The extreme winter is finally starting to lift in Europe, and the quantity of matches and leagues in operation grows with each passing week, although a number of competitions will take a brief break with the Algarve and Cyprus Cups commencing this week.
The first round of league action of 2012 took place in Germany, where a slip by frontrunners Turbine Potsdam was further evidence that the Bundesliga title race is set to be one of the tightest in years. Italy is similarly well poised after an epic goal-laden contest between two of the league’s elite, while Barcelona are slowly inching their way towards their maiden crown in Spain.
*Germany: Elite stunned by strugglers *
The Bundesliga resumed after a two-month hiatus, and for leaders Turbine Potsdam it proved a stuttering restart to their push for a fourth consecutive title. Indeed, Potsdam were forced to come from behind to earn a share of the points against bottom side Bayer Leverkusen, as Viola Odebrecht cancelled out Eunice Beckmann’s opener. It proved a turbulent week for Bernd Schroder’s team, who also suffered a blow with seasoned trio Babett Peter, Odebrecht and Bianca Schmidt announcing that they will not be renewing their contracts.
Potsdam’s draw saw their lead at the summit trimmed with FCR Duisburg - who also have a match in hand - closing the gap to three points thanks to a 3-1 win against Hamburg. Star-studded 1.FFC Frankfurt sit a further point adrift after overpowering struggling Lokomotive Leipzig 4-0. VfL Wolfsburg are seven points off the pace, but now have two matches in hand after their visit to Bad Neuenahr fell foul of the weather.
Top three: 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam (32), FCR 2001 Duisburg (29), 1. FFC Frankfurt (28)
*Spain: Barcelona skip clear *
Leaders Barcelona took maximum advantage of a scoreless stalemate between their two nearest rivals as they seek a maiden title. Barcelona bagged a goal in each half to see off SD Lagunak and extend their lead at the summit to four points. Second-placed Athletic Bilbao were held to a 0-0 draw for the second consecutive match, this time by third-placed RCD Espanyol. Barcelona are seeking to become just the fifth different club to be crowned champions in 11 seasons since the restructured national competition came into existence.
*Top three: Barcelona (61), Athletic Bilbao (57), Espanyol (52) *
*Italy: Goals and three-pointers *
All eyes were on the north-east city of Verona as second-placed Bardolino hosted third-placed UPC Tavagnacco, and two of the competition’s elite teams duly delivered with a high-scoring thriller. When the dust settled it was the locals who came out on top winning by the odd goal in seven, with Azzurre forward Melania Gabbiadini starring with a double. The win, however, was not enough to return Bardolino to the top with ACF Brescia holding firm with a 2-0 win over GS Roma. Brescia had clawed their way to the top thanks to a midweek triumph over the league’s other capital club, Lazio Roma. Sassari Torres took maximum advantage of Tavagnacco’s slip and their 3-0 win against Venezia, combined with a midweek victory, saw the Sardinian club claim a firm hold on third.
*Top three: ACF Brescia (41), Bardolino Verona (40), Sassari Torres (38) *