• Friday, 26 February 2010

    Ligue 1 round 26

    Lorient v Sochaux
    Nancy v Grenoble
    Monaco v Boulogne
    Lyon v Nice
    Toulouse v Lens
    Valenciennes v St Etienne
    Montpellier v Rennes
    Le Mans v Bordeaux
    Lille v Auxerre
    PSG v Marseille

    In any normal season, Marseille's trip to the capital would be an obvious pick for game of the week. Not so this time. PSG are just awful, Marseille are not. Away win.

    Bordeaux had a week off last time round and get back to it up at Le Mans where they ought not to have a problem. Montpellier's chase suffered somewhat with defeat and they've a tough task at home to Rennes to get back on it and, if they stumble again, there's a host of clubs waiting to take up the baton. Lille are the most likely and come off the back of a good result in Europe in going through against Fenerbahce, but face a tough game this weekend at home to Auxerre who themselves could take up the cudgels. Lyon are another of them and they shouldn't have an issue in beating Nice. Monaco have dropped away a bit, but will beat Boulogne this weekend - Boulogne being absolutely dreadful - and that will put the Monagasques back in the frame.

    Grenoble are now 16 points from safety. With 13 games to go, that's an Eiger of a mountain to climb to get out of it. Defeat at Nancy this week and any lingering doubt of their relegation will disappear. Other club's woes down at the bottom have helped St Etienne keep their heads above water and they're at Valenciennes this week and there are mid-table skirmishes in Lorient and Toulouse where the respective visitors are Sochaux and Lens.

    Bundesliga round 24

    Schalke v Dortmund
    Hertha v Hoffenheim
    Mainz v Bremen
    Monchengladbach v Freiburg
    Bochum v Nurnberg
    Stuttgart v Eintracht
    Leverkusen v Cologne
    Hannover v Wolfsburg
    Bayern v Hamburg

    Top game needs no real big build-up: it's Schalke v Dortmund in the Friday night game. While Schalke go into the game third and very much in the running for the title, they come into the game on the back of a loss against Wolfsburg. Dortmund had a bit of a wobble over the last few weeks, but battered woeful Hannover last week to restore a bit of confidence. Trying to draw a form line is pretty pointless. This is one of the big derbies in Europe and form counts for little.

    Elsewhere, Bayern welcome Hamburg to the Allianz Arena in what looks a tasty clash. Hamburg squeezed through in the Europa League, away goals enough to beat PSV, but could welcome Ruud van Nistelrooy back after he missed last week's stalemate with Eintracht. Bayern haven't been at their swashbuckling best, but are still grinding out the results. With players like Ribéry and Robben, they're always capable of something special, often enough to see them through. Leverkusen continue to lead and their unbeaten record shouldn't be troubled by Cologne who are in terrible form.

    Woflsburg came to life last week, a Grafite double enough to beat Schalke, and scored a stunning win in Europe over the week by blitzing Villarreal 4-1. It's far too late to mount a proper defence of their title, but Hannover won't present anything like the challenge the Yellow Submarine did and perhaps Die Wolfe can get something out of this sorry season. Bremen also won well in Europe, also 4-1 against FC Twente, and have been buoyed by Aaron Hunt committing to the club long term. Hopefully, he'll be back for the trip to Mainz who are a tough proposition at home. Stuttgart continue to rise and had a decent result in Europe in midweek with a draw at home to Barcelona. Cacau is man bang in form and angling for a World Cup berth and a decent performance against Eintracht won't hurt. Elsewhere, two of the bottom four have tough away trips to negotiate. Gladbach and Bochum will both start short-odds favourites to see off Freiburg and Nurnberg respectively.

    Eredivisie round 26

    Den Haag v Roda
    Heerenveen v Heracles
    Vitesse v AZ
    Willem II v VVV Venlo
    Ajax v Utrecht
    Groningen v Feyenoord
    PSV v Waalwijk
    Sparta v NAC
    Twente v NEC

    A bad week in Europe for the remaining Dutch clubs saw the top three in the Eredivisie all bow out. Ajax went down to Juventus, PSV beat Hamburg but lost on away goals and Twente were dismantled by a white hot Werder Bremen. That's a blow, but they remain far and away out in front of the rest domestically. What that says about the relative strength of the league is quite probably obvious.

    Back to league action then and the top three are all at home again. The pick of these is Utrecht's trip to Amsterdam to play Ajax. Utrecht have faded a little, but are still a decent side and could spring a shock here. Could do, but probably won't. Twente face NEC who have proved a tricky side for the Tukkers over the years, but you'd still fancy Steve McClaren's men to prevail. PSV, meanwhile, face rock bottom Waalwijk. Home win.

