European Leagues review
The frontrunners surged ahead in a number of Europe's leading leagues at the weekend. Indeed, Inter Milan earned themselves breathing space at the summit in Italy, Bordeaux and Lyon put distance between themselves and the chasing pack in France, and Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal followed suit in England.
Premier League: Blues run riot
The leading trio in England restated their quality this weekend, and no team more so than frontrunners Chelsea, who left their hosts Bolton Wanderers nursing a 4-0 reverse. Second-placed Manchester United also tasted success in a 2-0 win over Blackburn Rovers, while Arsenal swept aside Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 at the Emirates in their derby.
Those outcomes lifted the victors clear of the chasing pack, with not only Spurs coming unstuck but Liverpool, too, succumbing 3-1 to Fulham in their fifth league reverse this season. Among the other clubs hoping to break into the upper echelons, Manchester City could manage no more than a 0-0 stalemate at Birmingham City, Everton drew 1-1 with Aston Villa and Sunderland were held 2-2 by West Ham United. Bottom side Portsmouth gave themselves an injection of confidence with a 4-0 triumph over Wigan Athletic.
Top three: Chelsea (27 points), Manchester United (25), Arsenal (22)
Bottom three: Hull City (8), West Ham, Portsmouth (7)
Leading scorers: Fernando Torres (10 goals) Didier Drogba (9), Darren Bent (8)
Weekend stat: 1,000 - Arsenal manager since 1 October 1996, Arsene Wenger reached the 1,000-point landmark in the Premier League with Saturday's win over Tottenham.
Ligue 1: Bordeaux and Lyon flying high
The big game pitted first against second as pacesetters Bordeaux took on Monaco, and the league hierarchy was respected as Laurent Blanc's side emerged 1-0 winners. Two points back, Lyon kept the champions within sight by seeing off neighbours Saint-Etienne, with Bafetimbi Gomis hitting the only goal of the game to down his old club towards the end. Now seventh, Marseille had to make do with a 1-1 draw and a point in their meeting with Toulouse, despite their visitors contesting most of the encounter with ten men.
Auxerre cannot stop winning and posted their fifth consecutive triumph by downing Montpellier 2-1 on Saturday, while Valenciennes made it three wins in a row by prevailing 3-0 at Rennes and Paris Saint-Germain gave themselves a boost with a 4-1 success at Sochaux. At the very foot of the table, Grenoble are still looking for their first point after succumbing 2-0 at Lille.
Top three: Bordeaux (25 points), Lyon (23), Monaco (21)
Bottom three: Lens (9), Le Mans (8), Grenoble (0)
Leading scorers: Nene (9 goals), Youssef Hadji, Mamadou Niang (both 6)
Weekend stat: 8 - Auxerre continue to surprise everyone after extending their unbeaten run to eight games.
La Liga: Real close gap
The two-way tussle between Barcelona and Real Madrid at the summit shows no sign of abating, and this weekend it was the capital outfit who came away having landed the more telling blow. They started in disastrous fashion against Getafe, having Raul Albiol sent off with 28 minutes gone, but two strikes from Gonzalo Higuain ultimately earned them a 2-0 victory. As for Barça, they had to settle for a 1-1 draw at Osasuna, allowing their closest rivals to move to within a point of them.
Behind the front two, Sevilla kept themselves in the mix by overcoming Xerez 2-0, giving them much more to be satisfied about than Atletico Madrid, who slipped into the bottom three after suffering a 1-0 loss to Athletic Bilbao. Moving in the opposite direction, Villarreal climbed their way out of the relegation places by thrashing Tenerife 5-0.
Top three: Barcelona (23 points), Real Madrid (22), Sevilla (19)
Bottom three: Atletico Madrid (7 points), Xerez (5), Malaga (4)
Leading scorers: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, David Villa (7 goals each)
Weekend stat: 3 - Luck certainly was not on Atletico's side this weekend. Quique Sanchez Flores's charges struck the woodwork three times during their 1-0 defeat by Bilbao.
Bundesliga: Hamburg stumble, Leverkusen go clear
Despite twice falling behind, Borussia Monchengladbach were able to battle back and claim a 3-2 win at high-flying Hamburg, a result which played right into Bayer Leverkusen's hands. Frustrated after letting a two-goal lead slip to draw 2-2 with Schalke, Leverkusen were nonetheless able to go a point clear at the summit, with Werder Bremen lifting themselves into second after wiping out a two-goal deficit to hold Nuremburg 2-2.
The match between Stuttgart and Bayern Munich finished all square, with a 0-0 scoreline that suited neither camp. Instead, it permitted Hoffenheim to move up to fifth, one place higher than Bayern, after running out 1-0 winners at Freiburg. Lastly, Wolfsburg and Mainz kept spectators entertained as their game ended 3-3.
Top three: Bayer Leverkusen (23 points), Werder Bremen, Hamburg (both 22)
Bottom three: Nuremberg (9), Bochum (8), Hertha Berlin (4)
Leading scorers: Stefan Kiessling (7 goals), Andreas Ivanschitz, Claudio Pizarro... (6 each)
Weekend stat: 1 - Hamburg's loss was their first of the season, leaving Leverkusen as the only unbeaten team left in the Bundesliga.
Serie A: Inter go it alone
Inter were the major winners in Italy as their 2-0 win at Livorno gave them a seven-point cushion at the top. Unable to keep pace, second-placed Juventus were beaten 3-2 by Napoli and their two-goal Slovakian midfielder Marek Hamsik, just three days after putting Sampdoria to the sword. For their part, the Genoa outfit could only draw 0-0 away against Bari.
AC Milan hoisted themselves up to fourth after Marco Borriello hit the target twice to see off Parma 2-0, and the situation improved for Roma, too, as they dispatched Bologna 2-1, though they remain 14th overall. One spot lower, their eternal rivals Lazio played out a 1-1 draw with basement team Siena.
Top three: Inter Milan (28 points), Juventus (21), Sampdoria (21)
Bottom three: Atalanta (9), Catania (7), Siena (6)
Leading scorers: Antonio di Natale (9 goals), Gianpaolo Pazzini, Diego Milito, Marek Hamsik (7 each)
Weekend stat: 9 - Napoli coach since 6 October, Walter Mazzarri has yet to taste defeat at his new club and has lifted them nine places to sixth since his arrival.
In Scotland, torrential first-half rain caused the meeting between Dundee United and Rangers to be called off by the referee at the interval, with Rangers 1-0 ahead. Nothing could stop Celtic, though, the Bhoys bettering Kilmarnock 3-0 to consolidate their lead.
The high-profile fixture in Portugal produced a 2-0 success for Braga against Benfica that took the triumphant team three points clear at the Liga summit. Porto had to content themselves with a 1-1 home draw with Belenenses and lie two points shy of Benfica in third.