With striker Pato leaving for SC Corinthians Paulista, Milan resumed training on 30 December, but their warm-up game against fourth-tier Pro Patria on 3 January was abandoned after Milan players walked off in protest at racist chanting from the stands. "We must react with force and without silence to isolate the few criminals that transformed a friendly match into an uproar that offends all of Italian football," said Italian Football Federation president Giancarlo Abete. The club showed their commitment to the cause, wearing shirts bearing the slogan 'AC Milan against racism' ahead of their 2-1 win against AC Siena on Sunday.
Unlike most of Europe the Gunners were in league action over the festive period, and made it four Premier League wins in a row with a 7-3 victory against Newcastle United FC on 29 December, Theo Walcott scoring a hat-trick. A New Year's Day draw at Southampton FC leaves them sixth in the table. Their fixture congestion was not eased by a 2-2 FA Cup draw with Swansea City AFC at the weekend. "I didn't want a replay," said Arsène Wenger. "But if that is the choice between going out or staying in the hat then I would take the replay." His pool of players has diminished, too, with Marouane Chamakh (West Ham United FC) and Johan Djourou (Hannover 96) sent out on loan until the end of the season.
Dortmund are at a training camp at La Manga, Spain until 12 January, getting back up to speed following a two-week Christmas break. They will play a friendly against Belgian side KV Mechelen, followed by a tournament when they will face Fortuna Düsseldorf 1895 and then either R. Standard de Liège or 1. FSV Mainz 05. Dortmund ended the autumn with a 5-1 win against Hannover 96 to go through to the German Cup quarter-finals, but the champions are 12 points behind Bundesliga leaders FC Bayern München. Coach Jürgen Klopp said the first half of the season was "not world-class, but decent enough" and promised: "We'll have a better second half of the campaign. In the first half, we conceded one or two too many goals."
The Bhoys went into their brief winter break nine points clear at the top of the table following a 1-0 win against Motherwell FC on 2 January. The players have been granted some time off before travelling to Marbella for a week's training, and are due to face FC Steaua Bucureşti in a friendly on 15 January. "Two weeks off is great," said manager Neil Lennon. "They can then meet up and have a good week in a different environment and enjoy a change of scenery." The Hoops are back in league action at home against Heart of Midlothian FC on 19 January, with a Scottish League Cup semi-final against Saint Mirren FC to come on 27 January.
Coach Tito Vilanova attended his team's first training session of the year on 2 January after undergoing cancer treatment prior to the winter break. The Liga leaders ended 2012 with a 3-1 victory away to Real Valladolid CF and continued their record-breaking start to the campaign with a 4-0 triumph at home to local rivals RCD Espanyol at the weekend. "I'm always confident that we can win but when there is a ten-day break you always have your doubts," Vilanova said. "I have to say, though, that the players have come back in great shape." Indeed, Lionel Messi collected the FIFA Ballon d'Or for the fourth time on Monday.
FC Bayern München
Bayern sealed their place in the German Cup fourth round on 18 December and the squad then had 14 days of free time. They reconvened on 2 January and, for the third successive year, are having a winter training camp in Qatar. Sporting director Matthias Sammer stresses it is no holiday, though. "I'm reading a lot about winter sun and how it's all wonderful and nice but pleasant conditions don't win you trophies. We're going to work uncompromisingly hard." Bayern won 5-0 against a tired-looking FC Schalke 04 in Doha today and have a couple more friendlies on returning to Europe before resuming their Bundesliga campaign at home to bottom side SpVgg Greuther Fürth on 19 January.
The Dragons are unbeaten since their matchday six defeat at Paris Saint-Germain FC, winning two and drawing one. The postponement of their trip to Vitória FC due to a waterlogged pitch meant Vítor Pereira's side went four weeks without a Liga match before Saturday's 1-0 win against CD Nacional, but they remain three points adrift of leaders SL Benfica. Two Portuguese League Cup group games kept them ticking over during that break, and the excitement that attracted 13,000 fans to the Estádio do Dragão for open training after new year was palpable. "The main aim for this season is to retain the national title and maintain our character and personality," said goalkeeper Helton.
FC Schalke 04
After going seven games without a win, the end of 2012 could not come soon enough for Schalke, who dropped to seventh in the Bundesliga table and were eliminated from the German Cup by 1. FSV Mainz 05. Not an ideal start for new coach Jens Keller, but after a 14-day break, they flew to Qatar to resume training. They beat an al-Sadd side featuring Raúl González 3-2 yet then lost 5-0 to Bayern in another warm-up match today. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Marco Höger have signed contract extensions, and Keller is eager to get down to business. "I will try to introduce the style of football I have in my head," he said. "We must be able to switch our style of play quickly in both directions and make the most of our technical ability."
