FC Bayern München are closer than ever to reclaiming the Bundesliga crown after moving 20 points clear on a weekend that proved an emphatic success for the teams atop Europe's highest profile leagues. Juventus were all smiles too as they built a nine-point cushion in Serie A, while FC Barcelona warmed up for Tuesday's showdown with AC Milan by edging further ahead in Spain and Olympiacos FC ended any lingering suspense in Greece. UEFA.com recaps the action.
It was business as usual for Bayern as their seemingly inevitable march to the title continued, the side who tackle Arsenal FC in Europe on Wednesday moving 20 points out in front courtesy of a 3-2 win against Fortuna Düsseldorf. "It was about time," said Jérôme Boateng after scoring his first goal in Bayern's colours, which proved the winner. "It's a fantastic feeling." Second-placed Borussia Dortmund failed to keep pace as they suffered a 2-1 Ruhr derby loss to FC Schalke 04, who moved into the fourth UEFA Champions League spot behind a Bayer 04 Leverkusen side beaten 1-0 at 1. FSV Mainz 05. "We played really well, won the 50-50s and also played some good stuff," commented Schalke coach Jens Keller, whose charges tackle Galatasaray AŞ on Tuesday.
It all went Juventus' way at the top of Serie A as a 1-0 victory against Calcio Catania and defeat for second-placed SSC Napoli stretched the Bianconeri's lead to nine points. "We wanted to win at all costs, and did it with great heart," said coach Antonio Conte after seeing Emanuele Giaccherini score the added-time winner. Napoli went down 2-0 at AC Chievo Verona, allowing AC Milan to move within two points of them with a 2-0 win at Genoa CFC. "We put them under siege for the second half, but when the ball does not want to go in, there is nothing you can do," reflected Partenopei coach Walter Mazzarri. Fourth place now belongs to ACF Fiorentina, meanwhile, after they triumphed 2-0 at S.S. Lazio.
Barcelona will tackle Milan with some of their confidence restored after seeing off Deportivo La Coruña 2-0 in a game that yielded Lionel Messi's 40th Liga goal this term. Incredibly, it was also the 17th consecutive league match in which the Argentinian forward has found the net. "Tuesday will be an entirely different story, but there's no doubt that the best way to get ready for a match is having won the previous game," noted Barça's stand-in coach Jordi Roura, whose side now sit 13 points clear at the summit after Club Atlético de Madrid lost 1-0 to Real Sociedad de Fútbol – their first home Liga reverse this term. That allowed Real Madrid CF to go second by defeating RC Celta de Vigo 2-1, Cristiano Ronaldo registering twice.
Paris Saint-Germain FC suffered a scare against bottom of the table AS Nancy-Lorraine but were the big winners in France, as their closest rivals lost ground. After Nancy took the lead, Zlatan Ibrahimović struck twice to give PSG a 2-1 win on Saturday, and the capital club hold a four-point advantage after Olympique Lyonnais and Olympique de Marseille drew 0-0 a day later. "He has the qualities of a great goalscorer," said Carlo Ancelotti of his two-goal forward. "He never loses confidence: that is the sign of a great player." As for OGC Nice, they moved level with fourth-placed AS Saint-Étienne – who drew 2-2 at Stade Rennais FC – by beating Montpellier Hérault SC 2-0.
It was FA Cup quarter-final weekend in England and heavyweight duo Manchester United FC and Chelsea FC face a replay after the west London side fought back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 at Old Trafford. "We're lucky to be in the Cup," commented United manager Sir Alex Ferguson. "We just ran out of legs and Chelsea were far the better team in the second half." The eventual winners of that tie will face Manchester City FC next month after Carlos Tévez hit a hat-trick in their 5-0 defeat of Barnsley FC, while Wigan Athletic FC triumphed 3-0 at Everton FC to set up a meeting with either Millwall FC or Blackburn Rovers FC, who drew 0-0. In the Premier League, meanwhile, third-placed Tottenham Hotspur FC succumbed 3-2 at Liverpool FC.
Olympiacos completed their 40th league title win in Greece as a 3-0 success against AEK Athens FC kept them an unassailable 16 points clear with five games remaining. Things are far less certain in the Netherlands, on the other hand, where AFC Ajax topped the table for the first time this season, beating PEC Zwolle 3-0 to go a point above PSV Eindhoven, who lost 2-1 at sc Heerenveen. In Russia, the Premier League season returned after the winter break and leaders PFC CSKA Moskva immediately extended their advantage to five points, winning 2-0 at PFC Krylya Sovetov Samara, while FC Anji Makhachkala in second lost 2-0 at previously bottom FC Mordovia Saransk. Lastly, Grasshopper Club maintained their two-point gap above FC Basel 1893 in Switzerland as both won comfortably.
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