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European Weekend Review: Pato And Messi Lead Their Clubs To Victory

The majority of the frontrunners in Europe’s leading leagues enjoyed a winning weekend, though Ligue 1 leaders Lille bucked the trend with a first defeat since October. Meanwhile, Barcelona and Milan rebounded from midweek Champions League defeats to grab valuable league victories.

Barcelona bounced back from their midweek Champions League defeat by Arsenal with a 2-1 Liga win against Athletic Bilbao. Josep Guardiola’s titleholders emerged victorious thanks to Lionel Messi’s 78th-minute goal, his 25th in the league this term. Real Madrid remain five points behind Barca having also won, 2-0 against Levante.

Inter Milan closed to within two points of leaders AC Milan on Saturday thanks to a 1-0 win against Cagliari. The Rossoneri responded well to Inter’s win as they beat Verona 2-1 courtesy of a late Pato strike. That win kept Milan three points clear of second-placed Napoli who beta Catania 1-0. Roma lead Genoa 3-0 before losing 4-3, a loss that cost Claudio Ranieri his job. Juventus’s season took another bad turn as they lost 2-0 at Lecce.

Ligue 1 pacesetters Lille were handed a surprise 1-0 defeat at Montpellier. Rudi Garcia’s side had not lost in the league since 24 October, but Younés Belhanda halted that run with an 84th-minute winner. That first league defeat in 14 matches enabled Rennes to cut Lille’s lead down to two points courtesy of a 2-1 win in the evening match at Toulouse.

Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund got back to their winning ways on Saturday when they defeated St Pauli 2-0. Dortmund are now 10 points ahead of second place Bayer Leverkusen after they beat Stuttgart 4-2. Titleholders Bayern Munich are a further three points back following their 3-1 victory against FSV Manz.

Upsets were conspicuous by their absence until the final FA Cup fixture of the weekend. While Manchester United and Manchester City negotiated their way past Crawley Town (1-0) and Notts County (5-0) respectively, Arsenal were held 1-1 at Leyton OrienC of the third tier on Sunday evening. Arsenal and United will meet in the quarter-finals should the Gunners win the replay, while City will now play Aston Villa in the fifth round for the right to face Everton or Reading in the last eight. David Moyes’ side beat holders Chelsea FC 4-3 on penalties in their fourth-round replay.

Celtic are now eight points ahead of Rangers after winning the Glasgow derby to extend their lead at the top of the Scottish Premier League. In Turkey, Fenerbahçe lead the way by a solitary point having prevailed 4-2 at Istanbul adversaries Beşiktaş.