European Leagues review
Winter has large areas of Europe in its icy grip, and after the weekend results, Chelsea, Marseille, Bayern Munich and Inter Milan might have preferred to stay wrapped up warm in bed. On the flip side, Arsenal, AC Milan, Borussia Dortmund and the top two in Spain were full of festive cheer. FIFA.com reviews the action in the leading leagues around Europe.
Premier League: Arsenal pounce as Chelsea falter
The name on everyone’s lips in England was that of Samir Nasri. The talented 23-year-old Frenchman scored both goals in Arsenal’s 2-1 victory over London rivals Fulham, sending the Gunners to the top of the Premier League pile for the first time this term. The possibility arose due to Manchester United’s inactivity, as the Red Devils’ match away to Blackpool fell victim to the weather.
The gloom deepened elsewhere in the west of the capital, as spluttering Chelsea were held 1-1 at Stamford Bridge by Everton, and have now gone four Premier League fixtures without a win. Manchester City remained in the thick of the title race thanks to Carlos Tevez, who netted the only goal of the match for the side in fourth against Bolton Wanderers.
Top three: Arsenal (32 points), Manchester United (31), Chelsea (30)
Bottom three: Wigan Athletic (15), Wolverhampton Wanderers, West Ham United (both 12)
Leading scorers: Dimitar Berbatov (11 goals), Carlos Tevez (10), Andrew Carroll (9)
Weekend stat: 8 – After a lengthy settling-in period, Nasri is finally blossoming in England. The midfielder is the Gunners’ leading scorer in the Premier League with eight goals
La Liga: Top two stride remorselessly on
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo continue to wow the footballing world with their stellar goalscoring abilities, with the Argentinian and the Portuguese superstars both at it again this weekend. Messi moved onto 15 for the season with a brace in Barcelona’s 3-0 victory away to Osasuna, who were previously unbeaten at home, but Ronaldo replied with goals number 15 and 16 as second-placed Real Madrid beat Valencia 2-0.
While the Catalan giants racked up an eighth win on the bounce, and Jose Mourinho’s men capably began the process of rehabilitation from their 5-0 humbling in last Monday's Clasico, Atletico Madrid lurched deeper into crisis with a 2-0 reverse against promoted Levante, a third defeat on the bounce for the UEFA Europa League winners. Villarreal cemented their grip on third spot courtesy of Nilmar’s ninth goal of the season, enough to seal a 1-0 win over struggling Sevilla.
Top three: Barcelona (37), Real Madrid (35), Villarreal (30)
Bottom three: Gijon, Almeria (both 10), Zaragoza (9)
Leading scorers: Cristiano Ronaldo (16), Lionel Messi (15)
Weekend stat: 9 – Barcelona’s victory over Osasuna in Pamplona was their ninth away win in a row, equalling their own club record from 2008/09.
Serie A: Mixed feelings in Milan
AC Milan and their fans have spent years casting envious glances at serially successful neighbours Inter, but change is in the Lombardian air. Kevin-Prince Boateng, Robinho and Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored the goals as I Rossoneri saw off promoted Brescia 3-0, while UEFA Champions League holders Inter fell 3-1 away to second-placed Lazio and are now ten points behind their rivals from across town.
Roma were left to rue a missed opportunity after letting slip a 2-0 lead away to Chievo in a match which finished 2-2. Fabio Quagliarella struck twice for Juventus, who went third with a 3-1 win away to Catania.
Top three: AC Milan (33), Lazio (30), Juventus (27)
Bottom three: Cesena, Lecce (both 12), Bari (10)
Leading scorers: Edinson Cavani, Antonio di Natale, Samuel Eto’o (all 9)
Weekend stat: 13 – Lazio had failed to beat Inter in Serie A in the last 13 meetings between the sides, but the men from Rome succeeded at the 14th attempt.
Ligue 1: Lille’s sweet revenge
Senegal striker Moussa Sow had a memorable weekend with a hat-trick in Lille’s cracking 6-3 victory over Lorient, sending Rudi Garcia’s men back to the top of the standings. It was a case of sweet revenge for Lille, as they only missed out on the Champions League due to a 2-1 defeat to Lorient on the last day of last season.
Marseille slipped from top to fourth after a bitter stoppage-time defeat to fellow southerners Nice, but Paris Saint-Germain advanced to second with a 3-1 victory over Brest. Of the other big-name teams, Lyon won 2-1 away to Montpellier, but Bordeaux were held 2-2 by Saint-Etienne.
Top three: Lille (28), Paris Saint-Germain, Stade Rennes (both 27)
Bottom three: Lens (15), Caen (14), Arles-Avignon (7)
Leading scorers: Moussa Sow (13), Youssef El Arabi (10), Nene (9)
Weekend stat: 2 - Sow now has two Ligue 1 hat-tricks this term. He previously notched three goals in a 5-2 rout of Caen.
Bundesliga: Dortmund off over the horizon
Bayern Munich’s patchy league form continued as Louis van Gaal’s men fell 2-0 away to struggling Schalke. The Bavarians are down to seventh after their fourth defeat of the campaign, and their Dutch coach came as close as anyone so far in the Munich camp to conceding the title: "Realistically, we have to be looking at second or third place."
Mainz, the team currently in second, lost ground with a 2-1 defeat to Rhine-Main rivals Eintracht Frankfurt, handing top spot at Christmas to Borussia Dortmund without the leaders kicking a ball. The 1997 Champions League winners then travelled to Nuremberg on Sunday and won 2-0, their eighth success in as many away games so far. Hamburg’s miserable form away from home continued in a 1-0 defeat to Freiburg, while under-performing Wolfsburg and Werder Bremen drew 0-0, Edin Dzeko and Torsten Frings missing a penalty apiece.
Top three: Borussia Dortmund (40), Mainz (30), Bayer Leverkusen (29)
Bottom three: Stuttgart, Koln (both 12), Borussia Monchengladbach (10)
Leading scorers: Theofanis Gekas (13), Papiss Cisse (11)
Weekend stat: 40 – Borussia Dortmund’s astonishing haul of 40 points from the first 15 matches is a new Bundesliga record.
In Serbia, leaders Partizan Belgrade extended their advantage with a 5-2 victory away to FK Sevojno. Pursuing pair Crvena Zvezda and Vojvodina Novi Sad took points off each other in a 2-2 draw, leaving champions Partizan five points clear of city rivals Crvena.
Champions Bursaspor are the same margin adrift of leaders Trabzonspor in Turkey. Bursa lost to the only goal of the game away to Besiktas, but the men from Trabzon beat Bucaspor 2-0.