Frontrunners hold ferocious pace
© AFP

While the Bundesliga began its winter break, Inter Milan and Barcelona kept their momentum going at the top of Serie A and La Liga respectively. In the Premier League, leaders Liverpool shared the points with Arsenal, and Lyon recovered their poise in Ligue 1. FIFA.com rounds up the headlines from another weekend of high-octane league action in Europe.

La Liga: Real steady the ship
Holders Real Madrid kicked off Matchday 16 on Saturday by ending a run of three consecutive defeats with a 1-0 win over Valencia. Showing some much-needed solidity, Los Blancos were indebted to Gonzalo Higuain's early strike as they held off their fellow championship contenders. Later that evening, city rivals Atletico Madrid won 3-2 at Espanyol, courtesy of two goals in the final ten minutes.

In Sunday's match of the day, Barcelona chalked up yet another win when they prevailed 2-1 at Villarreal. Trailing at the start of the second half, the Catalan giants turned the match around thanks to goals from Seydou Keita and Thierry Henry. Sevilla earned a point from their visit to Mallorca to move into second place, some ten points behind Pep Guardiola's men.

Top three: Barcelona (41 pts), Sevilla (31), Atletico Madrid (30)
Bottom three: Espanyol, Recreativo Huelva (both 13), Osasuna (12)
Top scorers: Samuel Eto'o (15 goals), David Villa (12), Gonzalo Higuain (11)
Weekend stat: 50 - Real Madrid have been incurring the wrath of the referees this season, picking up four more yellows on Saturday to take their total for the campaign to 50. Having also received five red cards, Los Merengues are the most ill-disciplined team in La Liga.

Serie A: Inter stay in the groove
Inter Milan travelled to Siena on Saturday in search of their eighth league win in a row, and duly extended their impressive run thanks to two moments of inspiration from Brazilian defender Maicon. Juventus confirmed their status as the defending champions' nearest challengers by winning 3-1 at Atalanta on Sunday, with Alessandro Del Piero again on the scoresheet.

Third and fifth at the start of the day, Napoli and Fiorentina enjoyed contrasting fortunes. Ezequiel Lavezzi and Co went down 1-0 at Torino, while Riccardo Montolivo scored the only goal of the game to give La Viola three points from their trip to Sampdoria. AC Milan regained some pride after last week's reverse in Turin as they coasted to a 5-1 win at home to Udinese, Alexander Pato and Kaka both scoring twice.

Top three: Inter Milan (42 pts), Juventus (36), AC Milan (33)
Bottom three: Lecce (14), Reggina (13), Chievo (9)
Top scorers: Marco di Vaio, Alberto Gilardino, Diego Milito (12 goals)
Weekend stat: 60 per cent - In the last ten seasons, the leaders at the halfway point of the season have gone on to win the scudetto on six occasions. Inter, winners of the last three titles, lead the way at Christmas for the fourth year running. Will the Nerazzurri repeat the feat again?

Premier League: Spoils shared at the Emirates
There was nothing to choose between Arsenal and Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium. Trailing to Robin van Persie's fine strike, the Reds pulled level through Robbie Keane but failed to capitalise on Emmanuel Adebayor's second-half dismissal.

Down at the bottom, West Bromwich Albion heaped more misery on Manchester City by scoring late on to seal a 2-1 win. Another side to clinch the points in the closing seconds were Newcastle United, who saw off Tottenham Hotspur by the same scoreline, Damien Duff slotting home the winner. Aston Villa moved into the top three following a 1-0 win at West Ham United, although Manchester United lie just two points behind them with two games in hand. Elsewhere, Blackburn Rovers's new manager, Sam Allardyce, made the perfect start to his reign with a 3-0 win over Stoke City at Ewood Park.

Top three: Liverpool (38 pts), Chelsea (37), Aston Villa (34)
Bottom three: Manchester City (19), Blackburn Rovers (16), West Bromwich Albion (15)
Top scorers: Nicolas Anelka (14 goals), Gabriel Agbonlahor (9), Robinho (8)
Weekend stat: 8 - With eight points from four games, Liverpool lead the way in the season's meetings between the current top five. Arsenal come next on seven, followed by Aston Villa on five, Chelsea on four and Manchester United on two.

Ligue 1: Lyon the kings of winter
Karim Benzema was on target for Lyon on Saturday as they ran out 1-0 winners at Caen, thus ensuring Les Gones the title of honorary winter champions for the fifth straight season. Curiously, it had been eight seasons since Lyon last won their final league match of the year. Earlier in the day, Rennes and Lille maintained their challenges for European places by defeating Lorient 2-1 and Le Havre 3-1 respectively.

In Sunday's games, Guillaume Hoarau underlined his worth to Paris Saint-Germain yet again by scoring the opener in his side's 2-2 draw with Valenciennes. Marseille fell prey to some opportunistic finishing from Youssouf Hadji as Nancy notched a 3-0 win at the Stade Velodrome, the Moroccan scoring two of them. And in the weekend's final encounter, Bordeaux stunned Monaco by coming back from 3-0 down to win 4-3.

Top three: Lyon (38 pts), Bordeaux (35), Rennes (34)
Bottom three: Valenciennes (15), Sochaux (14), Le Havre (12)
Top scorers: Andre-Pierre Gignac (12 goals), Guillaume Hoarau, Fernando Cavenaghi (11)
Weekend stat: 9 - Michel Bastos has been indispensable for Lille in recent weeks, playing a part in nine of their last ten goals, scoring five of them and setting up another four.

Elsewhere
The top three in the Eredivisie all won, with AZ Alkmaar beating Utrecht 2-0, Ajax putting six past De Graafschap without reply, and Twente downing Willem II 2-0. In the other big game in the Netherlands, PSV Eindhoven edged out Feyenoord 1-0.

In Belgium's Jupiler League, Anderlecht secured a 2-0 win over Racing Genk to stay four points clear of Standard Liege, who defeated Gent 2-1 at home.