As the charge for domestic honours gained pace across Europe, the leaders in Spain and France stumbled but the pacesetters in Germany, Italy and England marched on.
Spanish champions Real Madrid CF came to close to ending their 18-year jinx at the Camp Nou, but Xavi Hernández rescued a point for FC Barcelona in Saturday's high-profile encounter. The following day Valencia CF missed the chance to reclaim top spot but were defeated 2-1 by Rayo Vallecano.
Madrid have not recorded a league victory on their rivals' home patch since 1984, but when Zinedine Zidane put them ahead shortly before half-time it seemed the long wait might end. Nonetheless, a point was enough to send Madrid back to the top of the Primera División, albeit on goal difference, and they stayed there after Valencia lost to bottom club Vallecano on Sunday night. Miguel Angulo had put Valencia ahead with a glancing header but a Mauricio Pellegrino own goal on the stroke of half-time restored parity and Sergio Corino headed Rayo's second-half winner.
RC Deportivo La Coruña lie third after Diego Tristán's hat-trick in a 3-1 victory over Club Atlético Osasuna while Dani's second-half equaliser for Real Betis Balompié against Real Zaragoza kept the Seville side in fourth. The top of the table remains tight, with six points separating leaders Madrid from seventh-placed Barcelona, who were dealt a heavy blow by the news that Rivaldo has been ruled out of their Champions League trip to Galatasaray SK after suffering an ankle injury in the dying minutes on Saturday.
The top two in France both lost, enabling third-placed Paris Saint-Germain FC to stay in the title race with a 3-1 win at home to ES Troyes Aube Champagne. Olympique Lyonnais now hold just a two-point advantage over PSG after their 1-0 defeat at the hands of Lille OSC, but Lens are still six points clear at the summit despite their 2-1 defeat by FC Girondins de Bordeaux. Goals from Pauleta on the hour and Paulo Miranda five minutes from time ultimately moved Bordeaux up to sixth.
In Germany, BV Borussia Dortmund fired a warning to leaders Bayer 04 Leverkusen and the rest of the 1. Bundesliga with a 5-1 victory at SC Freiburg. Leverkusen kept up their title push with a 2-0 win against VfB Stuttgart on Saturday while FC Bayern München could only draw 0-0 away at 1. FC Kaiserslautern. Bayern are now just two points ahead of in-form Hertha BSC Berlin, whose Brazilian striker Alex Alves scored twice in a 3-0 win at SV Werder Bremen to lift them up to fourth in the table.
In Italy, Vincenzo Montella continued his blistering form with two goals as AS Roma overcame Atalanta BC 3-1 at the Olimpico stadium on Saturday night. The Italian international striker, who scored four against S.S. Lazio the week before, found the net on 17 and 67 minutes to ensure Roma stay top of the Serie A table.
Tight at the top
Internazionale FC and Juventus FC, sat a point behind Roma in second and third respectively before the weekend, both maintained their push for the Scudetto by picking up three points. Inter beat lowly US Lecce 2-1 after a double strike from Uruguayan forward Alvaro Recoba while Pavel Nedved's goal ensured Juventus FC bounced back from the disappointment of their Champions League exit last week with a 1-0 home win over Hellas-Verona FC.
No change in England
There was no change in the race for the FA Premiership title as the top three all won in England. David Beckham's first-time chip over England team-mate David James was one of eight goals as Manchester United FC retained their one-point lead at the top with a 5-3 win over West Ham United FC. Arsenal FC remain in second place with a game in hand after their 2-1 victory over Aston Villa FC at Villa Park, featuring a superb penalty save from David Seaman and a wonder goal from Robert Pires, while Liverpool FC are still just one point behind the London club after a 2-1 away win of their own against Middlesbrough FC.
Top two win again
The Ukrainian Premier League returned after the winter break with both FC Dynamo Kyiv and FC Shakhtar Donetsk recording impressive wins on Saturday. Dynamo were 5-0 winners over FC Zakarpattya while Shakhtar saw off FC Vorskla Poltava 4-0. It is very much a two-horse race with both sides having 36 points from 14 matches, although Dynamo have the better goal difference. In Russia, FC CSKA Moscow kept up their excellent start to the season with a 1-0 victory over FC Zenit St. Petersburg thanks to a last-minute goal from Rolan Gusev.
Mido just magic
Elsewhere, two goals from Mido helped AFC Ajax see off in-form SC Heerenveen 2-0 at the Amsterdam ArenA to stay top of the Dutch Eredivisie, Romanian leaders FC Dinamo Bucuresti continued their march towards the first division title with a 3-2 derby victory over FC Rapid Bucuresti and Peter Oforiquaye scored his second hat-trick in as many games as Olympiakos Piraeus FC beat Ethnikos Asteras 6-0 to stay top of the Ethniki Katigoria in Greece.
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