Europe’s big hitters bounce back

After mixed starts to the campaign, Europe’s big guns are back on form and making steady progress up their respective league tables. The likes of Bayern, Inter Milan and Barcelona all recorded significant victories, while Chelsea, AC Milan and the Catalan giants went top of their national standings. reviews the weekend action in Europe’s biggest leagues.

La Liga: Barca go top as Real draw
Barcelona have gone top of the Spanish league for the first time this term. The man of the match in a 4-1 win in Malaga was UEFA EURO 2008 winner Xavi, the gifted midfielder helping himself to a brace. Previous leaders Valencia unexpectedly crashed 4-2 at home to Santander, with Mohamed Tchité bagging a hat-trick for the unfancied visitors.

In drawing 1-1 with Almeria, Real Madrid lost the chance to keep apace with their Catalan arch-rivals in the table.

Top three: Barcelona (22 points), Villarreal (21), Real Madrid (20)
Bottom three: Recreativo Huelva (7 points), Athletic Bilbao (5), Osasuna (4)
Leading scorers: David Villa (10 goals), Samuel Eto'o (9), Lionel Messi, Mate Bilic (6)
Weekend stat: 0 - Villarreal are the only team in Europe’s top five leagues yet to taste defeat this season

Bundesliga: Hoffenheim win again but Bayern close in
Surprise package 1899 Hoffenheim remain top after continuing a fairytale opening to their maiden top flight campaign with a 4-1 victory over Karlsruhe. Bayer Leverkusen are a point off the pace after beating Wolfsburg 2-0, while champions Bayern Munich took over third spot with a 3-1 home win over Bielefeld.

Werder Bremen emphatically ended a run of six games without a win by trouncing Hertha BSC Berlin 5-1. Schalke beat strugglers Cottbus 2-0 away from home, but Hamburg lost on their travels for the third time in a row, falling 3-0 to northern rivals Hanover.

Top three: 1899 Hoffenheim (25 points), Bayer Leverkusen (24), Bayern Munich (21)
Bottom three: Arminia Bielefeld (8), Bor M'Gladbach (7), Energie Cottbus (6)
Leading scorers: Vedad Ibisevic (13 goals), Artur Wichniarek, Patrick Helmes (both 8)
Weekend stat: 31 – promoted leaders 1899 Hoffenheim have scored 31 league goals so far, a mark only previously reached at this stage of the season by seven Bundesliga teams.

Premier League: Chelsea bounce back, dismay for Gunners and Reds
Chelsea went back to the top of the English Premier League with a 5-0 triumph over Sunderland, a game in which Nicolas Anelka caught the eye with a hat-trick. Champions Manchester United claimed third spot courtesy of a narrow 4-3 home win over ebullient promoted outfit Hull City.

Previous leaders Liverpool lost 2-1 away to bottom club Tottenham Hotspur, Roman Pavlyuchenko netting a stoppage-time winner for the London club. Arsenal fell by the same score away to Stoke City and slip to fourth.

Top three:
Chelsea, Liverpool (both 26 points), Manchester United (21)
Bottom three: West Bromwich Albion (11 points), Tottenham Hotspur, Newcastle United (both 9)
Leading scorers: Nicolas Anelka, Amr Zaki (both 8 goals), Robinho, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Jermain Defoe (all 6)
Weekend stat: 400 – United’s 4-3 victory against Hull City was their 400th Premier League win. The Red Devils are the first club to pass this particular milestone.

Serie A: Milan duo jockey for position

AC Milan lead Serie A for the first time in just under two years. The northern giants downed fellow title contenders Napoli thanks to a late German Denis own goal, leapfrogging their rivals into first place. The 17-time Italian champions profited from second-placed Udinese’s 2-2 draw with Genoa.

Champions Inter travelled to Reggina and came away with a 3-2 victory to go third, level on points with Udine. The crisis deepened at last year’s runners-up Roma, beaten 2-0 away to Juventus. The capital outfit have amassed just seven points from nine games and lie just a single point above the drop zone.

Top three: AC Milan (22 points), Udinese, Inter (both 21 points)
Bottom three: Verona, Bologna (both 6 points), Reggina Calcio (5)
Leading scorers: Alberto Gilardino (7 goals), Diego Milito, Fabrizio Miccoli, Mauro Zarate (alle 6 goals)
Weekend stat: 11 - AC Milan opened the campaign with two defeats but have since gone eleven games unbeaten, climbing the table from 19th to first place.

Ligue 1: Lyon stride clear
Reigning champions Olympique Lyon have completed their recovery from a below-par run of three games without a win, and are now four points clear at the top. Superstar Karim Benzema set Lyon on their way with a first-half effort against Le Mans, before Juninho struck ten minutes after the restart to complete a routine 2-0 success.

Olympique Marseille took over in second after a 3-1 victory over St. Etienne, but last season’s runners-up Bordeaux fell by the only goal of the game away to Nancy and slip to third.

Top three:
Olympique Lyon (27 points), Olympique Marseille (23), Girondins Bordeaux (21)
Bottom three: Valenciennes (9 points), Le Havre (8), Sochaux (6)
Leading scorers: Karim Benzema (8 goals), Guillaume Hoarau, Loic Remy, Steve Savidan, Fernando Cavenaghi (all 6)
Weekend stat: 27 - Lyon’s haul of 27 points from the first 12 matches is their worst return in four years. OL had 26 points at the same stage back in 2004/05, although that did not stop the serial champions collecting the title.

Belgian champions Standard Liege lost at home in the league for the first time in 19 months, a 2-1 defeat to Charleroi. Liege fall to fourth in the standings on 20 points, behind leaders Club Bruges (23) Anderlecht (22) and Racing Genk (20). The derby in the Bulgarian capital between Levski in third and leaders CSKA Sofia ended 1-1. Romanian big-hitters Dinamo and Steaua Bucharest, top of the table and fourth respectively, also shared the spoils by the same score.