European Leagues review
There was no shortage of drama this weekend in Europe's biggest leagues, particularly in England, where leaders Chelsea's lengthy unbeaten home run came to a abrupt end. Over in Germany, meanwhile, the country's most successful club, Bayern Munich, continued their remarkable recent run to finally return to the top of the table.
FIFA.com reviews the weekend action from around the continent’s leading leagues.
Premier League: Rivals' glee as Chelsea stumble
In a great weekend for Manchester United, the Red Devils collected a first trophy of the term with a 2-1 Carling Cup final win over Aston Villa at Wembley - the day after Premier League rivals Chelsea were beaten 4-2 at home by United's neighbours Manchester City. The Blues' first defeat at Stamford Bridge in 15 months leaves the Londoners just a point ahead of the reigning champions.
Arsenal are also back in the thick of a newly-invigorated title race. Cesc Fabregas and Thomas Vermaelen struck in stoppage time to seal a dramatic 3-1 victory away to Stoke City and move the Gunners within three points of Chelsea. Tottenham held on to fourth after beating Everton 2-1, ending the Toffees’ fine run of results against the big clubs.
Top three: Chelsea (61 points), Manchester United (60), Arsenal (58)
Bottom three: Hull City (24), Burnley (23), Portsmouth (19)
Leading scorers: Wayne Rooney (23 goals), Didier Drogba (19), Jermain Defoe (16)
Weekend stat: 33 – The number of consecutive home matches in which Liverpool have scored at least once, with Sunday's 2-1 victory over Blackburn Rovers the latest in the sequence.
La Liga: Atletico again prove stumbling block
Things are not going quite as smoothly this term for FIFA Club World Cup winners Barcelona, but they still proved too strong for Malaga. Once again, Lionel Messi was the main man for the Catalan giants, scoring in the closing stages to seal a narrow 2-1 win.
Chief rivals Real Madrid had fewer problems than the leaders. Gonzalo Higuain with a brace, Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo and all Raul hit the target in a lively 5-1 romp away to Tenerife. Sevilla were held to a goalless draw by Athletic Bilbao, while Atletico Madrid beat Valencia 4-1, adding another big-name scalp to that of Barcelona.
Top three: Barcelona (61), Real Madrid (59), Valencia (46)
Bottom three: Real Valladolid, Tenerife (both 20), Xerez (12)
Leading scorers: Lionel Messi, David Villa (both 17), Gonzalo Higuain (16)
Weekend stat: 1 – Of all the clubs occupying third to seventh places, only Mallorca managed a win, a 2-1 success away to Real Valladolid.
Serie A: Another setback for Juve
The difficulty of beating Napoli on their home patch this season is well enough documented. At 2-0 up with quarter of an hour to go, third-placed Roma looked like becoming the first visitors to achieve the feat, but German Denis and Marek Hamsik struck to level the scores and preserve the southerners’ impressive record.
While the men from the capital were dropping points, the big two from Milan were making no mistakes. An Inter side weakened by suspensions sneaked to a 3-2 win away to Udinese, while Alexandre Pato grabbed a brace in AC Milan’s 3-1 victory over Atalanta. Palermo provided the biggest surprise of the weekend with a 2-0 victory over Juventus in Turin, sending the Sicilian outfit above the Vecchia Signora into fourth.
Top three: Inter Milan (58), AC Milan (54), Roma (51)
Bottom three: Livorno (23), Atalanta (21), Siena (20)
Leading scorers: Antonio di Natale (19), Diego Milito (15), Alexandre Pato (12)
Weekend stat: 5 – Napoli have still to lose at home this term, but have also not won any of their last five league games.
Ligue 1: Marseille silence Paris faithful
Twelve matches before the end of the season, promoted Montpellier have drawn level on points at the top with leaders Bordeaux. This fairytale ascent, achieved with a 3-1 home success against Rennes, does not quite reveal the full picture, however.
As it turned out, the champions were idle at the weekend after their meeting with Le Mans was called off due to bad weather and Laurent Blanc's men now have two games in hand on Montpellier. Marseille rounded off the weekend programme with a powerful message of intent when winning 3-0 against fierce rivals Paris Saint-Germain.
Top three: Bordeaux (51), Montpellier (51), Lyon (49)
Bottom three: Le Mans (20), Boulogne-sur-Mer (16), Grenoble (13)
Leading scorers: Mamadou Niang (14), Nene (13), Gervinho (11)
Weekend stat: 4 - Marseille have won their last four games, scoring three goals in each match.
Bundesliga: Long wait over for Bayern
Almost incredibly, 652 days had passed since Bayern Munich topped the German standings at the end of a complete round of matches, but that wait ended on Sunday. A classy Franck Ribery strike was enough for the Bavarians to beat northern arch-rivals Hamburg for the first time in five attempts at the Allianz Arena, and leapfrog Bayer Leverkusen into first place.
The former leaders remain undefeated this term, but were held to a goalless draw at home by battling Rhineland neighbours Cologne. Schalke beat arch-foes Borussia Dortmund 2-1 to claim the bragging rights in the Ruhr derby, while Stuttgart beat Eintracht Frankfurt by the same score, continuing their remarkable form since the arrival of Christian Gross as coach.
Top three: Bayern Munich (52), Bayer Leverkusen (50), Schalke (48)
Bottom three: Nuremberg (18), Hanover (17), Hertha Berlin (15)
Leading scorers: Stefan Kiessling (13), Kevin Kuranyi (12), Lucas Barrios (11)
Weekend stat: 7 – The number of goals scored in three matches within a week by Stuttgart striker Cacau. The Brazilian-born hitman has a German passport and furthered his claim for a place in his adopted country's squad for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™.
An American stepped up to decide the Old Firm derby in Glasgow, Rangers' Maurice Edu striking the only goal of the game in the second minute of stoppage time to condemn ten-man Celtic to a bitter defeat. The last-gasp three points for the champions was a major step on the road to defending their Scottish crown, as Celtic have played a game more and are already ten points off the leaders.
Istanbul heavyweights Fenerbahce had a weekend to forget. Rivals Galatasaray are top of the league and chalked up a routine 4-1 win over Kasimpasa, but Fener's shock 2-1 defeat away to Istanbul BB means they are now fully five points off Gala. The eagerly-awaited meeting between the title and city rivals takes place in four weeks' time.