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Leaders hold firm ahead of winter breaks

Published: Sunday 22 December 2013, 23.57CET
FC Barcelona and Juventus won again to enter their winter breaks in high spirits and Paris Saint-Germain increased their lead despite a draw, while Liverpool FC moved top in England.

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Published: Sunday 22 December 2013, 23.57CET

Leaders hold firm ahead of winter breaks

FC Barcelona and Juventus won again to enter their winter breaks in high spirits and Paris Saint-Germain increased their lead despite a draw, while Liverpool FC moved top in England.

Many of Europe's leading leagues entered winter breaks this weekend, and the teams on top will be able to warm themselves with thoughts of a job well done over the coming weeks. FC Barcelona won again in Spain to stay ahead of Club Atlético de Madrid on goal difference, Juventus maintained their cushion in Italy and Paris Saint-Germain increased their Ligue 1 lead despite a draw. In the Premier League, meanwhile, Liverpool moved to the summit ahead of a crunch fixture on Monday. recaps the action.

Barcelona signed off for the winter break at the head of the Liga thanks largely to a nine-minute hat-trick from Pedro Rodríguez. With Lionel Messi and Neymar both out, Pedro put Barcelona on top at Getafe CF after they had fallen 2-0 behind, before a pair of Cesc Fàbregas goals made it 5-2. "Pedro's secret is that he never gives up," said Barça coach Gerardo Martino afterwards. "That's why every coach ends up loving him." Martino's troops still lead the way on goal difference alone, however, as Atlético edged Levante UD 3-2, Diego Costa contributing a double. Five points back in third, Real Madrid CF triumphed 3-2 at Valencia CF, while fourth-placed Athletic Club saw off Real Valladolid CF 2-1.

Juventus can savour a five-point lead until Serie A resumes in January after sweeping aside Atalanta BC 4-1 to keep second-placed AS Roma – whom they face on 5 January – at a healthy distance. "The important thing is that we've ended 2013 on a high and now we'll make the most of the break to prepare ourselves for the match against Roma," said midfielder Claudio Marchisio. For their part, Roma overcame bottom club Calcio Catania 4-0, Medhi Benatia hitting a double, while third-placed SSC Napoli drew 1-1 at Cagliari Calcio. Sunday's Milan derby ended in a 1-0 victory for FC Internazionale Milano, Rodrigo Palacio hitting a late winner.

Paris increased their cushion to three points in their final outing of the year despite needing a Marko Baša own goal to salvage a 2-2 draw at home to third-placed LOSC Lille. Laurent Blanc's side nonetheless increased their advantage due a 2-1 reverse for AS Monaco FC at home to lowly Valenciennes FC on Friday. "We played a great game," said Blanc. "I'm satisfied with the performance, but not with the result. Lille defend very well." In fourth, FC Girondins de Bordeaux let slip a 2-0 lead in a 2-2 stalemate against sixth-placed Olympique de Marseille, with AS Saint-Étienne seeing off FC Nantes 2-0 to go fifth.

Liverpool moved to the top of the table ahead of Arsenal FC's Monday meeting with Chelsea FC thanks to a 3-1 defeat of Cardiff City FC, Luis Suárez scoring twice a day after signing a long-term contract extension. "What you see now is a set of principles and footballing ideas that we have been implementing over the course of 18 months here," said Reds manager Brendan Rodgers. "They are coming to fruition and the players are enjoying playing in it." One point back are Manchester City FC, who prevailed 4-2 at Fulham FC, while Everton FC moved into the top four by posting a 2-1 success at Swansea City AFC and Manchester United FC cruised to a 3-1 home victory against West Ham United FC.

It proved an excellent weekend for FC Bayern München in more ways than one, the Bundesliga pacesetters not only lifting the FIFA Club World Cup but profiting from losses for their closest rivals in the final fixtures of 2013. Second-placed Bayer 04 Leverkusen succumbed 1-0 at SV Werder Bremen, while Borussia Dortmund slipped to a 2-1 home reverse against Hertha BSC Berlin. "We can use the winter break and the rest very well," commented Schwarzgelben coach Jürgen Klopp. "Right now, none of my players would want to play another three or four games." Things got worse for Dortmund on Sunday when they dropped to fourth, leapfrogged by VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach following a 2-2 draw with VfL Wolfsburg.

AFC Ajax moved top in the Netherlands courtesy of a 2-1 success at Roda JC, jumping ahead of Vitesse on goal difference after their rivals could only draw 2-2 at Heracles Almelo. The big game in Belgium produced a 1-1 stalemate between leaders R. Standard de Liège and RSC Anderlecht, meanwhile, which allowed Club Brugge KV to climb within two points of Standard. Over in Romania, frontrunners FC Astra recorded a 1-1 draw with FC Steaua Bucureşti to keep their rivals three points back, with FC Petrolul Ploieşti two points shy in second, while Galatasaray AŞ beat Trabzonspor AŞ 2-1 in Turkey to close to within eight points of top dogs Fenerbahçe SK.

Last updated: 23/12/13 9.28CET