It proved a weekend to savour for FC Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund as the Spanish and German league leaders stepped up their title bids by extending their respective cushions. AC Milan came close to doing likewise in Italy before being pegged back late on, as UEFA.com recaps in a look back at the latest round of action across Europe.
A four-point gap has opened up at the Liga summit after Real Madrid CF failed to match the same searing pace set by Barcelona. The titleholders' 4-1 victory against Málaga CF was their 13th consecutive championship success and compounded the woes of a Madrid side held 1-1 at bottom club UD Almería. "There are a lot of matches left to play and we're convinced we can make up this deficit," commented Los Merengues' goalscorer Esteban Granero. José Mourinho's charges are nine points clear of third-placed Villarreal CF, who downed CA Osasuna 4-2.
Dortmund remain the dominant force in the Bundesliga after winning 3-1 at Bayer 04 Leverkusen to streak 12 points clear. Victory put Jürgen Klopp's side back on track following a 1-0 defeat by Eintracht Frankfurt the week before Christmas – their first league loss since a home reverse against Leverkusen on the opening day of the season. "The Bundesliga is too tough and too tight to think of anything else but the next game," said a pragmatic Klopp. Hannover 96 are now their closest rivals after they beat Eintracht 3-0 and 1. FSV Mainz 05 lost 1-0 at VfB Stuttgart. Leverkusen are level with Mainz on 33 points in fourth.
Milan missed the chance to move six points ahead of SSC Napoli in Serie A after conceding an 82nd-minute Rubén Olivera leveller in a 1-1 draw at lowly US Lecce. The leaders' frustration echoed that of their nearest pursuers, who had to settle for a goalless stalemate with ACF Fiorentina and have been joined on 37 points by S.S. Lazio following the latter's 1-0 triumph against UC Sampdoria. Close behind, AS Roma won 1-0 at AC Cesena, Juventus edged AS Bari 2-1 and Leonardo's FC Internazionale Milano swept aside Bologna FC 4-1. "He really has been fantastic," said Inter president Massimo Moratti of the European champions' new coach.
A point continues to separate the top four after the Ligue 1 programme resumed with a string of wins for the high-fliers. LOSC Lille Métropole sit on top thanks to their 2-0 success at OGC Nice and, for coach Rudi Garcia, it was one of their most impressive away displays this term. "We were serious and disciplined for the whole 90 minutes," he said. The result kept Garcia's men a point clear and still boasting a game in hand on closest pursuers Paris Saint-Germain FC, Stade Rennais FC and Olympique Lyonnais, who celebrated victories against FC Sochaux-Montbéliard, AC Arles-Avignon and FC Lorient respectively. In the lower reaches, AS Monaco FC slipped into the relegation zone.
Manchester United FC extended their unbeaten Premier League record to 26 matches thanks to a 0-0 draw at Tottenham Hotspur FC in which Ryan Giggs made his 600th top-flight appearance and Rafael (74) was dismissed for the visitors. "It was a tough game, but they didn't create many chances against us and we should take credit for that," said Sir Alex Ferguson, whose team lead Manchester City FC on goal difference but boast two games in hand. City, featuring debutant Edin Džeko, assumed top spot temporarily on Saturday by defeating Wolverhampton Wanderers FC 4-3. Two points behind United in third – and having contested one game more – Arsenal FC prevailed 3-0 at struggling West Ham United FC.
FC Porto remain eight points clear of SL Benfica atop the Portuguese Liga after Hulk's 15th and 16th goals in 15 championship appearances helped them to a 3-1 win against bottom-of-the-table A. Naval 1° Maio. In Greece, Olympiacos FC's advantage at the head of the standings remains five points following their 4-2 home victory against Panserraikos FC. Lastly, in Israel, Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC will host Hapoel Akko FC on Monday hoping to move top on goal difference after leaders Maccabi Haifa FC drew 2-2 with Hapoel Beer Sheva FC.
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