European Leagues review
While the frontrunners in Europe’s leading championships all managed to hold on to pole position this weekend, they possess vastly differing grips on their respective leagues.
Chelsea are feeling the heat, for example, after they were beaten 3-0 at home by Sunderland, while Brest are treading water following their 1-1 draw with Sochaux in France. In Spain, Real Madrid eked out a hard-fought 1-0 win over Sporting Gijon to stay a point clear. AC Milan made a compelling statement with their 1-0 derby victory away against city neighbours Inter and Borussia Dortmund soared clear of their pursuers courtesy of a 2-0 triumph over Hamburg.
FIFA.com looks back at the best of the action from the weekend’s games across Europe’s most prestigious leagues.
Premier League: Arsenal close on Chelsea
Despite succumbing to a surprise 3-0 defeat on home soil against Sunderland, Chelsea continue to hold sway in England. Their cushion has nonetheless been cut to two points, with Arsenal second after winning 2-1 at Everton and taking advantage of Manchester United’s 2-2 draw with Aston Villa to leap ahead of the Red Devils.
In fourth, Manchester City again failed to ignite, being held at bay for the third consecutive home encounter in a goalless draw with Birmingham City. Bolton Wanderers now sit as high as fifth after they prevailed 3-2 at Wolverhampton Wanderers, while there was joy for Tottenham Hotspur, who returned to winning ways with a 4-2 triumph over Blackburn Rovers. In contrast, Liverpool were reacquainted with defeat when they went down 2-0 at Stoke City.
Top three: Chelsea (28 points), Arsenal (26) Manchester United (25
Bottom three: Birmingham (13 points), Wolves, West Ham United (both 9)
Top scorers: Andy Carroll, Florent Malouda, Kevin Nolan, Carlos Tevez (all 7)
Weekend stat: 26 – Manchester United’s unbeaten run now stands at 26 matches in all competitions, stretching back to last season.
Ligue 1: Chasers miss chances
Brest may have tasted frustration as they were held 1-1 by Sochaux but the promoted side remain first in France after no fewer than three teams spurned the opportunity to move top. Marseille could only draw 1-1 at home against struggling Lens, Paris Saint-Germain recorded the same scoreline at Lorient and Rennes lost 2-1 at Auxerre.
Far more impressive were Lille, who ran out 5-2 winners at Caen, and Montpellier, 1-0 victors against Toulouse. Both clubs moved into the top three as a result of their successes, with Lille ahead on goal difference. Now eighth, Lyon worked their way back into the picture by downing Nice 1-0.
Top three: Brest (22 points), Lille, Montpellier (both 21)
Bottom three: Lens, Nancy (both 14 points), Arles-Avignon (6)
Top scorers: Youssef El-Arabi, Moussa Sow (9 goals), Dimitri Payet (8)
Weekend stat: 6 – Auxerre have hit a rich vein of form, having recorded their sixth win in seven outings in all competitions.
La Liga: Real and Barça dominant
Each weekend must be starting to provoke similar emotions among fans of Real Madrid and Barcelona, with both triumphant once again to stretch further clear of their rivals. For Los Merengues, that involved a testing 1-0 victory at Gijon that owed everything to Gonzalo Higuain’s late strike, while Barça posted a far more convincing 3-1 win against third-placed Villarreal, with Lionel Messi firing two of their goals and David Villa plundering the other.
Valencia saw off Getafe 2-0 to haul themselves up to fourth, while the club in fifth are Sevilla following their last-gasp 2-1 success over Real Zaragoza. Espanyol slipped to sixth after they could only draw 0-0 with Racing Santander, and Atletico Madrid swept aside Osasuna 3-0 to halt a spell in which they collected just a single point in three outings.
Top three: Real Madrid (29 points), Barcelona (28), Villarreal (23)
Bottom three: Almeria (9 points), Levante (8) Real Zaragoza (7)
Top scorers: Cristiano Ronaldo (11 goals), Lionel Messi (10), Fernando Llorente (8)
Weekend stat: 2 – Uruguayan international Diego Forlan finally found the net for Atletico at the weekend, ending a two-month barren spell by registering twice in the 3-0 win over Osasuna.
Bundesliga: Dortmund breathing easily
Life is good for Dortmund at the moment, the pacesetters having moved seven points clear thanks to their 2-0 win over Hamburg on Friday and a 1-0 setback for Mainz against Hannover. Bayer Leverkusen are now the team in second thanks to their 1-0 win at St Pauli, though they lead Mainz merely on goals scored.
Freiburg owe their fourth place to Papiss Cisse’s last-gasp decider in their 1-0 victory at Hoffenheim, the Senegalese striker taking his tally for the campaign to ten goals. Elsewhere, Schalke came back from two down to hold Wolfsburg 2-2 and Kaiserslautern wiped out a three-goal deficit to draw 3-3 with Stuttgart. As for Bayern Munich, they climbed to sixth by dispatching Bavarian rivals Nuremberg 3-0.
Top three: Dortmund (31 points), Leverkusen, Mainz (both 24)
Bottom three: Schalke, Borussia Monchengladbach (both 10 points), Koln (8)
Top scorers: Theofanis Gekas (11 goals), Papiss Cisse (10), Edin Dzeko (8)
Weekend stat: 3 – These are tough times for Mainz. Thomas Tuchel’s troops spent five weeks at the summit but have amassed just three points from their last four matches and have also been knocked out of the German Cup.
Serie A: AC Milan leading the dance
There was a touch of genuine authority about AC Milan’s 1-0 derby triumph over Inter, achieved via former Nerazzurri striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s fifth-minute penalty. It also left the reigning champions floundering six points off the pace in fifth position. In second, meanwhile, Lazio recovered from two consecutive reverses to sweep aside third-placed Napoli 2-0.
Two high-profile outfits also locked horns in Turin, where Roma rescued a 1-1 stalemate away against Juventus. In Sicily, Palermo defeated local rivals Catania 3-1 courtesy of a hat-trick from Argentinian forward Javier Pastore, and there was also a treble for Antonio Di Natale as Udinese downed Lecce 4-0.
Top three: AC Milan (26 points), Lazio (25) Napoli (21)
Bottom three: Brescia, Cesena (both 11 points), Bari (9)
Top scorers: Edinson Cavani, Samuel Eto'o (8 goals), Marco di Vaio, Javier Pastore (7)
Weekend stat: 5 – By taking maximum points on Sunday, AC Milan halted Inter’s run of five successive ‘home’ wins in the Milan derby.
In Switzerland, Luzern recorded a 3-2 win over Grasshoppers and returned to the front of the class, moving ahead of Basel, who were beaten 3-1 at home by Thun.
In Russia, Zenit St Petersburg wrapped up their second league crown by routing Rostov 5-0 at home. The result took Zenit eight points clear of nearest challengers CSKA Moscow with two matches remaining.
Medals were handed out in Belarus as well, with BATE Borisov securing the title on the penultimate day of action by seeing off Belshina 3-1. Champions for the fifth time in a row, BATE’s tally of 72 points cannot be matched by second-placed Shakhterr Soligorsk or Minsk, in third.