FC Barcelona and Liverpool FC's worries showed no signs of lifting while the French leadership changed hands.
The domestic fortunes of FC Barcelona and Liverpool FC showed no signs of improving on Sunday as both suffered defeats by clubs languishing in their respective relegation zones at the start of play.
Liverpool were undone by Sunderland AFC, going down 2-1, while Barça were thrashed 3-0 at home by Sevilla FC in a match which saw the Nou Camp faithful waving their white handkerchiefs with renewed vigour. The result left Barcelona in 13th place in the Primera División, 16 points behind leaders Real Sociedad and only two points above the relegation zone.
Van Gaal determined
"The most important thing for me is the unity between the coach and the players," said coach Louis van Gaal in a subdued post-match press conference. "I'll speak to the players tomorrow [Monday] and set about getting the team out of this."
No stopping Real
At the other end of the table, Real remain four points clear and unbeaten as they defeated fellow early pacesetters RCD Mallorca 2-1. Mallorca fell to seventh, but second-placed Valencia CF won 2-0 at Villarreal CF to keep in touch with Real. Real Madrid CF drew 2-2 with RC Recreativo de Huelva.
Liverpool's defeat leaves them further off the Premiership pace, although Arsenal FC could only draw 1-1 at Tottenham Hotspur FC in the north London derby. The champions' lead is now just a point after resurgent Manchester United FC thrashed the bottom club West Ham United FC 3-0 on Saturday. Chelsea FC drop to third after drawing 1-1 at Middlesbrough FC, with Everton FC, for whom 17-year-old Wayne Rooney scored the winner in a 2-1 victory against Blackburn Rovers FC, close behind.
Milan lead Lazio
In Italy, Serie A leaders AC Milan overcame winless Como Calcio 2-1 thanks to Andriy Shevkenko's decisive strike, while S.S. Lazio held on to second, a point behind, after they came from behind to defeat Juventus FC 2-1 away - a pair of Stefano Fiore strikes cancelling out Pavel Nedved's opening goal. Mohamed Kallon kept Internazionale FC in third with the only goal against Atalanta BC, while AC Chievo Verona leapfrogged Juve by beating Piacenza FC 3-0.
Bayern lead reduced
FC Bayern München saw their German 1. Bundesliga lead cut to six points going into the six-week winter break as they were held 0-0 by fourth-placed FC Schalke 04. Chief challengers BV Borussia Dortmund cruised to a 4-0 win at bottom club FC Energie Cottbus, while SV Werden Bremen, in third, beat struggling VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach 2-0. VfL Wolfsburg played their first game at their new €50m Volkswagen-Arena stadium, but lost 2-1 to VfB Stuttgart.
Victory for visitors
AFC Ajax lost their unbeaten record and their Dutch first division lead as PSV Eindhoven carved out a 4-2 victory at the Amsterdam ArenA. Ajax's 4000th goal since the introduction of professional football in the Netherlands 48 years ago could not spur them to victory as the visitors established a two-point lead at the Dutch summit. Feyenoord remain third after thrashing AZ Alkmaar 6-1.
Marseille edge ahead
The French Ligue 1 lead changed hands yet again, this time in favour of Olympique de Marseille who beat CS Sedan-Ardennes 2-1 on Saturday. Four teams could have overhauled them the following day, but none won. Previous leaders OGC Nice lost 4-0 to FC Girondins de Bordeaux, while Olympique Lyonnais were denied by Abdoulaye Cissé's last-minute equaliser for Montpellier Hérault SC in a 1-1 draw. AS Monaco climbed to third with a 4-0 victory against En Avant Guingamp, who are sixth behind AJ Auxerre, held 0-0 by FC Strasbourg.