FC Shakhtar Donetsk
Today marks the end of Shakhtar's winter break, with the team preparing to ship out to the United Arab Emirates on 14 January to take part in a friendly tournament featuring FC Zenit St Petersburg, with an exhibition game against FK Lokomotiv Tashkent also pencilled in. A second training camp in Spain from 24 January will coincide with another friendly competition, with everything geared towards the round of 16 opener against Borussia Dortmund on 13 February. "I am confident that my team and Mircea Lucescu know what to do in order for Shakhtar to be in excellent physical form come the match against Borussia," said fitness coach Carlo Nicolini. "The mental component is more difficult, but we will do our best."
Turkish league leaders Galatasaray reconvened on 2 January, travelling to Antalya the following day for a training camp that will run until the 13th. Czech defender Tomáš Ujfaluši is back in training after five months out with a cruciate injury. There are three notable absentees: Morocco winger Nordin Amrabat and Ivory Coast defender Emmanuel Eboué are on duty at the Africa Cup of Nations, while out-of-favour Brazilian defender Cris has left for Grêmio FBPA after his contract was cancelled by mutual consent.
La Vecchia Signora closed 2012 with an eight-point lead atop of Serie A, but they received an early jolt in 2013, losing 2-1 at home to UC Sampdoria on Sunday. The team's seven-day Christmas break ended on 28 December, though they are without long-term absentees Nicklas Bendtner (thigh) and Giorgio Chiellini (calf). With Kwadwo Asamoah playing for Ghana at the Africa Cup of Nations, Juventus have signed left-back Federico Peluso from Atalanta BC as cover. "We want to win the Scudetto again," said coach Antonio Conte. "The Champions League is only a dream, but if a miracle happens we will be the first to celebrate."
A 3-2 win against Real Madrid CF on 21 December kicked off an extended seasonal break for Málaga, who did not return to training until 2 January. The squad – including the newly-crowned winner of Italian newspaper Tuttosport's 2012 Golden Boy trophy, Isco – returned to work with long-term injury absentees Júlio Baptista (Achilles) and Jérémy Toulalan (hamstring) making good progress as they near returns. "We have important games coming up in January and the winter break arrived at just the right time for several players, who were feeling the weight of having competed hard on three fronts," said coach Manuel Pellegrini, whose side suffered a 1-0 loss to RC Deportivo La Coruña on their return on Saturday.
Manchester United FC
Sir Alex Ferguson's men enjoyed a constructive Christmas period, as they stretched their lead at the top of the Premier League table to seven points. They did not have it all their own way, as they were forced to come from behind three times before eventually seeing off Newcastle United FC 4-3 in the last minute. "The excitement of games like the win over Newcastle gets everyone going," said Ferguson. "You'd rather do without it, but being the manager of Manchester United you have to relish it and expect it to happen. That's just the club. That's how it is." Robin van Persie has scored seven in as many games, including a late equaliser in Saturday's 2-2 draw at West Ham United FC in the FA Cup.
Paris Saint-Germain FC
A 3-0 win at Stade Brestois 29 on 21 December meant Carlo Ancelotti's were 'champion d'automne' (autumn champions), and they celebrated with a seven-day break before meeting up again in Doha, Qatar, on 28 December. With new signing Lucas Moura getting a first run-out, PSG beat local side Lekhwiyza Sports Club 5-1 in a friendly game on 2 January, though Nenê picked a calf injury during the game, and full-back Sylvain Armand would miss Sunday's 4-3 Coupe de France win against Arras Football through injury.
Real Madrid CF
A crowd of 7,000 gathered to watch Madrid's first training session after Christmas on 30 December, with the 3-2 Liga defeat against Málaga CF on the 21st – José Mourinho's 400th match as a coach – having provided a less than ideal seasonal send-off. "The league is becoming very difficult but we have to keep fighting," defender Sergio Ramos said. Centre-back Pepe has joined the long-term absentee list with an ankle problem, but striker Gonzalo Higuaín returned to action after two months on the sidelines with a hamstring injury in Sunday's 4-3 victory against Real Sociedad de Fútbol.
Recently-appointed coach Ernesto Valverde explained how he was trying "to instil a winning attitude" within his squad after witnessing the team return from their winter break with a second successive Liga victory, Granada CF the victims. The players returned to training on 29 December without wide man Jérémy Mathieu, who continues to be troubled by chronic Achilles tendon problems. Midfielder Sofiane Feghouli, meanwhile, committed his short-term future to the club by penning a two-year contract extension shortly before he joined up with Algeria for the Africa Cup of Nations.
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