It was a weekend of mixed fortunes for the eight sides preparing for this week's UEFA Champions League quarter-final second-legs with Europe's title races taking more dramatic twists.
In Spain, RC Deportivo La Coruña, who meet Manchester United FC on Wednesday, prepared in the best possible way by seeing off RCD Mallorca 5-0. It was a particularly useful exercise for Diego Tristán. The striker has been criticised for his late tackle on United's David Beckham in last week's first-leg 2-0 defeat but bounced back with a hat-trick. He has since apologised for the foul, which left Beckham with severe bruising.
United scrape win
United, without Beckham, Roy Keane and Juan Sebastian Verón, warmed up by scraping past relegated Leicester City FC 1-0 in the English FA Premiership. After the weekend action, United are two points behind leaders Arsenal FC but have played a game more. Arsenal saw off Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 in the north London derby after a late penalty winner from Lauren.
Madrid move on
Another of Spain's Champions League contenders, Real Madrid CF, won 3-1 at the Santiago Bernabéu to stay just ahead of Valencia CF at the top of the Primera División. Valencia were 4-0 winners over Real Sociedad and are second on goal difference. Madrid welcome FC Bayern München to the capital on Wednesday, knowing they have to turn around a 2-1 deficit from the first leg. Bayern had a less productive weekend, drawing 2-2 at home against SV Werder Bremen in the 1. Bundesliga. The champions led twice only to be pegged back each time.
Leverkusen look likely
Bayern's chances of retaining the title look slim, especially as leaders Bayer 04 Leverkusen, who welcome Liverpool FC to the BayArena tomorrow night for their Champions League quarter-final second leg, beat 1. FC Köln 2-0. Leverkusen's biggest domestic rivals are UEFA Cup hopefuls BV Borussia Dortmund, who saw off TSV 1860 München 2-1. Dortmund are four points behind with four matches remaining.
Two of Europe's elite eight enjoyed a restful weekend ahead of the big Champions League action. While United and Arsenal were battling it out in England, third-placed Liverpool were able to put their feet up with no game to play before that crunch match against Leverkusen. Liverpool will be defending a 1-0 lead in Germany.
Barcelona beat Bilbao
Also enjoying a relaxing time were Panathinaikos FC, after their match against Ionikos was postponed. The Greek club, who look to be out of the running for the domestic title, won special permission on Friday to call off Saturday's game. Coach Sergio Markarian had complained his side were tired in last Tuesday's 1-0 quarter-final first-leg victory over FC Barcelona. Barcelona had no such luck. The Catalan club were in action on Saturday and returned from Athletic Club Bilbao with a 2-0 triumph.
Inter fail to impress
As well as Dortmund, three other sides will be in UEFA Cup action on Thursday. The most disappointing weekend performance of the four semi-finalists came for Internazionale FC. The Italian leaders were beaten 1-0 in last week's first-leg match against Feyenoord and followed that up on Sunday with a 2-1 home defeat by Atalanta BC. With four games remaining in Serie A, Inter have 62 points, with AS Roma two points behind and Juventus FC third on 59 points. Juventus were 4-0 winners over AC Perugia while relegated AC Venezia held Roma 2-2.
Inter's city rivals Milan AC were soundly beaten 4-0 by Dortmund in last week's UEFA Cup semi-final first-leg and struggled to impress in a 1-1 draw against AC Chievo Verona. Milan are battling it out with Chievo for a place in next season's Champions League, seemingly a more likely prospect than a place in this season's UEFA Cup final.
Ajax still on top
Feyenoord did not have the best of times in preparation for Inter's visit on Thursday, drawing 0-0 at home against NAC Breda in the Dutch Eredivise. PSV Eindhoven closed the gap on Feyenoord with a 1-0 victory at lowly FC Den Bosch, thanks to Jan Venegoor of Hesselink's 55th-minute goal, but AFC Ajax, who did not play over the weekend, stay top of the standings with 61 points from 30 matches. Feyenoord remain second, ahead of PSV on goal difference with both teams on 57 points from 29 matches.
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