European Leagues review
Bordeaux, Manchester United and Schalke all bade farewell to leadership status this weekend as Lyon, Chelsea and Bayern Munich rose to the top of their respective championships. Title tension continues to reign in Spain and Italy too, although the status quo was preserved in both cases. As ever, FIFA.com sifts through the highlights of the recent action in Europe’s most prestigious leagues.
Premier League: Chelsea take over
Last weekend left the strong impression that Manchester United and the in-form Wayne Rooney were heading inexorably towards a fourth consecutive crown, but clouds are starting to gather over Old Trafford in the wake of an injury for the influential forward and a damaging reverse. Defeated 2-1 by Chelsea on home soil, Sir Alex Ferguson’s charges must now try to chip away at a two-point deficit.
As for Carlo Ancelotti’s Blues, they have overcome both Arsenal and United twice and Liverpool at home ahead of their upcoming reunion at Anfield on 1 May. Clear winners of the mini-contest between the so-called ‘big four’, they must now dispatch the rest of their opponents to come out on top of the pile. The weekend’s other big winners in England were Manchester City, meanwhile, as they triumphed 6-1 at Burnley to take over in fourth.
Top three: Chelsea (74), Manchester Utd (72), Arsenal (71)
Bottom three: Hull City (27), Burnley (24), Portsmouth (14)
Leading scorers: Wayne Rooney (26), Didier Drogba (25), Darren Bent (22)
Weekend stat: 32 – The number of goals Arsenal have scored in the last 15 minutes of games this season, including ten during stoppage time. At home against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday, it was Denmark’s Nicklas Bendtner who earned victory in the fifth minute of time added on.
Ligue 1: Bordeaux in freefall
Beaten 2-1 at home by Nancy on Saturday, Bordeaux are in danger of letting their season slip away from them. Second best to Marseille in the League Cup final the previous week before succumbing 3-1 to Lyon in Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League quarter-final opener, the titleholders now find themselves as low as fourth in the domestic reckoning. Could they be about to lose out on all fronts?
However they respond, they face a number of challengers for their title, with Lyon top after demonstrating admirable efficiency in a 2-1 win at Rennes and Marseille obdurate as they saw off visitors Lens 1-0. In fact, there are just three points separating the top six teams, and just one point between the top five. At the bottom, Boulogne, Le Mans and Grenoble all look another step closer to contesting Ligue 2 football next year.
Top three: Lyon (57 points, +19), Montpellier (57, +7), Auxerre (57, +6)
Bottom three: Boulogne (24 points), Le Mans (21), Grenoble (15)
Leading scorers: Mamadou Niang (15 goals), Kevin Gameiro, Lisandro Lopez, Nene and Asamoah Gyan (all 13), Gervinho and Mevlut Erdinc (both 12)
Weekend stat: 13 – The number of points defending champions Bordeaux have taken from a possible 30 in 2010.
Bundesliga: Bayern assert their authority
Led from the front by a Franck Ribery in determined mood, Bayern Munich brought Schalke 04’s run of eight consecutive home wins to a shuddering halt. Louis van Gaal’s side struck twice in the space of two minutes through Ribery and Thomas Muller to secure a 2-1 success that catapulted them back to the summit, one point clear of their crestfallen hosts.
Since their record 24-match unbeaten spell was ended by Nuremberg, Bayer Leverkusen have been a shadow of the team that set that benchmark. The third-placed club suffered their fourth loss in five outings with a 3-2 setback at Eintracht Frankfurt, and they are currently shipping an average of 2.6 goals per game.
Top three: Bayern Munich (59), Schalke (58), Leverkusen (53)
Bottom three: Freiburg (25), Hanover (24), Hertha Berlin (22)
Leading scorers: Stefan Kiessling, Kevin Kuranyi and Edin Dzeko (all 18), Lucas Barrios (15), Eren Derdiyok, Albert Bunjaku and Claudio Pizarro (all 12)
Weekend stat: 5 – Still targeting a Champions League berth next term, Borussia Dortmund are now unbeaten in five matches and have closed the gap on the leading trio thanks to four wins in that sequence.
La Liga: All set up for Saturday
As expected, the frontrunners both maintained their winning form without too much trouble. Barcelona coach Josep Guardiola shuffled his pack with Arsenal on the horizon, but his rejigged line-up still swept aside Athletic Bilbao 4-1 on Saturday, before Real Madrid posted a straightforward 2-0 triumph at Racing Santander the following day. As a result, Saturday’s Clasico between the two great rivals at the Santiago Bernabeu looks destined to play a decisive role in the destination of this year’s Liga crown, though Guardiola himself refuted that theory. “If we lose there and win our seven remaining matches, we’d have 98 points and a great chance of winning the title,” he said.
Elsewhere, Sevilla celebrated a first win in seven league matches by overcoming Tenerife 3-0, a result which lifted the Andalusian club back into fourth and the final Champions League spot for next season.
Top three: Real Madrid (77, +57), Barcelona (77, +56), Valencia (56)
Bottom three: Tenerife (25), Valladolid (24), Xerez (23)
Leading scorers: Lionel Messi (26), Gonzalo Higuain (24), David Villa (20)
Weekend stat: 42 – The number of goals scored by Gonzalo Higuain and Cristiano Ronaldo in the top flight this term out of Real’s overall total of 83.
Serie A: As you were
For the space of just ten minutes on Saturday, Roma held the whip hand, Mirko Vucinic having given them the lead with what turned out to be the only goal in their game against Bari. Leaders Inter Milan wasted little time in responding, however, with Thiago Motta registering the first of his two goals in a 3-0 defeat of Bologna at San Siro. I Nerazzuri’s other strike belonged to Mario Balotelli, left on the sidelines of late but reinstated to the starting line-up to good effect.
For their part, AC Milan were given a real fright at Cagliari and owed a debt of gratitude to goalkeeper Dida for helping them come away with a 3-2 victory. In the lower reaches, Atalanta grasped what could prove to be a crucial three points by downing fellow strugglers Siena 2-0.
Top three: Inter Milan (66), Roma (65), AC Milan (63)
Bottom three: Atalanta (31), Siena (26), Livorno (26)
Leading scorers: Antonio Di Natale (22), Diego Milito (18), Alberto Gilardino (15)
Weekend stat: 3 – The number of defeats Juventus have tasted in their last four outings. During that time, I Bianconeri have also conceded no fewer than eight goals.
The big names came out on top in Serbia as pacesetters Red Star Belgrade recorded a 2-0 success away against neighbours OFK Belgrade, in fourth, while second-placed Partizan notched up the same scoreline to see off the team directly below them, Spartak Zlatibor Voda.
Lastly, in the third instalment of games in Belgium’s championship play-off group, top dogs Anderlecht were held to a 2-2 draw at home against closest challengers Club Brugge. Les Mauves nonetheless still lead the way by eight points.