Two of the leading attacking players in European football, Pablo Aimar and Patrick Kluivert, struck weekend hat-tricks as Valencia CF and FC Barcelona warmed up for UEFA Champions League duties with victories in Spain.
Camp Nou masterclass
Valencia, who travel to Liverpool FC on Matchday Five on Wednesday, thrashed Athletic Club Bilbao 5-1, John Carew and Fabio Aurelio adding to Aimar's treble. Los Che, though, were outscored by Barça who produced a Camp Nou masterclass to defeat Deportivo Alavés 6-1, Kluivert stealing the show.
Real on top
The presence of Ronaldo could not lift Real Madrid CF as they were held 1-1 by Villarreal CF, while RC Deportivo La Coruña ended a run of disappointing domestic results with a 2-1 win at Rayo Vallecano. Real Sociedad are top of the Primera División after a 2-1 victory at home to Real Racing Club Santander.
England's quartet of Champions League challengers also experienced differing weekend results. Liverpool took advantage of Arsenal FC's new-found porosity to extend their lead at the Premiership summit to four points. Michael Owen converted his first penalty of the season from three attempts to seal a 2-1 win against Tottenham Hotspur FC after Dean Richards had cancelled out Danny Murphy's opener for Liverpool.
Mixed bag for Edu
While a 2-1 scoreline favoured Liverpool, Arsenal crashed to their third defeat in a week by that margin as Blackburn Rovers FC won at Highbury. Edu, the Arsenal midfield player, scored spectacular goals at both ends before Dwight Yorke ensured maximum points for Rovers. Yorke's former clubs, Manchester United FC and Aston Villa FC, drew 1-1 at Old Trafford. Newcastle United FC built on their 1-0 success against Juventus FC with a 2-1 home triumph against Charlton Athletic FC.
Inter on top
Internazionale FC prepared for Wednesday's visit to Rosenborg BK by taking a three-point lead at the top of Serie A thanks to a 2-0 victory over fifth-placed Bologna FC. Goals from Marco Materazzi and Christian Vieri inflicted a first defeat of the season on Bologna as Inter took full advantage of neighbours AC Milan's loss at AC Chievo Verona on Saturday. Despite a goal on his comeback from Andriy Shevchenko, Milan went down 3-2.
The fit-again Marcelo Salas, meanwhile, scored the only goal as Juventus beat Udinese Calcio 1-0 to climb to third place. AS Roma drew 2-2 with city rivals S.S. Lazio, Dejan Stankovic's 74th-minute equaliser denying the Giallorossi victory after Marco Delvecchio and Gabriel Batistuta had replied to Stefano Fiore's opener. It is out of the frying pan and into the fire for Roma who visit Group C leaders Madrid on Wednesday.
Two goals from Brazilian forward Ewerthon sealed a fine 4-1 win at SV Werder Bremen on Saturday and allowed BV Borussia Dortmund to close the gap on leaders FC Bayern München to three points. Bayern were held 3-3 at home by Hannover 96 but perhaps had an eye on tomorrow's crucial Champions League trip to Deportivo - nothing less than a victory will see Bayern eliminated from the competition. Bayer 04 Leverkusen drew 1-1 at Hertha BSC Berlin.
Nice lose ground
In France, two goals from Brazilian playmaker Ronaldinho helped Paris Saint-Germain FC to a 3-0 victory over Olympique de Marseille, but AJ Auxerre retained top spot as Olivier Kapo gave them victory against Stade Rennais FC. OGC Nice lost ground after a goalless draw with RC Lens, who will need similar resolve to fend off Milan on Tuesday night.
AEK on the up
The Hellenic National League resumed on Saturday after a one-month break and AEK Athens FC took advantage of Olympiakos Piraeus FC's 1-1 draw at FC PAOK Thessaloniki to move two points clear after their 1-0 defeat of Kallithea GS. AEK meet KRC Genk on Wednesday, 24 hours after Olympiakos's trip to Leverkusen.
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