The status quo was largely preserved in Europe's leading top flights over the weekend, though the pacesetters in France, Italy and Germany continue to have to work hard to keep clear of their respective chasing packs. In Spain, meanwhile, Real Madrid CF increased their already sizeable advantage at the head of the class. UEFA.com reviews the pick of the action.
It was a particularly fruitful weekend for Madrid, who are now seven points clear of FC Barcelona at the Liga summit. Eliminated from the Copa del Rey by their rivals on Wednesday, Madrid nevertheless continue to hold sway in the league after coming from a goal down to beat Real Zaragoza 3-1 on Saturday night. They received a further boost when Barça drew 0-0 at Villarreal CF. "We will fight until the end," insisted defiant Barcelona coach Josep Guardiola. Valencia CF, meanwhile, are nine points behind the title holders following their 2-2 draw with Real Racing Club.
Juventus are still in the ascendancy in Serie A, but AC Milan continue to breathe down their necks in second. The Bianconeri had Alessandro Matri to thank for their latest victory, the Italy striker scoring both goals in a 2-1 defeat of third-placed Udinese Calcio. "I was very concerned about this match because Udinese are a team that play attractive football and have a lot of quality players who function as a great team," conceded Juve coach Antonio Conte. That reverse means Udinese are now six points off the pace and five behind Milan, 3-0 victors against Cagliari Calcio.
It remains especially tight at the top in the Bundesliga, with FC Bayern München, Borussia Dortmund and FC Schalke 04 locked together on 40 points. Bayern lead the way following a 2-0 win against VfL Wolfsburg, but title holders Dortmund, and Schalke, remain hot on their heels thanks to 3-1 and 4-1 triumphs against TSG 1899 Hoffenheim and 1. FC Köln respectively. "The victory will boost our confidence, and we'll take it from here over the next few weeks," said Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes. VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach, meanwhile, are still just a point adrift of the pacesetting trio by virtue of a 3-0 success at VfB Stuttgart.
Paris Saint-Germain FC continue to rule the roost in Ligue 1 after Milan Biševac's early goal earned them a 1-0 success at Stade Brestois 29 that kept them three points clear of nearest pursuers Montpellier Hérault SC – themselves 1-0 victors at OGC Nice thanks to Olivier Giroud's last-minute effort. In third, LOSC Lille Métropole downed AS Saint-Étienne 3-0 in a memorable match for debutant Nolan Roux, who weighed in with a double. "Let's just say it was a good debut," explained the former Brest striker. "I had trouble positioning myself in the first half, but things settled down after that and I found more space." Fourth-placed Olympique Lyonnais also won, beating Dijon FCO 3-1.
The FA Cup took centre stage this weekend, with Manchester United FC's trip to Liverpool FC the tie of the fourth round. Kenny Dalglish's side, who overcame Manchester City FC in midweek to reach the League Cup final, prevailed again on Saturday, Dirk Kuyt securing a 2-1 win late on. "I can't speak highly enough of them after that performance and result today," said Dalglish of his players. Chelsea FC progressed with a 1-0 win against Queens Park Rangers FC, while Tottenham Hotspur FC defeated Watford FC 1-0 and Arsenal FC fought back to beat Aston Villa FC 3-2. Newcastle United FC were knocked out by second-tier Brighton & Hove Albion FC, who now travel to Anfield in the fifth round.
Unbeaten in the league since 28 February 2010, FC Porto's bubble was finally burst as they lost 3-1 away at Gil Vicente FC. It was their first reverse in 55 games, spoiling the unblemished record of coach Vítor Pereira. Elsewhere, a hat trick from 19-year-old striker John Guidetti inspired Feyenoord to their first triumph in De Klassieker (‘the Classic') in nearly six years. Ronald Koeman's youthful side displayed real character as they came from behind to beat AFC Ajax 4-2. In Turkey, finally, Galatasaray AŞ's 14-match unbeaten run concluded with a 1-0 defeat at Bursaspor, as closest title challengers Fenerbahçe SK capitalised with a 2-1 win against Mersin İdman Yurdu.
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