European Leagues review
With crucial FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers coming up over the next ten days, the weekend programme offered Europe's biggest stars the chance to polish their form and secure a morale-boosting win or two in domestic league action. However, the likes of Real Madrid, Manchester United, Juventus, Bayern Munich and Bordeaux all unexpectedly fluffed their lines. FIFA.com reviews the latest action from around Europe's leading leagues.
Premier League: French connection boosts Chelsea
Blue shirts evidently bring out the best in France internationals Nicolas Anelka and Florent Malouda. Each man scored at the weekend, not in the national jersey favoured by Les Bleus, but in Chelsea colours, as the Londeners beat Liverpool 2-0 in the top Premier League showdown. Manchester United equalised with the last kick of the game to salvage a 2-2 draw at home to ten-man Sunderland, allowing Chelsea to seize top spot.
Elsewhere in the capital, Arsenal warmed up from a stuttering start to net beat Blackburn Rovers 6-2. The Gunners have now scored 24 goals in just seven league fixtures. Tottenham Hotspur were held 2-2 away to Bolton Wanderers, but Harry Redknapp's men climbed to third, at least until this evening's game between Aston Villa and Manchester City.
Top three: Chelsea (21 points), Manchester United (19), Tottenham Hotspur (16)
Bottom three: Hull City (7), West Ham United (5), Portsmouth (3)
Leading scorers: Darren Bent, Fernando Torres (both 8 goals)
Weekend stat: Hull City forward Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink became the 49th Dutch player to score in the English top flight. Only England, France, Scotland, the Republic of Ireland and Wales have provided a higher number of Premier League goalscorers.
La Liga: Barça relief, Real pain
Barcelona and Real Madrid occupy their customary places at the head of the cast list in the Spanish top flight this season, but connoisseurs will always take a glance at the supporting actors for a glimpse of what might be to come in the future. At the age of just 16 years and 289 days, Iker Muniain became the all-time youngest scorer in the Spanish top flight at the weekend, as his Athletic Bilbao side earned a 2-2 draw away to Valladolid.
However, the bill-topping duo were not to be outdone and served up plenty of drama of their own. Champions Barcelona maintained their perfect start, but were grateful to Pedro Rodriguez for the only goal of the game in a laboured 1-0 win over Almeria. That at least was better than Real Madrid, who slumped to a first defeat of term. In the absence of the injured Cristiano Ronaldo, the men from the capital failed their first serious test in a 2-1 defeat by third-placed Sevilla.
Top three: Barcelona (18 points), Real Madrid, Sevilla (both 15)
Bottom three: Malaga (4), Villarreal (3), Deportivo Xerez (2)
Leading scorers: David Villa (6 goals), Cristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Lionel Messi (all 5)
Weekend stat: In their sixth game of the season, Atletico Madrid beat Zaragoza 2-1 to record a first win of the campaign. The club has only twice made equally bad starts, in 1953/54 and 1942/43.
Serie A: Sharply contrasting fortunes in Milan
Ronaldinho's declared aim this season was to recapture the good old days, when his name was rarely far from the back-page headlines. He finally made a start with the goal which saved struggling AC Milan from an embarrassing defeat. The Brazilian struck late to rescue a point for I Rossoneri in a 1-1 draw away to Atalanta. The men from Milan will hope the result serves as a launch pad to escape their current mid-table mediocrity.
On the other side of the city, Wesley Sneijder sent the Inter Milan faithful into raptures with a stoppage-time winner to beat Udinese 2-1 and propel his team back to the top of the standings. Jose Mourinho's men capitalised on slip-ups by their nearest rivals: Sampdoria were held 1-1 at home by Parma and Juventus fell to a shock 2-0 defeat away to Palermo.
Top three: Inter, Sampdoria (both 16 points), Juventus (14)
Bottom three: Catania (4), Atalanta, Livorno (both 3)
Leading scorers: Antonio di Natale (9 goals), Francesco Totti (6)
Weekend stat: Francesco Totti struck a brace as Roma beat Napoli 2-1 in the capital, the 33-year-old's second double of term. He and Daniele de Rossi (3) have scored more than half of Roma's goals so far.
Ligue 1: Bordeaux lose air of invincibility
No club has claimed the French championship more often than Saint-Etienne. Les Verts have been through lean times of late - the last of their ten titles came back in 1981 - but a whiff of the glory days filled the air as they sent Bordeaux packing 3-1 at the weekend, handing the champions a first defeat of the season and ending their superb run of 17 wins from their last 18 games.
The broadest smiles among the French football elite belonged to former serial champions Lyon, who beat Lens 2-1 to go top. Claude Puel's men are now Ligue 1's only undefeated team. In the meeting between the biggest names in the south of the country, Marseille fell to a bitter 2-1 defeat at home to Monaco.
Top three: Lyon (20 points), Bordeaux (19), Montpellier (17)
Bottom three: Nice (8), Le Mans (7), Grenoble (0)
Leading scorers: Mamadou Niang (6 goals), Nene (5)
Weekend stat: Surprise package Montpellier, in third, have notched 15 goals so far, just one off top scorers Bordeaux.
Bundesliga: Party-pooper Poldi prompts Munich misery
Lukas Podolski's cheeky grin filled German TV screens late on Saturday afternoon after the forward returned to former club Bayern Munich and helped spoil the party on the last weekend of the Oktoberfest. Prinz Poldi, never a consistent performer in his three-year stint with the Bavarians, fled home to Cologne last summer, but returned with Cologne and helped his new club to a point in a dour goalless stalemate. Bayern's star ensemble under coach Louis van Gaal continue to tread water in mid-table.
Champions Wolfsburg fared no better in a 1-1 draw away to ten-man Bochum, as the Wolves' fine form of last term continues to prove elusive. At the top of the standings, undefeated pair Bayer Leverkusen and Hamburg put clear water between themselves and the pursuing pack. Bayer were by no means flattered in beating Nuremberg 4-0, while Hamburg piled on the misery for bottom club Hertha Berlin, winning 3-1 in the capital and spoiling Friedhelm Funkel's debut as coach. The much-travelled coach replaced the luckless Lucien Favre last week.
Top three: Bayer Leverkusen, Hamburg (both 20 points), Schalke (16)
Bottom three: Koln, Nuernberg (both 5), Hertha Berlin (3)
Leading scorers: Stefan Kiessling (6 goals), Claudio Pizarro (5)
Weekend stat: The seven goals in Hannover's 5-2 home win over Freiburg, witnessed by 28,500 at the AWD Arena, was the highest single-match total of the season.
In Scotland, Rangers handed bitter rivals Celtic a first Scottish Premier League defeat of the campaign. Kenny Miller scored both goals for the home side at Ibrox to settle the 385th Old Firm derby in his side's favour. Despite the 2-1 win, Rangers remain a point off leaders Celtic.
In Portugal, high-flying Sporting Braga continue to set the pace in the Liga Sagres. The leaders beat Vitoria Setubal at home and have now taken a maximum 21 points from their seven games.
Nine games into the Eredivisie season in the Netherlands, Twente beat Heracles Almelo 3-1 away from home and found themselves top of the league, courtesy of PSV Eindhoven's goalless draw away to Utrecht. It is the first time in 34 years that Twente have topped the pile at this stage of the season.