Pacesetters out to hold firm

Giants AC Milan, Barcelona, Chelsea lead the standings in their quest to reclaim domestic rule. With little breathing space at the summit, however, they will have no margin for error this weekend. With Lyon out to consolidate their lead and Hoffenheim's position in the driving seat under threat, looks ahead to the forthcoming action across Europe.
Premier League: Searching examination for Wenger's men 
Without a win in three games and immersed in an untimely injury crisis, Arsenal need to return to winning ways to consolidate their place in the top four. The problem for the Gunners is that their opponents at the Emirates Stadium this weekend are reigning champions Manchester United.

Elsewhere, Liverpool will have the opportunity to take over from Chelsea at the top, albeit momentarily, when they host West Bromwich Albion on Saturday. Luiz Felipe Scolari's side are in action the following day at Blackburn Rovers, who are winless in their last five games, while at the other end of the table, Harry Redknapp's resurgent Tottenham Hotspur travel to Manchester City hoping to extend their unbeaten run to four games.

The question: Defeated in their last two home matches, can West Ham United and Wigan Athletic beat visiting Everton and Stoke City respectively?
The big game: Arsenal-Manchester United, Saturday 13.45 CET, Emirates Stadium
The quote: "If we're on top of our game, I know we can pose them problems. If they're also on top of their game, I can promise you a real battle," Hull City coach Phil Brown on the visit of Bolton Wanderers.

La Liga: Alarm bells ringing for Real
Real Madrid's recent form has been shaky to say the least. After last weekend's draw at Almeria and a damaging reverse at home to Juventus in the UEFA Champions League in midweek, Los Merengues dare not lose when Malaga come to town on Saturday.

Barcelona have no such worries on their mind and will be confident of cementing their position at the top at home to Valladolid. Valencia round off the weekend's matches when they visit Getafe on Sunday evening.

The question: Having scored in his last three games, can Valencia's David Villa maintain his potent form at Getafe?
The big game: Real Madrid-Malaga, Saturday 20.00 CET, Estadio Santiago Bernabeu
The quote: "If I do play against Real, it will be a childhood dream come true," Malaga forward Nabil Baha.

Serie A: Roma out to buck the trend
Hovering above the relegation zone after four straight defeats, Luciano Spalletti's men will be praying their 3-1 win over Chelsea marks a turning point in their troubled season. Three points against fellow strugglers Bologna on Saturday would do the Romans a power of good.

At the summit, meanwhile, third plays second when Inter Milan entertain Udinese, and frontrunners AC Milan, who hold a one-point lead over the chasing duo, take a trip to Lecce.

The question: Unbeaten in their last eight outings, can AC Milan and Udinese maintain their excellent form?
The big game: Inter Milan-Udinese, Sunday 15.00 CET, Stadio Giuseppe Meazza
The quote: "Christmas is still a long way away but we've already given our opponents too many presents," Jose Mourinho, Inter Milan coach

Ligue 1: Lyon poised to pull away
Seven days after moving four points clear at the top, Lyon head to Monaco on Saturday intent on dispelling any lingering doubts about their ability to retain the title yet again. Second-placed Marseille travel to newly-promoted Grenoble for the first time in nearly 35 years, while Bordeaux need to beat Auxerre at the Chaban-Delmas to keep the top two in their sights.

The pick of the remaining games is the Normandy derby between Caen and Le Havre, their first top-flight meeting since the 1996/97 season.

The question: The only side without a win after 12 games, can Sochaux put an end to their miserable run at home to Le Mans, the second-best team on the road?
The big game: Caen-Le Havre, Saturday 19.00 CET, Stade Michel d'Ornano
The quote: "I hope no one's expecting me to make the run from midfield, put the cross in and score the goal all in one move," Saint-Etienne forward Ilan, who makes his return from injury against Rennes.

Bundesliga: All eyes on Gelsenkirchen
The Veltins Arena is the place to be in Germany this weekend, when Schalke receive a visit from a revitalised Bayern Munich. With pacesetters Hoffenheim away to Hertha Berlin, both sides need the points to stay in touch.

The other main attraction on the card is fifth-placed Hamburg's home match with Borussia Dortmund, who lie one spot below them and are on a six-game unbeaten run. At the bottom, Arminia Bielefeld will be aiming to climb out of the drop zone when they take on relegation rivals Borussia Moenchengladbach.

The question: Schalke have yet to lose at home this season. Can they bring Bayern's run of four consecutive wins to an end?
The big game: Schalke-Bayern Munich, Sunday 17.00 CET, Veltins Arena
The quote: "We thought we were back on track when we won in Bucharest but were severely punished by Bremen. We need to be extremely vigilant against Schalke," Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Bayern Munich president

In Greece, fifth-placed AEK Athens were rocked by the resignation of club president Demis Nikolaidis in midweek and face a tricky trip to Xanthi, who lie second. The most eagerly awaited game of the weekend is the visit of leaders Olympiacos to fourth-placed arch-rivals Panathinaikos.

Meanwhile, it is derby time in Switzerland and Turkey, with FC Zurich squaring off against Grasshopper and Fenerbahce doing battle with Galatasaray.