The majority of the frontrunners in Europe's leading leagues enjoyed victorious weekends, though Ligue 1 top dogs LOSC Lille Métropole bucked the trend with a first defeat since October. Meanwhile, FC Barcelona and AC Milan were pressed harder than they would have liked before digging out wins thanks to the late intervention of South American talents, as UEFA.com recaps in a review of the recent action.
Barcelona bounced back from their midweek UEFA Champions League defeat by Arsenal FC with a 2-1 Liga win against Athletic Club. Josep Guardiola's titleholders emerged victorious thanks to Lionel Messi's 78th-minute goal, his 25th in the league this term. Real Madrid CF therefore remain five points behind the pacesetters having also won, 2-0 against Levante UD. "The pressure is on the team who are second – that's us, not the team who are first," said Madrid coach José Mourinho.
FC Internazionale Milano tested that theory by closing to within two points of Milan thanks to a 1-0 win against Cagliari Calcio on Saturday. The Rossoneri responded well, though, as their 2-1 defeat of AC Chievo Verona – courtesy of a late Pato strike – kept them three points clear of second-placed SSC Napoli, 1-0 victors against Calcio Catania. Troubled AS Roma, meanwhile, went 3-0 up against Genoa CFC before succumbing to a third consecutive league loss (4-3). Juventus also suffered an upset, succumbing 2-0 at US Lecce. "Our approach was all wrong," said coach Luigi Del Neri. "We were arrogant, we played scrappy football and deserved to lose."
Ligue 1 pacesetters Lille were handed a surprise 1-0 defeat at Montpellier Hérault FC. Rudi Garcia's side had not lost in the league since 24 October, but Younés Belhanda halted that run with an 84th-minute winner. "Given the way we played, the best we could have hoped for was a point," said Garcia. "But just like Thursday [in the UEFA Europa League], we conceded in the last ten minutes." That first league defeat in 14 matches enabled Stade Rennais FC to whittle Lille's lead down to two points courtesy of a 2-1 win in the evening match at Toulouse FC.
Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund resumed normal service on Saturday when they defeated FC St Pauli 2-0 after two successive draws. "I am very satisfied," said coach Jürgen Klopp. "The guys concentrated superbly and have dealt very well with the criticism." Dortmund's lead at the summit briefly stood at 13 points, but they ended the weekend ten ahead after Bayer 04 Leverkusen's 4-2 triumph against VfB Stuttgart put them clear in second. Titleholders FC Bayern München are a further three points adrift in third following their 3-1 victory against 1. FSV Manz 05.
Upsets were conspicuous by their absence until the final FA Cup fixture of the weekend. While Manchester United FC and Manchester City FC negotiated their way past Crawley Town FC (1-0) and Notts County FC (5-0) respectively, Arsenal FC were held 1-1 at Leyton Orient FC of the third tier on Sunday evening. Arsenal and United will meet in the quarter-finals should the Gunners win the replay, while City will now play Aston Villa FC in the fifth round for the right to face Everton FC or Reading FC in the last eight. David Moyes' side beat holders Chelsea FC 4-3 on penalties in their fourth-round replay. "To be through in the cup gives you a great boost," said Moyes.
There was drama in Saturday's Athens derby as Rafik Djebbour struck two minutes into added time to give Olympiacos FC a 2-1 victory against Panathinaikos FC and leave Ernesto Valverde's side ten points clear of their city rivals. Eight points ahead of their own nearby neighbours are Celtic FC, who beat Rangers FC 3-0 to extend their cushion at the head of the Scottish Premier League. "That was a wonderful performance," said manager Neil Lennon. "I thought we controlled the majority of the game and our football was fantastic." In Turkey, Fenerbahçe SK lead the way by a solitary point having prevailed 4-2 at Istanbul adversaries Beşiktaş JK.
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