Top of the table clashes, never before seen penalties and goal of the season contenders. The week before Christmas had it all across Europe’s top five leagues.

La Liga

Barcelona held their spot at the top of the table with a 2-0 win over Celta de Vigo – Ousmane Dembélé and Lionel Messi scoring for the Blaugrana. Atlético Madrid did what they do best, defeating Espanyol by a goal to nil. Antoine Griezmann capped off his outstanding year with a goal to send Atléti outright 2nd.

Sevilla rescued a point in the 91st minute against Leganés, meaning they now sit in 3rd, just three points ahead of Real Madrid. Los Blancosmatch against Villarreal has been rescheduled for the 4th of January AEDT due to their involvement in the FIFA Club World Cup.

Valencia recorded just their fourth win of the season, defeating Huesca 2-1 with a stoppage time winner; Rayo Vallecano notched a crucial win over Levante to keep their survival hopes alive; while Athletic Bilbao and Real Valladolid played out a 1-1 draw.  

 

Bundesliga 

Borussia Dortmund made amends for their shock loss to Fortuna Düsseldorf midweek, defeating Borussia Mönchengladbach 2-1 in a top of the table clash. Jadon Sancho opened the scoring in the 42nd minute, before Christoph Kramer equalised for the visitors on the stroke of half-time. The home side regained the lead when Marco Reus tapped home from close range in the 54th, haunting his former side once again, and creating a nine point gap on their rivals in the process.

Bayern Munich continued their resurgence with a commanding 3-0 win away to Eintracht Frankfurt. Franck Ribéry netted a brace, while Rafinha added a third with what remains to be known whether it was a shot or a cross. Bayern sit in 2nd place and have closed the gap on Dortmund to six points.

RB Leipzig snatched a late winner over Werder Bremen putting them four points clear in 4th place, Schalke lifted themselves four points above the relegation play-off spot by defeating VfB Stuttgart 3-1, while Bayer Leverkusen recorded a crucial win over Hertha BSC in their hunt for a European spot.

 

Premier League 

There was another twist in this Premier League season as Manchester City suffered just their second loss of the season, going down 3-2 to Crystal Palace. A goal of the season contender from Andros Townsend helped the visitors record a shock victory against the English giants. Liverpool’s 2-0 win away to Wolves means that the Reds are now four points clear at the top of the table, as their search for a first Premier League title is alive as ever.

It was the perfect start for Ole Gunnar Solskjær, as Manchester United emphatically defeated Cardiff City 5-1. Paul Pogba returned to the starting line-up and provided two assists, while Jesse Lingard added two goals to his season tally.

Leicester City stunned Chelsea 1-0 at Stamford Bridge thanks to a Jamie Vardy strike in the 51st minute. Leicester have jumped to 9th on the table while Chelsea’s loss sees them sit in 4th, level on points with Arsenal. The Gunners got the job done against relegation battlers Burnley, thanks to a brace from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and a third from Alex Iwobi.

Spurs were rampant against Everton, winning 6-2 at Goodison Park. Braces to Son Hueng-Min and Harry Kane were added to by goals from Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen. Tottenham are now remarkably just two points behind Manchester City in 3rd.

Southampton jumped three points clear of the relegation zone as they defeated fellow strugglers Huddersfield 3-1, Newcastle and Fulham played out a 0-0 draw, while Watford recorded a 2-0 win away to West Ham to remain in the hunt for a Europa League spot.

  

Serie A

Juventus maintained their unbeaten start to the season with a 1-0 win over Roma, thanks to a Mario Mandžukić header. The Bianconeri have recorded 49 out of a possible 51 points and sit eight points clear atop the standings. The Romans have slipped to 10th, possibly spelling the end for Eusebio Di Francesco’s reign.

Milan’s horror month has continued as they fell 1-0 to Fiorentina at the San Siro. Federico Chiesa netted the winner late in the match, taking Viola to 7th place, just three points from a UEFA Champions League spot. The pressure continues to mount on Gennaro Gattuso who might soon be out of a job.

Inter crumbled late to bottom placed Chievo, who made it six consecutive draws. Sergio Pellissier 91st minute equaliser cancelled out Ivan Perišić’s opener, inflicting more pain on the Nerazzurri. Luciano Spalletti’s men, however, are still primed for a top 4 finish. Another who are certain to return to the Champions League are Napoli, who took care of SPAL 1-0 – Raúl Albiol proving the unlikely route to goal. The Neapolitans are making a firm case as the second-best team in Italy, as they open an eight-point lead over Inter.

Other results included 3-1 wins for Lazio and Genoa, against Cagliari and Atalanta respectively, as well as Sampdoria’s 4-2 victory away to Empoli.

 

Ligue 1

Paris Saint-Germain made it 15 wins from 17 matches as they defeated Nantes 1-0. Kylian Mbappe scored the game’s only goal to take his season tally to 13. Monaco’s season has gone from bad to worse, suffering a 2-0 home defeat to bottom placed Guingamp. The 2016/17 champions are four points from safety and, despite it only being Christmas, appear set for relegation.

Montpellier and Lyon played out a 1-1 draw, Lille went down 2-1 to Toulouse, and Marseille salvaged a point late away to Angers.

PSG are storming away with the Ligue 1 title, however the battle for European spots is as tight as ever with just five points separating 2nd through to 6th.

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Damon Palmar
damon@footballnationradio.com