Joy for Lille amid relegation despair
The champions in Europe’s five major leagues are now known, as Lille took the spoils in France with one round of games remaining. Elsewhere, there were a number of outstanding issues to be settled at the bottom of the table in England and Spain and a couple of European places to fill in Italy.
FIFA.com picks out the latest headline stories as the continent’s domestic season winds down.
Premier League: United sign off in style
Despite keeping their stars in reserve for next weekend’s UEFA Champions League final against Barcelona, newly crowned champions Manchester United ended the season with a 4-2 win at home to Blackpool, condemning Ian Holloway’s men to the drop. Chelsea lost 1-0 at Everton but ended the season in second place, level on points with Manchester City, who booked the third and final automatic Champions League qualification slot after prevailing 2-0 at Bolton Wanderers.
Arsenal drew 2-2 at Fulham, a result that consigned them to fourth place and the qualifying rounds of the Champions League, while neighbours Tottenham Hotspur sealed fifth and a berth in the UEFA Europa League, with Liverpool missing out in sixth. The relegation battle went down to the wire, with Birmingham City conceding a late goal to gown down 2-1 at Tottenham and fall through the trapdoor with Blackpool and West Ham United, who were already down.
Top three: Manchester United (80 pts), Chelsea (71), Manchester City (71)
Bottom three: Birmingham City (39) Blackpool (39), West Ham United (33)
Top scorers: Carlos Tevez, Dimitar Berbatov (21 goals), Robin van Persie (17)
Weekend stat: 19 - Manchester United did not lose any of their 19 home matches this season, winning 18 and drawing one.
La Liga: Ronaldo sets new scoring record
Having sealed their latest Liga title ten days ago, Barcelona ended on a high note by winning 3-1 at Malaga, their 30th win of the season, achieved with a side lacking several of the big names who will face Manchester United at Wembley on Saturday. Real Madrid went out with a bang, hammering bottom club Almeria 8-1, Cristiano Ronaldo scoring twice to take his tally for the league season to a record-breaking 40 goals, beating the previous mark of 38 jointly held by Hugo Sanchez (Real Madrid, 1989-90) and Telmo Zarra (Athletic Bilbao, 1950-51). Karim Benzema also helped himself to a brace and Emmanuel Adebayor hit a hat-trick.
Already assured of third and a place in the group phase of the Champions League, Valencia won 2-0 at Deportivo La Coruna to condemn the Galicians to second-tier football next term, the end of their 20-year stay in the top flight. Alicante and Almeria are the other two sides to go down. Villarreal took fourth and the final Champions League slot, with Sevilla, Athletic Bilbao and Atletico Madrid occupying the Europa League places immediately below them.
Top three: Barcelona (96 pts), Real Madrid (92), Valencia (71)
Bottom three: Deportivo La Coruna (43) Hercules (35), Almeria (30)
Top scorers: Cristiano Ronaldo (40 goals) Lionel Messi (31), Sergio Aguero, Alvaro Negredo (20)
Weekend stat: 21 - The number of goals Barcelona have conceded this season, bettering their record of last season, when they let in 24.
Serie A: Udinese beat Lazio to it
There was little still to be decided in Italy. AC Milan secured their latest scudetto a fortnight ago, and Inter Milan and Napoli had already made sure of second and third place respectively. Inter still have a Coppa Italia final against Palermo to contest next Sunday, however, and tuned up with a 3-1 defeat of Catania.
Down at the other end of the table the fate of Bari, Brescia and Sampdoria was sealed in previous weeks, which meant the ongoing duel for European places took centre stage. Udinese’s goalless stalemate at home to champions Milan gave them a ticket to the Champions League qualifying rounds at the expense of Lazio, who beat Lecce 4-2 and will have to content themselves with a tilt at the Europa League. Joining them there are arch rivals Roma, 3-1 victors over Sampdoria. Juventus needed a miracle to beat Roma to sixth place, but could only draw 2-2 with Napoli in Turin.
Top three: AC Milan (82 pts), Inter Milan (76), Napoli (70)
Bottom three: Sampdoria (36), Brescia (32), Bari (24)
Top scorers: Antonio di Natale (28 goals), Edinson Cavani (26), Samuel Eto'o (21)
Weekend stat: 24 - The number of goals conceded by AC Milan over the campaign, a new club record for a 38-game season, beating their previous low of 28 in 2004-05.
Ligue 1: Lille cross the line at last
Ligue 1 is the last of Europe’s five major leagues to crown its champions, with Lille taking their place on the throne a game early after earning a 2-2 draw at Paris Saint-Germain on Saturday evening. French Cup winners over PSG a week ago, Le LOSC have now completed their second league and cup double, the first coming back in 1946. Second-placed Olympique Marseille were held 2-2 at home by Valenciennes, but will finish clear of Lyon, who played out a goalless draw at home to Caen, a result that kept them two points ahead of PSG in fourth.
Rennes and Sochaux are already sure of their places in the UEFA Europa League next season, while down at the bottom, already-relegated Arles-Avignon secured their first away win of the season at game at Lens, who will be joining them in Ligue 2. One place above them lie Monaco, who won 1-0 at Montpellier to boost their hopes of avoiding the drop. With only three points separating Les Monégasques from the eight teams above them, the final day of the season promises to be a nerve-wracking one. Even tenth-placed Toulouse, who downed Bordeaux 2-0, could yet conceivably go down.
Top three: Lille (73 pts), Marseille (67), Lyon (61)
Bottom three: Monaco (44), Lens (35), Arles-Avignon (20)
Top scorers: Moussa Sow (22 goals), Kevin Gameiro (21), Youssef El-Arabi (17)
Weekend stat: 57 - The number of years that have passed since Lille last won the title. In the meantime, Les Dogues have been relegated to Ligue 2 on six occasions and even lost their professional status when dropping down to the third tier in 1969.
In Czech Republic, Viktoria Pilsen defeated Banik Ostrava 3-1 at home on Saturday to clinch their maiden title. With one round of games remaining, Viktoria hold an unassailable four-point lead over Sparta Prague, whose victory away to bottom club Usti Nad Labem proved to be in vain.
Slovan Bratislava were also crowned champions a game early in neighbouring Slovakia, thanks to a 3-1 victory over MFK Dubnica, giving them a seven-point cushion over closest challengers FK Senica.
In Turkey, it has taken until the 34th and final week of the season to separate Fenerbahce and Trabzonspor, who have been fighting it out for top spot for the last three months. In the lead for the last four games, Fener finally made sure of the title by overcoming Sivasspor 4-3, and though Trabzonspor also won, beating Karabukspor 4-0, it was the Istanbul side who took the title thanks to their superior goal difference.
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