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Pacesetters protect their hard-earned gains

Published: Monday 24 January 2011
There was little change at the top of Europe's leading leagues this weekend as the likes of FC Barcelona and AC Milan posted wins to keep eager rivals at bay. recaps the action.

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Published: Monday 24 January 2011

Pacesetters protect their hard-earned gains

There was little change at the top of Europe's leading leagues this weekend as the likes of FC Barcelona and AC Milan posted wins to keep eager rivals at bay. recaps the action.

The frontrunners held firm in Europe's leading leagues this weekend as the likes of FC Barcelona and AC Milan successfully protected their advantages from rivals eager to gain ground. Even Borussia Dortmund still lead by 11 points in Germany despite failing to post a victory, as recaps in a look back at the best of the action from around the continent.

It is a case of as you were at the top of the Liga after Barcelona and Real Madrid CF recorded further victories. Josep Guardiola's titleholders set the bar on Saturday by beating Real Racing Club 3-0 to equal their club record of 14 successive league victories. "This was a potentially tricky game, but both the players and the fans responded in their own way to the circumstances in an exceptional manner," said Guardiola. Madrid refuse to be shaken off, though, and remain four points adrift in second after Karim Benzema ensured they edged RCD Mallorca on Sunday.

Milan did not wilt under pressure from pursuers SSC Napoli and AS Roma as they rounded off the weekend's action with a 2-0 win against struggling AC Cesena. That result kept them four points clear of Napoli, who prevailed 2-0 at bottom side AS Bari thanks in part to Edinson Cavani's 14th strike this term. "I'm not looking at the league; I'm not thinking about anything other than continuing like this," said Napoli coach Walter Mazzarri. Roma saw off Cagliari Calcio 3-0 to leapfrog city rivals S.S. Lazio – beaten 3-1 at Bologna FC – and there was a first loss in six matches at the FC Internazionale Milano helm for Leonardo, whose charges succumbed 3-1 at Udinese Calcio.

Manchester United FC continue to lead the Premier League following a 5-0 win against Birmingham City FC. Arsenal FC are two points behind, having played a game more, after a Robin van Persie hat-trick earned them a 3-0 success against Wigan Athletic FC. Dimitar Berbatov scored a treble of his own for the leaders. "Dimitar is realising his ability," said Sir Alex Ferguson of the Bulgarian striker. "He has special qualities; I think we are using them." Manchester City FC have contested two matches more than their city rivals and lie a further point off the pace after losing 1-0 at Aston Villa FC.

Dortmund remain out in front at the Bundesliga summit despite being held to a 1-1 draw against VfB Stuttgart. "We had many opportunities to score a deserved winner but we have to take our chances," said coach Jürgen Klopp. Dortmund's lead is now 11 points to nearest pursuers Bayer 04 Leverkusen, who assumed second spot courtesy of a 3-1 win at VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach. Hannover 96 and 1. FSV Mainz 05  failed to pounce on Dortmund's slip, losing 1-0 against FC Schalke 04 and VfL Wolfsburg respectively, and that allowed titleholders FC Bayern München to climb to fourth, three points adrift of Leverkusen. They beat 1. FC Kaiserslautern 5-1 with the help of Mario Gomez's fourth hat-trick this term.

Another round, another Ligue 1 opponent – but Stade Brestois 29 held no fear for SO Chambéry as the fifth-tier conquerors of AS Monaco FC kept their French Cup dream alive via a penalty shoot-out win at the end of a 1-1 draw. "I can't find the words," said defender Fabien Tissot. "It was complicated when we went behind, but we knew we couldn't surrender." FC Girondins de Bordeaux suffered an upset too as they succumbed 1-0 to Ligue 2 contenders Angers, though there were no such problems for holders Paris Saint-Germain FC in their 3-2 success at SU Agen. LOSC Lille Métropole also avoided a potential pitfall in their 1-0 victory against fifth-division neighbours ES Wasquehal, but JA Drancy and FC Martigues boosted the amateur presence in the last 16 with wins.

Scottish Premier League titleholders Rangers FC dropped five points behind Celtic FC on Saturday when they lost 1-0 at Heart of Midlothian FC, leaving Walter Smith's charges to console themselves with the knowledge they possess two games in hand on their Glasgow rivals. AFC Ajax have no such luxury in the Eredivisie, meanwhile, after they slumped to a 3-0 reverse at FC Utrecht that left them six points adrift of leaders PSV Eindhoven in third. In Turkey, finally, Trabzonspor AŞ are five points in front despite being held 1-1 at home by MKE Ankaragücü.

Last updated: 07/12/13 6.48CET