The five-point European review
The leading teams in Spain and England signed off for the international break with wins, but German giants Bayern Munich and the Milan clubs dropped points. In France, front-runners Paris St. Germain beat second-placed Olympique Lyon and now lead Ligue 1 by three points.
In its new-look five-point review, FIFA.com rounds up the latest events in Europe’s major leagues.
Though many years have passed since Juventus won the Scudetto, the clash between the Old Lady of Turin and champions AC Milan remains one of the most prestigious and attractive in the Italian programme.
Sunday evening’s encounter failed to live up to its billing for fully 80 minutes, but that was forgotten in a frantic finish packed with incident and action. Italy international Claudio Marchisio struck a last-gasp brace on 87 and 90 minutes to win it for Juve, and there was salt added to Rossoneri wounds when Kevin-Prince Boateng received his marching orders a minute from time.
The win sends Juventus back to the top of the standings, but the champions are languishing in a lowly 15th with only five points from as many matches.
The city of Manchester is the ‘in’ place in the Premier League, with no let up from either United, who beat Norwich 2-0, or City, 4-0 winners away to Blackburn. Seven games into the campaign, the pair remain unbeaten and are level on points at the top, three clear of a pack headed by Chelsea, Newcastle and Liverpool.
Back in Italy, meanwhile, the boost provided by the arrival of a new coach at Inter Milan proved short-lived. In a clash between UEFA Champions League hopefuls, Claudio Ranieri’s men crashed 3-0 at home to high-flying Napoli and slipped to 17th in the table.
Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas left Frank Lampard on the bench last weekend, but the England international has bounced back in style. Lampard found the net in the midweek UEFA Champions League draw with Valencia, and blasted a hat-trick in the Blues’ thumping 5-1 win away to Bolton Wanderers on Sunday.
Barcelona, the holders of Europe’s elite club trophy, suffered another injury setback at the weekend when Cesc Fabregas ruptured a hamstring in training. The midfielder, who had only just returned form a spell on the sidelines, will be out for at least three weeks. The problem is compounded by the continuing absence of fellow schemer Andres Iniesta with a similar injury. Fabregas is out of Spain’s UEFA EURO 2012 qualifiers against Czech Republic and Scotland, although the world and European champions are already safely through to the continental finals.
Not so many months ago, Inigo Martinez was plying his trade at the third tier of the Spanish game, but he is now a La Liga regular in the Real Sociedad defence. He crowned his rapid ascent at the weekend against Athletic Bilbao, scoring a wonder goal with a shot from his own half. Former Sociedad player Xabi Alonso, now of Real Madrid, expressed admiration on Twitter: "The greatest goal in the history of [Sociedad’s home ground] the Anoeta. A perfect shot!"
3 – Three local rivalries dominated the Premier League programme this weekend. Liverpool crossed Stanley Park to face Everton and won the Merseyside derby 2-0. Fulham earned the bragging rights in West London in spectacular style, handing Queens Park Rangers a 6-0 hiding. And Tottenham Hotspur added to the crisis at Arsenal with a 2-1 success in the North London derby.
18 – For the first time in 18 years, Trenkwalder Admira are top of the Austrian Bundesliga. Dietmar Kuehbauer’s side beat Rapid Vienna 4-3 to move ahead of Red Bull Salzburg, who fell 3-2 to Austria Vienna.
301 - Victor Valdes made his 301st appearance for Barcelona in a 1-0 win away to Sporting Gijon, drawing level with the legendary Andoni Zubizarreta, currently director of sport in Catalonia.
658 – Manuel Neuer of Bayern maintained his seemingly relentless pursuit of an eight-year-old Bundesliga record. The Germany keeper has now gone 658 minutes of league play without conceding, leaving him fourth in the all-time roll of honour behind only two other goalkeepers. The record is held by Timo Hildebrand with an 884-minute streak spanning two seasons with VfB Stuttgart in 2003. Places two and three are both held by former Bayern stalwart Oliver Kahn, who went 802 minutes without conceding in 2002/03, and 736 minutes in 1998/99.
5. Memorable moments
When darkness falls: There were only two minutes remaining in Caen, and the home team were on course for a 1-0 victory over Nice, but the scene was suddenly thrown into darkness by a floodlight failure at Stade Michel-d’Ornano. The power was restored a quarter of an hour later, but the hosts might have preferred to leave the lights off, as they conceded an equaliser in stoppage time.
One to savour: Swiss international Eren Derdiyok of Bayer Leverkusen scored an early goal-of-the-season contender in the Bundesliga meeting with Wolfsburg. The striker, stationed on the edge of Die Wölfe's box, controlled a lofted pass from the centre-circle with his left foot and allowed the ball to bounce. He then flipped the ball away from goal and over his marker, took a couple of paces and executed a perfect scissors kick, his shot sailing into the top corner of the net. "That was the best goal of my career," Derdiyok beamed afterwards.
Fortress Liberty Stadium: Swansea City, the first Welsh club to achieve Premier League status, are building up a formidable reputation at home. The promoted outfit have won two and drawn two of their four home fixtures so far, scoring five goals and conceding none. Manchester City are the only other club yet to let in a goal at home.
Capital quartet in hot pursuit: In the Russian Premier League, last term’s double winners Zenit St. Petersburg are being hunted down by an exclusively Moscow-based foursome. With four games to go, CSKA, Dynamo, Locomotive and Spartak are all poised to take advantage of any slip-up by the leaders.
A very special comeback: Schalke’s 2-1 win away to Hamburg in Huub Stevens’ first Bundesliga game back in charge was an emotional affair for many reasons. The Dutch supremo boasts successful spells with both clubs in the past – and Hamburg, currently without a head coach, were also interested in bringing back their former boss until learning of his contact with Die Königsblauen last week.