European Leagues review
Inter Milan consolidated top spot in Italy by beating arch-rivals AC Milan as the title contenders emerged victorious in Spain. Elsewhere, Bayer Leverkusen continue to set the pace in Germany, while cup upsets unfolded in England and France. FIFA.com brings you up to date with the latest developments across Europe.
La Liga: Barça impress, Real recover
Barcelona gave yet another demonstration of their quality with a comfortable 3-0 victory at Valladolid, their goals coming from Xavi, Daniel Alves and Lionel Messi. That put the pressure on Real Madrid to respond and they did so, prevailing 2-0 over Malaga via a Cristiano Ronaldo double, which lifted them back to within five points at the top. Valencia, on the other hand, had to settle for a 0-0 draw away to relegation-threatened Tenerife, while Mallorca drew 1-1 at Espanyol.
Deportivo La Coruna’s 3-1 win over Athletic Bilbao left them in fifth, ahead of Sevilla, who downed Almeria 1-0 after Alvaro Negredo struck the only goal. Getafe beat Atletico Madrid 1-0 in their derby, while Villarreal thrilled their fans at El Madrigal by consigning Zaragoza to a 4-2 reverse.
Top three: Barcelona (49 points), Real Madrid (44), Valencia (39)
Bottom three: Tenerife (17 points), Zaragoza (14), Xerez (8)
Leading scorers: Lionel Messi (15 goals), David Villa (14), Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Gonzalo Higuain (both 11)
Weekend stat: 49 – Having amassed 49 goals and 49 points, Barcelona remain unbeaten with a tally of 15 wins and four draws that has them looking well-placed to defend their title.
Bundesliga: Bayer rise to Bayern challenge
Just as they did last week, Bayern Munich enjoyed a mere 24 hours at the Bundesliga summit, this time rising to the top with Saturday’s 3-2 success at Werder Bremen. It was not enough to keep them there, though, as Bayer Leverkusen had the last say a day later, winning 3-0 at Hoffenheim. Less effective were Schalke, who led Bochum 2-0 before being held to a 2-2 stalemate that cost them second place.
Borussia Dortmund’s 1-0 win over Hamburg lifted them above Ruud van Nistelrooy’s new club in the standings, meaning that they now find themselves two points shy of Ruhr neighbours Schalke in fourth. As for 11th-placed Stuttgart, they continued to work their way up the table by overcoming Freiburg 1-0, while champions Wolfsburg remain a shadow of the side that claimed the crown last term, losing 3-2 at home to Cologne in their most recent outing.
Top three: Bayer Leverkusen (41 points), Bayern Munich (39), Schalke (38)
Bottom three: Hanover (17 points), Nuremberg (13), Hertha Berlin (10)
Leading scorers: Stefan Kiessling (12 goals), Kevin Kuranyi (10), Lucas Barrios, Edin Dzeko (both 9)
Weekend stat: 112 – Franck Ribery played for the first time since 3 October, celebrating his return to the fray after 112 days out with a 22-minute cameo.
Serie A: Inter make derby statement
Top faced second in Italy on Sunday, and leaders Inter Milan emerged victorious, beating closest rivals AC Milan 2-0 to take a significant step towards retaining their Serie A title. The other high-profile game over the weekend ended in a 2-1 success for Roma over Juventus, an outcome that consolidated the capital outfit’s grip on third spot and relegated the faltering Bianconeri to sixth.
Napoli occupy fourth place, meanwhile, having won 2-0 at Livorno, and behind them Palermo swept Fiorentina aside 3-0. At the opposite end of the table, 17th-placed Udinese went down 3-2 at home against Sampdoria, despite a 13th effort of the season for Antonio di Natale, and that left them a solitary point clear of the relegation zone after third-bottom Catania defeated Parma 3-0.
Top three: Inter (49 points), AC Milan (40), Roma (38)
Bottom three: Catania (19 points), Atalanta (17), Siena (13)
Leading scorers: Antonio di Natale, Diego Milito (both 13 goals), Francesco Totti, Alessandro Matri (both 10)
Weekend stat: 9 – Inter finished with nine players against AC Milan after losing both Wesley Sneijder and Lucio to red cards, but I Nerazzurri still came out on top to move nine points clear.
Domestic cup action took centre stage in England and France and the upset of the weekend belonged to Colmar. Indeed, in the round of 64 in the French Cup, the fourth-tier club eliminated Ligue 1 high-flyers Lille on penalties. Monaco also made waves by coming back from behind to down Lyon 2-1 to reach the last 16, but elsewhere the favourites all justified their billing, with the likes of Bordeaux, Paris Saint-Germain and Saint-Etienne advancing.
In England, Arsenal suffered the same fate as Manchester United and Liverpool in the previous round when they were denied progress by Stoke City, who subjected the Gunners to a 3-1 away loss. The only so-called ‘big four’ team safely through to the fifth round are Chelsea, in fact, after they despatched Preston North End 2-0, while Leeds United – who claimed the scalp of Manchester United last time out – remain involved courtesy of a 2-2 draw at Tottenham Hotspur.
The Red Devils nonetheless made the most of their early elimination to take the reins in the Premier League, four-goal Wayne Rooney powering them to a 4-0 dismantling of Hull City. Sir Alex Ferguson’s men hauled themselves two points above Arsenal and Chelsea in the process, though their London rivals possess one and two games in hand respectively.
In Turkey, the situation at the top is still every bit as tight as it was, with Fenerbahce first after seeing off Denizlispor 3-1 and their fierce Istanbul rivals Galatasaray just one point back following their 1-0 defeat of Gaziantepspor.
Finally, in the Netherlands, Ajax took maximum points against champions AZ, triumphing 1-0, but remain third in an Eredivisie table currently ruled by PSV.