European Leagues review
© AFP

Four of the leaders in Europe’s five biggest leagues were in danger of being toppled this weekend, but as it was, only Brest in France failed to retain pole position. Chelsea, Borussia Dortmund, AC Milan and Real Madrid all continue to lead the way, albeit following a mixed bag of results.

FIFA.com reviews the action in the top leagues around Europe, and also reports on the outcome of prestige duels in Russia and the Netherlands.

Premier League: Manchester united in celebration
Manchester duo United and City were the big winners of the 14th round of fixtures. The Red Devils cruised to a 2-0 win over Wigan and are now level with leaders Chelsea, who lost 1-0 away to Birmingham. Arsenal missed the chance to go top after a painful 3-2 defeat at home to Spurs in the North London derby. The Gunners led 2-0 at the break but crumbled in the second half.

City moved to within three points of the lead with a 4-1 win away to Fulham, while Liverpool beat bottom club West Ham 3-0 to go ninth.

Top three: Chelsea, Manchester United (both 28 points), Arsenal (26)
Bottom three: Wigan Athletic (14), Wolverhampton Wanderers, West Ham United (both 9)
Leading scorers: Carlos Tevez (9 goals), Andrew Carroll, Johan Elmander (both 8)
Weekend stat: 17 – For the first time since May 1993, back at the venerable Highbury stadium, Tottenham won away to north London rivals Arsenal.

La Liga: Thumping wins for big two
The last two FIFA World Players of the Year, Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid and Lionel Messi of Barcelona, warmed up in style for next weekend’s El Clasico with hat-tricks. Leaders Real swept aside Athletic Bilbao by a 5-1 margin, and Barça handed Almeria an 8-0 battering. Home boss Juan Manuel Lillo was relieved of his duties immediately after the final whistle.

Even though the season is but a third old, the rest are already looking like also-rans. Third-placed Villarreal and fifth-placed Valencia drew 1-1, allowing Espanyol to go fourth with a 3-0 victory over Alicante. Sevilla lost ground in seventh with a last-gasp defeat at home to eighth-placed Mallorca.

Top three: Real Madrid (32 points), Barcelona (31), Villarreal (24)
Bottom three: Malaga (10), Almeria (9), Zaragoza (7)
Leading scorers: Cristiano Ronaldo (14 goals), Lionel Messi (13), Fernando Llorente (9)
Weekend stat: 8-0 Saturday’s crushing 8-0 triumph equals Barcelona’s best-ever away win in the Spanish top flight. The Catalans beat Las Palmas by the same score on 25 October 1959.

Bundesliga: Dortmund express powers on
Leaders Borussia Dortmund came from a goal behind at half-time to win 2-1 in Freiburg and maintain their seven-point lead at the top. The men in yellow and black have now won all seven of their away fixtures this term. Mainz cemented their grip on second spot with an away win of their own, 3-2 against tailenders Borussia Monchengladbach.

Champions Bayern drew 1-1 away to third-placed Leverkusen and remain marooned in no-man’s land, fully 14 points off the lead. In the clash between two crisis-ridden Champions League participants, Raul grabbed a hat-trick as 15th-placed Schalke racked up a morale-boosting 4-0 win over Werder Bremen. High-flying Hannover beat northern rivals Hamburg 3-2.

Top three: Borussia Dortmund (34 points), Mainz (27), Leverkusen (25)
Bottom three: VfB Stuttgart, Cologne (both 11), Monchengladbach (10)
Leading scorers: Theofanis Gekas (11 goals), Papiss Demba Cisse (10), Edin Dzeko (9)
Weekend stat: 100 – Borussia Dortmund lead the Bundesliga table at the end of a round of matches for the 100th time in their history.

Serie A: Contrasting fortunes for Milan giants
AC Milan made it four wins on the bounce with a 1-0 success against Fiorentina, and also stretched their lead at the top to three points, as second-placed Lazio were held to a 1-1 draw by struggling Parma.

Treble winners Inter lost 2-1 away to Chievo and slipped to sixth after their second defeat in a row. The champions are already nine points off their city rivals, but it was otherwise a good weekend for the chasing pack, as Napoli beat Bologna 4-1, Roma defeated Udinese 2-0, and Juventus won away to Genoa by the same score.

Top three: AC Milan (29 points), Lazio (26), Napoli (24)
Bottom three: Brescia, Cesena (both 11), Bari (9)
Leading scorers: Samuel Eto’o, Edinson Cavani (both 9), Marco di Vaio, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Javier Pastore (all 7)
Weekend stat: 9 – Juventus are undefeated in their last nine matches, during which time they have climbed from 16th to fourth.

Ligue 1: Lille seize top spot
Brest started the weekend as leaders but finished it in sixth, all thanks to a 2-1 defeat away to fourth-placed Rennes. The rest of the contenders wasted no time in brushing past the toppled Bretons: new pacesetters Lille beat Monaco 2-1, Montpellier won 1-0 away to Nice, Paris Saint-Germain downed Caen 2-1, and champions Olympique Marseille won 1-0 away to Toulouse.

OM are now up to fifth, and the other top teams are also steadily recovering from poor starts to the campaign. Bordeaux won 4-2 away to doomed Avignon to go seventh, with Olympique Lyon right behind them after a 3-1 success away to Lens. Such is the congestion in the standings, both les Girondins and OL could theoretically go top next weekend, as they are separated from the lead by a mere two points.

Top three: Lille, Montpellier (both 24 points), Paris Saint-Germain (23)
Bottom three: Caen, Lens (both 14), Arles-Avignon (6)
Leading scorers: Youssef El Arabi (10 goals), Moussa Sow (9), Dimitri Payet (8)
Weekend stat: 1 – Lille lead the Ligue 1 standings for the first time since August 2008.

Elsewhere
In Russia, the clash of champions old and new ended 2-2. Newly-crowned title holders Zenit St. Petersburg were two-up away to dethroned champs Rubin Kazan, but the home side fought back to salvage pride and a point. In the Moscow derby, CSKA beat Spartak 3-1 to seal second spot in the standings.

The biggest game in the Netherlands between leaders PSV Eindhoven and Amsterdam giants Ajax ended goalless. AZ Alkmaar, who won the league two seasons ago, beat reigning champions Twente Enschede 2-1.