Arsenal FC, Real Sociedad, Olympique de Marseille and AC Milan are all on top at Christmas.
Real Sociedad, Olympique de Marseille, AC Milan and Arsenal FC ensured they would celebrate Christmas on top of their respective leagues while FC Barcelona bounced back from their recent domestic troubles in spectacular style.
Barcelona's 3-0 home defeat by Sevilla FC last Sunday moved them to within two points of the Primera División relegation zone and led to calls for coach Luis van Gaal's resignation. But six days later, Barcelona overcame high-flying RCD Mallorca 4-0, helped both by Alvaro Novo and Samuel Eto'o dismissals for the home team, and by Patrick Kluivert’s spectacular hat-trick.
Real extend lead
But it is unbeaten Real Sociedad who continue to dominate the Spanish top flight, opening up a seven-point lead going into the two-week long Christmas break with a 3-1 comeback win at bottom club RC Recreativo de Huelva, Nihat Kahveci scoring twice. Valencia CF slipped back in second as they dominated at home to RC Deportivo La Coruña but lost to Roy Makaay's early goal, Pablo Aimar seeing a penalty saved by Juanmi García. Real Madrid CF remain third after coming from two goals behind for the second consecutive week, this time to beat Málaga CF 3-2.
Marseille hold on
France’s Ligue 1 also takes a well-earned break after an opening 20 games that have seen the lead change hands almost weekly. Marseille were able to retain the first place they held going into Friday’s games with a 1-1 draw at home against AS Monaco FC, but just three points separate the top seven.
En Avant Guingamp beat AC Ajaccio 3-1, to move level on points with second-placed OGC Nice, held 0-0 by RC Strasbourg. Monaco are fourth, and in fifth are champions Olympique Lyonnais – who lost a one-goal lead in added time for the second week running in their 1-1 draw with CS Sedan-Ardennes, Henri Camara the man denying them two points and a place on top of the league. FC Sochaux-Montbéliard, 3-0 victors against RC Lens, and AJ Auxerre, whose game against Montpellier Hérault SC was postponed, are the other challengers.
Inter catch Milan
Milan remain top of Serie A, but like Marseille were held, drawing 0-0 at home to improving Brescia Calcio, who two weeks ago beat Juventus FC. S.S. Lazio had the chance to overtake Milan, but they themselves had to settle for a draw, 1-1 against Bologna FC. Internazionale FC took advantage to move level on points with their city rivals, as they won 2-1 at Parma AC. AC Chievo Verona beat lowly Como Calcio 2-0 to stay fourth and Juventus are fifth thanks to Mauro Camoranesi's added-time goal in overcoming AC Perugia 1-0.
English champions Arsenal FC lead the Premiership at Christmas for the first time in its eleven-season history as they moved two points clear with Sol Campbell and Robert Pires's goals at the end of each half beating ten-man Middlesbrough FC 2-0. Chelsea FC went second on Saturday as they gained a 2-0 win against Aston Villa FC, and held it the next day as Manchester United FC's eight-game winning run ended with a 1-0 defeat at Blackburn Rovers FC. Everton FC remain a point ahead of city rivals Liverpool FC in fourth after the teams drew Sunday’s Merseyside derby 0-0 at Anfield.
PSV, Rangers and Besiktas
In other leagues still in action, PSV Eindhoven kept their two-point Dutch first division lead over AFC Ajax with a 1-0 victory against SBV Vitesse, while Rangers FC and Beskitas JK both remain unbeaten in the Scottish and Turkish leagues respectively after winning their weekend matches against Partick Thistle FC and Bursaspor.