The five-point European review
There was plenty of exciting action across Europe's top leagues over the weekend, including wins for pacesetters Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain, another impressive victory for Borussia Monchengladbach and a surprise defeat for Inter Milan. FIFA.com brings you the latest from all the major leagues on the continent and casts an eye on the fourth round of the English FA Cup.
Juventus 2-1 Udinese, Matchday 20 in Italy
I Bianconeri continued their march towards a long-awaited 28th league title with a narrow 2-1 victory over Udinese. Italy international Alessandro Matri's brace ensured the record champions remain unbeaten in the league this term and provided the perfect 34th birthday present for goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. Just a point behind in second, AC Milan remain La Juve's closest competitors at the top.
On the subject of happy returns, Romania striker Daniel Niculae struck twice for Nancy in a 3-1 victory over former club Auxerre in France's Ligue 1. L'ASNL coach Jean Fernandez also got one over on his former employers, having previously spent five years on the sidelines for L'AJA. Both men kept their celebrations respectfully reserved, but there was little to disguise their relief at claiming three points as Auxerre slipped further into the quagmire.
Meanwhile in Spain, promoted side Granada breathed a huge sigh of relief after claiming a 2-1 victory away to Real Betis. The Andalusian outfit opted for a change of coach following a run of three straight defeats and the appointment of Abel Resino, who replaces Fabriciano Gonzalez at the helm, appears to have done the trick. The win took Granada out of the relegation zone and to within just two points of 12th spot.
How do Schalke cope in the absence of star striker Raul? Simple – they call upon Ciprian Marica. The Romanian international stepped in for the injured Spaniard against Cologne and after falling 1-0 behind, the 26-year-old netted twice as Die Konigsblauen fought back to win 4-1 and maintain pace with Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund at the Bundesliga summit. The match was Marica's first start of the season and the striker grasped the opportunity with both hands.
The departure of top marksman Moussa Sow to Fenerbahce was expected to take its toll on French champions Lille, but Les Dogues may get over the loss of the Senegalese if Nolan Roux can live up to his early promise. Signed from Brest during the current transfer window, the former French U-21 international struck twice on his debut as Lille cruised to a 3-0 victory away to Saint-Etienne. The frontman's double helped keep the titleholders within touching distance of league leaders Paris Saint-Germain, who won 1-0 at Brest, and second-placed Montpellier, winners by the only goal at Nice.
The mere mention of the name Dirk Kuyt is enough to make Manchester United fans shudder. Little wonder after the Dutch striker fired home an 88th-minute winner to ensure Liverpool's progress from the fourth round of the FA Cup at the Red Devils' expense. Last March, Kuyt - not normally a prolific source of goals for Liverpool - hit a hat-trick against Sir Alex Ferguson's side.
96 - After 96 days and eight Bundesliga encounters without a win, Hannover finally registered another three points with a flattering 1-0 success against Nuremberg. Mirko Slomka's charges struck fear into their more illustrious rivals last season with their refreshing brand of counterattacking football, but a workmanlike performance was enough to secure Die Roten a long-awaited victory on this occasion.
518 - Following an agonising 518 days out of the game as a result of two serious knee injuries, Sunderland striker Fraizer Campbell celebrated the perfect return on Sunday by scoring the equaliser in a 1-1 draw with Middlesbrough in the fourth round of the FA Cup. The former England U-21 international came on as a second-half substitute and struggled to contain his delight at making a first appearance since August 2010.
8 - It was slim pickings for the visitors on Matchday 19 of the Dutch Eredivisie. The home teams won eight of the weekend's nine fixtures, with only De Graafschap managing to pick up a point on their travels in a 1-1 draw at NAC Breda. Among the defeated were AZ Alkmaar (2-0 at Roda JC) and reigning champions Ajax Amsterdam, who went down 4-2 at rivals Feyenoord.
5 - Grant Holt continued his sensational FA Cup form with another goal as Norwich City ran out 2-1 winners away to fourth-round opponents West Bromwich Albion. The 30-year-old has scored in each of his five appearances in the competition for the Canaries.
Five memorable moments
All hail King Heynckes: However the Bundesliga title race pans out, Bayern Munich boss Jupp Heynckes will finish the season top of at least one pile. Der Rekordmeister's laborious 2-0 victory over Wolfsburg at the weekend was the 66-year-old's 456th win as player and coach in Germany's top division, taking him beyond Otto Rehhagel's long-standing record. "I never could have imagined I'd be sat in the dugout for so long," admitted the Bayern supremo in an interview with Sky.
Class is permanent: Belgian striker Wesley Sonck netted 24 goals in 55 caps during his international heyday. Now 33, the striker rarely hits the headlines but has found the target in each of current club Lierse's last two fixtures, a 2-2 draw against Cercle Brugge on Wednesday and a 2-0 away victory over Westerlo on Saturday. Perhaps this could be the start of a renaissance for the former international.
No milestone victory: "I suppose that when you've won as much as we have, it makes things tougher, because every opponent gives 110 per cent," explained Barcelona defender Gerard Pique in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com last Monday. The Spanish FIFA World Cup winner was clearly talking sense, as Barça were held to a 0-0 draw by Villarreal at the weekend, allowing rivals Real Madrid to extend their lead at the top to seven points. The goalless outing was Pique's 100th for Barcelona in La Liga and took place five days before his 25th birthday.
Llorente making waves: Fernando Llorente struck a hat-trick in Athletic Bilbao's 3-2 victory at Rayo Vallecano. The striker's prolific performances are unlikely to have gone unnoticed by Spain coach Vicente del Bosque with UEFA EURO 2012 on the horizon.
Rangers up the pressure: Last but not least, we turn to Scotland, where frontrunners Celtic made it through to the final of the League Cup with a 3-1 victory against Falkirk. Meanwhile, Rangers made no mistake in the league with a 4-0 success against Hibernian, reducing the Bhoys' lead to just a point at the top. Make a note in your diaries for 25 March, when the two Glasgow giants will go head to head in what promises to be another ferocious Old Firm derby.