    Willem II face VVV Venlo with time against them. They're in rotten form and need to turn it round quick. They simply don't look capable. Den Haag are at home to Roda in the other relegation clash. Heracles and AZ are both well in the frame for European football and AZ can take another step forward with a win over Vitesse who aren't up to much. Heracles face improving Heerenveen. Feyenoord look set for fourth, but if they keep dropping points, they could have a sweat on by the end of the season. Groningen are one of the form teams in the division and can give the chasers something to aim at by turning the Rotterdammers over.

    Monday, 22 February 2010

    St Etienne halt Montpellier charge: Ligue 1 reviews

    Bordeaux P-P Auxerre
    Boulogne 1-3 Le Mans
    Nice 1-0 Lorient
    Grenoble 0-1 Valenciennes
    Lens 3-0 Monaco
    St Etienne 1-0 Montpellier
    PSG 1-0 Toulouse
    Marseille 3-1 Nancy
    Sochaux 0-4 Lyon
    Rennes 1-2 Lille

    With Bordeaux not playing, Montpellier had the chance to go level with the champions if they could beat lowly St Etienne. Substitute Emmanuel Riviere turned in a Blaise Matuidi cross late on to deny the southerners. That slip allowed Lille to close within a point as they won away at Rennes, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with a last-minute winner. Pierre-Alain Frau had given LOSC the lead on ten minutes only for Jerome Leroy to level it quarter of an hour later. Lyon are a point further back after a first-half hat-trick from Michel Bastos helped them to a big win over Sochaux. Lisandro Lopez added a fourth late on for Les Gones. Another hat-trick, this time from Mamadou Niang, saw Marseille to a healthy win over Nancy. His first came ten minutes in, but Nancy were level through Andre Luiz within three minutes. Niang sent OM into half-time in front and added a third twenty minutes from time to wrap up the win. And they still have that game in hand to come.

    Down at the bottom, Grenoble lost yet again, at home to Valenciennes, Carlos Sanchez with the only goal of the game. Le Mans won the big six-pointer against Boulogne and did it quite convincingly. Two goals in three minutes around the half-hour put them en route to victory, Mathieu Dossevi and Grégory Cerdan sending Le Mans into half time in good order. Mustapha Yatabaré pulled one back halfway through the second half, but Modibo Maiga sealed it in the last minute. They remain six points behind Nice and safety though as Loic Remy's penalty earned Nice all three points against Lorient.

    The pressure on Antoine Kombouaré was eased slightly thanks to a win over bipolar Toulouse. Albin Ebondo was sent off for Les Violets 22 minutes into the game and Guillaume Hoarau scored the resultant penalty. They couldn't add to that despite the extra man, but it's a valuable three points for the Parisians. Monaco's slump continues as they went down heavily up in Lens. Issam Jemaa and Sébastien Roudet sent the Sang et Or into the break two up and a Henri Nsame penalty early in the second half sent Monaco crashing.

    Top three all stumble: Bundesliga reviews

    Hoffenheim 2-2 Monchengladbach
    Cologne 1-5 Stuttgart
    Nurnberg 1-1 Bayern
    Dortmund 4-1 Hannover
    Hamburg 0-0 Eintracht
    Mainz 0-0 Bochum
    Freiburg 0-3 Hertha
    Bremen 2-2 Leverkusen
    Wolfsburg 2-1 Schalke

    The top three were all leading their games this weekend, but all three were pegged back. It's not had a massive effect on the table though, as none of the chasers could take advantage. Leverkusen still lead by a single goal after a pulsating draw at Bremen. Twice they led, first when Eren Derdiyok fired in a superb free-kick on the half hour. Five minutes later, Naldo blasted an effort towards the Leverkusen goal and Rene Adler had a shocker, spilling the ball backwards between his legs where Claudio Pizarro followed in to make sure. Quarter of an hour after the break, Toni Kroos blazed in a beauty from 30 yards to restore the lead and that looked like being enough until Per Mertesacker headed powerfully past Adler from point blank range to earn a deserved point. Wunderkind Thomas Muller put Bayern ahead just before the break with a tidy finish, opening his body out and placing it in the top corner from a Mario Gomez cross. Lowly Nurnberg were gifted a route back into the game by a mistake from Hans-Jorg Butt who spilled a routine catch into the path of Ilkay Gundogan who, at the second attempt, bundled it in. Grafite finally came to life for Wolfsburg as they came from behind to beat Schalke, spoiling Felix Magath's return to the VW-Arena. Die Wolfe played a lot better than recently and could have gone in front early on, Zvjezdan Misimovic smashing a free-kick off the crossbar, but it was a nicely placed Kevin Kuranyi header that opened the scoring on the half hour. Into the second half, Edin Dzeko and Grafite both hit the bar in the space of a second as the Schalke goal led a charmed life, but Manuel Neuer was finally beaten twenty minutes from the end, Grafite heading in a looping cross that tempted Neuer to come just a bit too far. Six minutes later, the big Brazilian left Neuer stranded as he blasted Christian Gentner's cross high into the roof of the net.

