places.
Top three: Inter (61 points), Roma (55), Juventus (48)
Bottom three: Catania (24 points), Reggina (22), Cagliari (21)
Top scorers: Marco Borriello (16 goals), David Trezeguet (15), Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Adrian Mutu (both 14)
Weekend stat: FC Torino drew for the 16th time this term. The 2-2 draw away to Sampdoria was the Turin side's fourth stalemate in a row.
Ligue 1: Marseille home in on third
Lyon continue to set the pace in France. In a match switched to the Stade de France in Paris, the serial champions downed Lille 1-0 to maintain their advantage over second-placed Bordeaux, 3-0 winners over relegation-haunted Paris Saint-Germain on Sunday evening.
Nancy allowed Marseille to make up two further points in the race for a Champions League qualifying berth. The side in third played out a goalless draw at Lorient, but l'OM continued their recent run of form with a 2-1 victory over Auxerre.
Top three: Lyon (55 points), Bordeaux (52), Nancy (45)
Bottom three: Toulouse (29 points), Sochaux (28), Metz (15)
Top scorers: Karim Benzema (16 goals), Mamadou Niang (12), David Bellion, Tulio de Melo, Wendel (all 11)
Weekend stat: Following the 3-0 win over Paris Saint-Germain, Bordeaux keeper Ulrich Rame has now gone 374 minutes without conceding a goal.
Elsewhere: Excitement galore in derby battles
Boavista and FC Porto finished goalless in their derby, leaving the latter well clear at the top of the Portuguese BWINLIGA. The Belgrade derby between Red Star and Partizan produced a surprise, as leaders Partizan fell to a 4-1 defeat. They now lead their city rivals by a mere three points.
In Switzerland, champions FC Zurich celebrated a narrow 1-0 success over neighbours Grasshoppers, while Greek Super League table-toppers Panathinaikos maintained their four-point advantage over AEK Athens after their derby ended 1-1. There was a change at the top in Turkey, however, with Besiktas defeating Istanbul rivals Galatasaray to assume leadership of the Super League.