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Nerves kick in as title hopefuls hit home straight

Published: Monday 11 April 2011
The tension surrounding clubs competing for honours is increasing with the likes of LOSC Lille Métropole and Borussia Dortmund coming under pressure. reviews the weekend.

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Published: Monday 11 April 2011

Nerves kick in as title hopefuls hit home straight

The tension surrounding clubs competing for honours is increasing with the likes of LOSC Lille Métropole and Borussia Dortmund coming under pressure. reviews the weekend.

The repercussions of setbacks at this stage of the season were clear in France and Germany while a number of Europe's high-profile leagues appear destined to go down to the wire. rounds up the pick of the weekend domestic action.

The Ligue 1 title race intensified with leaders LOSC Lille Métropole showing the strain after their four-game winning streak was ended via a surprise 1-0 defeat by AS Monaco FC. "My mistake led to the goal," admitted Adil Rami. "We did not play with our hearts. Some players do not deserve to play for Lille." The chasers fluffed their lines, though, as Olympique de Marseille drew 2-2 at home to Toulouse FC while Stade Rennais FC slumped 2-0 at mid-table Stade Brestois 29. That all suited Olympique Lyonnais, who leapfrogged Rennes into third by quelling RC Lens 3-0 and now sit five points from the summit.

Borussia Dortmund still have breathing space in the Bundesliga but their advantage was cut to five points on Sunday as Bayer 04 Leverkusen came back to win 2-1 against FC St Pauli. Jakub Błaszczykowski's added-time strike had earned the leaders a 1-1 draw at Hamburger SV the day before, to the relief of coach Jürgen Klopp. "I think it is absolutely fair that we did not leave Hamburg empty-handed," he said. "I can live with this result." The powers that be at Bayern were less impressed with their 1-1 draw, at 1. FC Nürnberg, calling time on Louis van Gaal's reign as they slipped to fourth.

With AC Milan last in action on Sunday, FC Internazionale Milano stepped up their championship bid – and responded to back-to-back defeats against their city rivals and FC Schalke 04 – by winning 2-0 against AC Chievo Verona on Saturday. "It was difficult for us to find our rhythm but we played a clever game and concentrated right until the last," said Nerazzurri defender Maicon. "We are still in the hunt for everything. I still believe it's possible for us to go through against Schalke." SSC Napoli upped the ante with a 2-0 success at Bologna FC but Milan just about kept their heads, winning 2-1 at ACF Fiorentina despite Zlatan Ibrahimović's late dismissal.

FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF rung the changes as they bid to set up a semi-final meeting in the UEFA Champions League with last-eight progression in midweek, but it made little difference as both triumphed again. Josep Guardiola's side maintained their eight-point cushion by coming from behind to down UD Almería 3-1 while Madrid were impressive 3-0 victors at Athletic Club. "Madrid are going to fight for this league until the end, until it is mathematically impossible, because this is the way we have been educated," said captain Iker Casillas. The best of the rest squared up on Sunday with third-placed Valencia CF holding sway over Villarreal CF courtesy of a 5-0 cruise at Mestalla.

The top three all won in England with Manchester United FC still in prime position for the title after their 2-0 victory against Fulham FC on Saturday. "It was an important win and at this stage of the season that's the name of the game," said manager Sir Alex Ferguson, whose team continue to march on without hitting the heights. "We didn't play well, we were a bit wasteful with our possession in the second half and had to hang on a little bit at the end." Arsenal FC won 3-1 at Blackpool FC to stay seven points adrift with champions Chelsea FC four further back after edging Wigan Athletic FC 1-0.

Anxiety is also evident in the Netherlands as the Eredivisie reaches the finishing straight with three teams still in contention. FC Twente still lead PSV Eindhoven by two points after both struck late on to draw at home on Sunday, but Ajax are just a point further back after beating FC Groningen 2-0. Two points is also the difference in Turkey between leaders Trabzonspor AŞ and Fenerbahçe SK after both triumphed, while the scenario is identical with Celtic FC and Rangers FC in Scotland.

In Romania, only a single point separates FC Oţelul Galaţi from unbeaten chasers FC Timişoara, who scored a 94th-minute winner at bottom club FC Sportul Studenţesc Bucureşti. FC Zenit St Petersburg and PFC CSKA Moskva shared the spoils in Russia's big game while APOEL FC wrapped up the Cypriot title.

Last updated: 07/12/13 4.45CET

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