Full steam ahead for leaders
© AFP

It was a good weekend for the leaders in Europe’s top leagues, as Chelsea, Barcelona, Bayer Leverkusen and Olympique Lyon all recorded victories. By contrast, there were setbacks for reigning champions Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.

FIFA.com reviews the weekend action in Europe’s biggest leagues.

Premier League: Chelsea and Liverpool stride clear
Leaders Chelsea and second-placed Liverpool remain level on points at the top after comfortable wins at the weekend. The Blues cruised to a 3-0 victory on their travels to bottom club West Bromwich Albion, Nicolas Anelka catching the eye yet again with a well-taken brace. The Reds came away from Bolton Wanderers with a 2-0 success.

Champions Manchester United handed Stoke City a 5-0 hiding, going a long way towards making up for last week’s bitter 2-1 loss to Arsenal. For their part, the Gunners lost ground in a 2-0 defeat at home to impressive fifth-placed outfit Aston Villa.

Top three: Chelsea, Liverpool (both 32 points), Manchester United (24)
Bottom three: Blackburn Rovers (13 points), Tottenham Hotspur (12), West Bromwich Albion (11)
Leading scorers: Nicolas Anelka (12 goals), Cristiano Ronaldo, Amr Zaki (both 8)
Weekend stat: 101 - Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 100th goal for Manchester United on Saturday, and added another later on to move to 101 goals for the club.

La Liga: Barcelona stroll but Real crash
Following their embarrassing midweek cup exit to third division Irun, things went from bad to worse for Real Madrid. Coach Bernd Schuster and his men travelled to Real Valladolid, but fell to their second defeat of the season as Uruguay striker Nestor Fabian Canobbio sealed victory for the home side with the only goal of the game. The champions slip to fourth in the table, fully five points off leaders Barcelona.

The Catalan giants won 2-0 away to Recreativo Huelva courtesy of goals from Lionel Messi and Seydou Keita, and now move three points clear at the top as their chief pursuers dropped points: Villareal drew 2-2 in Malaga and Valencia fell 3-2 to Gijon.

Top three: Barcelona (28 points), Villareal (25), Valencia (23)
Bottom three: Athletic Bilbao (9 points), Recreativo Huelva (7), Osasuna (5)
Leading scorers: Samuel Eto'o (13 goals), David Villa (11), Gonzalo Higuain (9)
Weekend stat: 9 – after opening the campaign with a defeat and a draw, Barcelona have won nine league matches on the bounce since then.

Bundesliga: Careless Bayern punished as top two pull clear
Bayer Leverkusen stay top after winning the big match of the Bundesliga weekend 2-1 at home to Schalke 04. Patrick Helmes and Stefan Kiessling scored before half-time to put Bayer in the box seat, Kevin Kuranyi’s 85th-minute effort coming too late to affect the outcome. Promoted 1899 Hoffenheim remain level on points at the top thanks to a 3-2 win over Wolfsburg.

Champions Bayern Munich suffered a setback on their travels to Borussia Mönchengladbach. Jürgen Klinsmann’s men led 2-0 with barely ten minutes to play, but the home team struck twice in as many minutes to level and claim an unlikely point. Hamburg’s 2-1 defeat to Hertha Berlin was their third away reverse in a row. The result sends the men from the capital up to fourth in the standings.

Top three: Bayer Leverkusen, 1899 Hoffenheim (both 28 points), Bayern (25)
Bottom three: Karlsruhe (10 points), Arminia Bielefeld, Energie Cottbus (both 9)
Leading scorers: Vedad Ibisevic (14 goals), Patrick Helmes (9), Grafite (8)
Weekend stat: 1.08 – Hoffenheim striker Vedad Ibisevic’ stunning strike rate after chalking up 14 goals in 13 league appearances.

Serie A: Champions Inter stay top as Roma crisis eases
Star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic ensured Inter Milan remain top of Serie A. The Sweden international grabbed both goals as his side won 2-0 in Palermo. Juventus continued their recent resurgence with a convincing 4-1 triumph against Genoa, the Turin outfit’s seventh consecutive victory in all competitions.

AC Milan kept up the pressure on their city rivals, a Kaka strike proving enough against Chievo Verona. Surprise package Napoli fell 3-1 away to Atalanta in Bergamo and drop to fourth. The Rome derby between AS Roma and Lazio ended in a 1-0 victory for AS, taking the unexpected strugglers three points clear of the drop zone and easing the immediate crisis at the club.

Top three: Inter Milan (27 points), AC Milan (26), Juventus (24)
Bottom three: Bologna, Reggina Calcio (both 8 points), Chievo Verona (6)
Leading scorers: Diego Milito (10 goals), Alberto Gilardino (8), Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Giuseppe Mascara, Mauro Zarate (all 7)
Weekend stat: 17 – the number of places in the table climbed by AC Milan in the last two months, from second from bottom to second from top.

Ligue 1: Lyon extend lead as rivals blunder
The top clash on Matchday 14 in Ligue 1 saw leaders Olympique Lyon beat third-placed Girondins Bordeaux 2-1. Ace marksman Karim Benzema opened the scoring for Lyon on 33 minutes, before Kim Kallstrom doubled the advantage just four minutes later. Fernando Cavenaghi pulled one back nine minutes from time, but it was a case of too little, too late for Girondins.

The result sends Lyon no fewer than seven points clear in the standings, as chief pursuers Olympique Marseille made a hash of their home meeting with Lorient. Marseille led 2-0 on the hour, only for the visitors to net three times in the space of eleven minutes and cling on for a 3-2 success.

Top three: Olympique Lyon (33 points), Olympique Marseille (26), Stade Rennes (25)
Bottom three: St. Etienne (10 points), Sochaux, Valenciennes (both 9)
Leading scorers: Karim Benzema (9 goals), André-Pierre Gignac, Guillaume Hoarau (both 8)
Weekend stat: 5 - Lyon striker Karim Benzema has now opened the scoring for his side on no fewer than five occasions. OL have gone on to win all five matches.

Elsewhere
The top clash in the Dutch Eredivisie between Ajax and PSV Eindhoven ended 4-1 to the Amsterdam side, who remain top of the pile. The meeting between first and second in Greece saw leaders Olympiakos Piraeus defeat PAOK Saloniki 2-0. Newly-crowned Russian champions Rubin Kazan crashed 4-0 to CSKA Moscow on the penultimate matchday of the season. Superstar Vagner Love grabbed a hat-trick for the men from the capital.