Pressure on Liverpool and Lyon
© AFP

While the Bundesliga takes time out for its festive break, the stars of Europe's other major championships continue to battle against tired legs and the chill of winter. Most of the attention this weekend will be focused on England and France, where it remains tight at the top. In Spain and Italy, meanwhile, Barcelona and Inter Milan will be looking to maintain their comfortable leads.

FIFA.com previews the last bout of European league action before Christmas.

Premier League: Arsenal eye hat-trick
Arsene Wenger's side have been nothing short of an enigma this season. Brilliant one week, mediocre the next, the fifth-placed Gunners have experienced serious problems against the division's lesser lights - the latest example being last week's 1-1 draw against Middlesbrough - while upping their game against their fellow title rivals. After overcoming both Manchester United and Chelsea 2-1, Arsenal now entertain frontrunners Liverpool with their sights fixed on a third major scalp of the season.

Urging the North Londoners on will be Chelsea, who do battle with Everton on Monday evening. The Blues are hopeful of regaining top spot and putting more distance between themselves and Manchester United, who stand third but are otherwise engaged at the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan. Tucked in just behind the leading trio are Aston Villa, who visit a struggling West Ham side anxious to pull away from the danger zone.

The question: Can Sam Allardyce stop the run of five straight defeats that cost Paul Ince his job as Blackburn Rovers manager? Stoke City hold the key to that question when they travel to Ewood Park.
The big game: Arsenal-Liverpool, Sunday 17.00 CET, Emirates Stadium
The quote: "If we think that we're going to beat Liverpool easily just because we beat Manchester United and Chelsea, then we'll be making a mistake," Emmanuel Adebayor, Arsenal striker

La Liga: Real under the microscope again
Beaten by Sevilla a fortnight ago and by Barcelona in last Saturday's clásico, Real Madrid have lost ground on their direct rivals and find themselves sixth. Juande Ramos is hoping his new charges can halt the slide at home to Valencia and cut the gap on their guests to just one point.

The following day sees the irrepressible Azulgranas take on a tricky trip to Villarreal, who slipped down to fourth after losing to Sevilla last weekend. Defeated only once this season, the leaders are already nine points clear of their hosts, all of which makes Sunday's meeting vital to the Yellow Submarine's title hopes. Having moved up to fifth, Atletico Madrid will hope to profit from the brace of top-of-the-table clashes by claiming maximum points from their visit to Espanyol.

Finally, Sevilla look to have the easiest task of the top six against a Mallorca side short on points and confidence after going winless in the league for nearly two months.

The question: Can Barça do what Real Madrid did in 1960/61 and 1991 and Villarreal in 2007 by equalling the Spanish league record of seven consecutive away wins?
The big game: Real Madrid-Valencia, Saturday 20.00 CET, Santiago Bernabeu
The quote: "Barça are sure to have problems sooner or later, and we'll be there waiting to capitalise. I am absolutely convinced we can make up 12 points on them," Juande Ramos, Real Madrid coach

Serie A: Inter in command
There might not be any big-name clashes on the card in Italy this weekend but that does not mean to say the stakes are any lower than usual. Top dogs Inter Milan will expect a slightly easier time at Siena than closest challengers Juventus, who journey to Bergamo to take on an Atalanta side buoyed by handsome back-to-back home wins over Udinese and Lazio. In the battle for third place, current occupants Napoli are away at Torino, while AC Milan, who lie just behind them, entertain Udinese.

Roma have climbed to tenth and have strung together eight wins on the bounce in all competitions, a record they will hope to improve at Catania, who have now gone four games without victory.

The question: Can AC Milan offer latest star recruit David Beckham a housewarming gift when he is unveiled at the San Siro on Saturday?
The big game: Atalanta-Juventus, Sunday 15.00 CET, Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia
The quote: "We're still aiming for the title and all we need to do is get our injured players back. We will be very competitive when we are at full strength again," Adriano Galliani, AC Milan's vice-president

Ligue 1: Lyon aim to stop rot
The reigning champions have lost momentum in recent weeks, allowing Marseille, Bordeaux and PSG to close the gap on them to just three points. Nevertheless, victory at mid-table Caen on Saturday would assure Les Gones the honorary title of winter champions, regardless of what l'OM, Bordeaux and the Parisians do the following day when they play Nancy, Monaco and Valenciennes respectively.

There are a couple of relegation six-pointers at the other end of the table as Nantes face Sochaux and Saint-Etienne play host to Auxerre.

The question: Who will be the winter champions? Lyon, Marseille, Bordeaux and PSG are all in with a chance of topping the table at the halfway point of the season.
The big game: Marseille-Nancy, Sunday 17.00 CET, Stade Velodrome
The quote: "We're in a bit of a rut after going four games without a win. We need to end that run now and we've got one match left to finish the year on a high note," Kim Kallstrom, Lyon midfielder

Elsewhere
It is derby time again in Turkey, with Galatasaray in third crossing swords with Besiktas, their neighbours on Istanbul's European bank, who lie three places below them. Although the duo are unaccustomed to such lowly positions at this stage of the campaign, both are within only three points of surprise pacesetters Sivasspor, who will be out to maintain their slender advantage at the top when they visit Genclerbirligi.

There is a classic duel in store in the Netherlands as PSV and Feyenoord meet, with both sides desperately in need of the points. After racking up four Eredivisie titles in a row Huub Stevens' men are languishing in fourth, a whole nine points adrift of leaders AZ Alkmaar. The Rotterdam club are in an even more parlous position, meanwhile, having slipped to 12th after suffering their 14th defeat in a year last week, a miserable statistic that equals their previous worst tallies of 1957 and 1989.