European Leagues review

Barcelona and Bayern Munich moved clear at the summit in Spain and Germany respectively over the weekend, but new leaders emerged in Italy. The English pacesetters stayed top despite being on FA Cup duty, and the French chasing pack played musical chairs. reviews the action.

Premier League: United draw suits Blues
Leaders Chelsea beat Aston Villa 3-0 at Wembley to claim a berth in the FA Cup final, leaving the league stage clear for Manchester United. However, the Red Devils’ recent woes continued as Sir Alex Ferguson’s men limped to a goalless draw away to Blackburn Rovers. United remain a point off Chelsea, who now have a potentially crucial game in hand.

On Wednesday, third-placed Arsenal could even overtake United, although the Gunners must overcome north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur away from home. In the battle for the fourth and last UEFA Champions League qualifying spot, Manchester City are in pole position after demolishing Birmingham City 5-1. Liverpool lost ground in sixth due to a scoreless stalemate with Fulham at Anfield.

Top three: Chelsea (74 points), Manchester United (73), Arsenal (71)
Bottom three: Burnley, Hull City (both 27), Portsmouth (14)
Leading scorers: Wayne Rooney (26 goals), Didier Drogba (25), Darren Bent (22)
Weekend stat: 7 – After seven seasons in the top flight, the weekend results saw Portsmouth’s relegation confirmed. The bankrupt club’s search for a buyer received a boost, though, with a 2-0 win over Spurs earning an FA Cup final berth.

La Liga: Barça claim clásico honours
Champions Barcelona may well have cleared the last major hurdle between themselves and back-to-back titles. FIFA World Player of the Year Lionel Messi and his team-mates beat Real Madrid 2-0 at the Bernabeu and now lead the standings by three points, albeit with seven games still to play.

In the most important of the fixtures elsewhere, third-placed Valencia lost 3-2 away to Mallorca. The men from the Balearics remain fifth, level on points with fourth-placed Sevilla, who beat Malaga 2-1. Both teams are now just five points off Valencia. The battle between Tenerife and Valladolid, second and third-bottom respectively, ended goalless.

Top three: Barcelona (80 points), Real Madrid (77), Valencia (56)
Bottom three: Tenerife (26), Valladolid (25), Xerez (23)
Leading scorers: Lionel Messi (27 goals), Gonzalo Higuain (24), David Villa (20)
Weekend stat: 4 – Barcelona have now won the last four clásicos against bitter foes Real Madrid, scoring 11 goals and conceding just two in the process.

Bundesliga: Bayern held but stretch lead
Bayern Munich’s strong finish to the campaign continues. After progressing to the Champions League semi-finals in midweek, the Bundesliga leaders drew 1-1 away to third-placed Bayer Leverkusen. Chief pursuers Schalke fell 4-2 to struggling Hannover, allowing Louis van Gaal’s Munich to extend their advantage to two points.

In the battle for European places, Werder Bremen beat Freiburg 4-0, Hamburg overcame Bochum 2-1, and Stuttgart beat Hertha Berlin 1-0, but Borussia Dortmund missed out on third place with a 1-0 defeat by Mainz. Tailenders Hertha are now six points adrift of safety and look doomed to the drop.

Top three: Bayern (60 points), Schalke (58), Bayer Leverkusen (54)
Bottom three: Hannover (27), Freiburg (25), Hertha Berlin (22)
Leading scorers: Edin Dzeko (19 goals), Stefan Kiessling, Kevin Kuranyi (both 18 goals)
Weekend stat: 4 – After four games without a win, UEFA Europa League semi-finalists Hamburg finally returned to winning ways.

Serie A: Roma topple Inter from top spot
Champions Inter have spent the last five months at the Serie A summit, but were forced to surrender top spot at the weekend. Roma beat Atalanta 2-1 to leapfrog I Nerazzurri, who were held 2-2 away to Fiorentina.

Inter’s city rivals AC Milan lost ground on the top two, but showed fighting spirit in coming back from two down to draw 2-2 with Catania. Juventus finally showed some spirit of their own, beating Cagliari 1-0 to go sixth on 51 points. The Derby della Lanterna between fifth-placed Sampdoria and mid-table Genoa ended 1-0 to the home team.

Top three: Roma (68 points), Inter (67), AC Milan (64)
Bottom three: Atalanta (31), Siena (29), Livorno (26)
Leading scorers: Antonio di Natale (23 goals), Diego Milito (19), Alberto Gilardino, Fabrizio Miccoli (both 15)
Weekend stat: 1 – Inter’s 27-game reign at the top of Serie A is at an end. The champions took the lead back in September, six matches into the campaign.

Ligue 1: Marseille march on, Auxerre go second
Calamity has struck at Bordeaux. Following their Champions League exit to compatriots Lyon, the French champions have slipped to fifth in the league after another defeat, a 3-1 reverse away to tenth-placed Paris Saint-Germain. Les Girondins are now six points adrift of leaders Marseille, who comfortably beat Nice 4-1.

The teams in third and fourth, Lyon and Montpellier, drew 1-1 with Lille and Le Mans respectively, allowing Auxerre to go second with a 1-0 win away to Nancy. At the wrong end of the table, Saint-Etienne beat Sochaux 2-0 to move 11 points clear of the drop zone.

Top three: Marseille (62 points), Auxerre (60), Lyon (58)
Bottom three: Bolougne-Sur-Mer (24), Le Mans (22), Grenoble (15)
Leading scorers: Mamadou Niang (15 goals), Nene (14), Kevin Gameiro, Mevlut Erding, Asamoah Gyan, Lisandro Lopez (all 13)
Weekend stat: 9 – Leaders OM have sized pole position in the crucial phase of the campaign with a run of nine games undefeated, including seven wins.

In Greece, Panathinaikos sealed a 20th domestic championship. On the penultimate day of the Super League season, the Athens club beat Iraklis Saloniki 2-0. Champions Olympiacos beat Panthrakikos by the same score,  but are six points off the new champions and have run out of games.

In the Netherlands, Marko Pantelic and Luiz Suarez both netted hat-tricks as Ajax thumped Venlo 7-0. Despite the romp, Ajax remain second, four points off leaders Twente, who beat Heerenveen 2-0. PSV and Feyenoord, third and fourth respectively, drew 0-0.