    Hamburg were held to a goalless draw at home by Eintracht whose neighbours Mainz were also held to 0-0, at home against Bochum. Stuttgart and Dortmund both won big to pull themselves back towards contention. Hannover coach Mirko Slomka labelled his charges "a bunch of schoolboys" after Dortmund dished out a 4-1 kicking. Neven Subotic put BvB in front on the stroke of half-time, but it was Mario Eggiman's own goal on the hour that sent Hannover into a downward spiral. Nelson Valdez added a third and, though Arouna Koné pulled one back, Kevin Grosskreutz made it four a couple of minutes from time. Stuttgart went one better, sticking five past Cologne. Cacau got four of them, three of them before the break. Christopher Schorch got one back a minute out from half-time, but Pavel Pogrebnyak and Cacau's fourth sent Cologne tumbling to defeat. It looked like Hoffenheim were heading towards another defeat, but they turned it round at home to Gladbach. A harsh penalty - no doubt that Christian Eichner handled the ball, but he was outside the box - from Filip Daems put Gladbach ahead and Roberto Colautti made it two early in the second half. Vedad Ibisevic had missed a couple of golden opportunities in the first half and pulled one back to settle an increasingly uneasy crowd at the Rhein-Neckar Arena and a last-minute Carlos Eduardo penalty rescued a point.

    Finally, Hertha recorded win number three of the campaign which brings them within sight of safety. They're now just four points adrift of Freiburg and Bundesliga football for the 2010/11 season and it was they who were defeated. After Gustavo Ramos put the Berliners ahead, Cícero struck twice to win it and give his side a fighting chance of staving off what looked even a month ago as the inevitable.

    PSV lead cut to one: Eredivisie reviews

    Roda 2-1 Heracles
    NAC 0-2 Utrecht
    Waalwijk 1-2 Heerenveen
    VVV Venlo 3-3 AZ
    NEC 0-2 Groningen
    Feyenoord 2-2 Den Haag
    Ajax 4-0 Vitesse
    PSV 1-1 Sparta
    Twente 1-0 Willem II

    For most of Sunday, a day on which the top four were all in action on their own turf, it looked like little was going to change. Twente laboured for long periods against lowly Willem II before Peter Wisgerhof bundled in an ugly goal after a real scramble in the six-yard box as the Tilburgers failed to clear. Ajax were cruising to yet another comfortable win - another four taking them to 69 for the season with ten games to go. They were three up on Vitesse by half time, Siem de Jong with a great late arrival in the box for the first, Luis Suarez with his obligatory goal and Paul Verhaegh heading over his own keeper for an own goal third. Vitesse offered de Jong far too much space early in the second half and he rifled in a fourth. None of this mattered to PSV who were moving serenely on against Sparta with Otman Bakkal volleying in on 14 minutes. One goal has been enough on any number of occasions for them recently, but it does leave you open to something unlikely. And the unlikely finally happened three minutes into stoppage time - virtually the last touch of the game. A cross swung in from the right was met with a neat, glancing header by Rydell Poepon and PSV had failed for the first time to close a game out.

    Feyenoord dropped more points, Danny Buijs equalising in the last minute for struggling ADO. That leaves the Rotterdammers eleven adrift of Ajax who are one place above them and eight clear of fifth placed AZ who also drew. They were involved in a six-goal thriller against VVV Venlo. They blew a two-goal lead after seeming to take control with two in two minutes mid-way through the second half. Pontus Wernbloom put the champions ahead on the half hour, but VVV were level ten minutes into the second half through Adil Auassar. Simon Poulsen and Mounir El Hamdaoui struck within seconds of one another just after the hour to re-eastablish control, but Ruben Schaken pulled one back and, quarter of an hour from the end, Michael Uchebo squared it up.

    Utrecht had their game held up for the second time in a week due to abusive chanting towards the referee. This time it wasn't the Utrecht fans, but the NAC supporters who were aggrieved over the first half dismissal of Anthony Lurling. NAC were already behind by then, Nana Asare having scored moments before Lurling saw red. After the resumption, Dries Mertens made it safe for Utrecht four minutes from the end. NEC's recent good run came to a shuddering halt at home to in-form Groningen. Even Leandro Bacuna's sending off didn't hurt, Groningen already two up and in control by then. NEC had been unravelled by then anyway. Waalwijk looked good for a point, but were denied by a Gerald Sibon penalty six minutes from time. That was his second of the game having put Heerenveen in front early on. Benjamin de Ceulaer had equalised, but RKC slipped to yet another loss, their twentieth of a rotten season. Heracles slipped to a defeat despite Everton putting them ahead on eight minutes. Davy de Fauw equalised for Roda quarter for an hour from the end and when Anouar Hadouir missed from the penalty spot with seven minutes left, Heracles could have been forgiven for thinking they'd escaped with a point. But if they did lose focus, then they paid for it, Marcel de Jong winning it for Roda in the last minute.

    Ten games to go and PSV, still unbeaten, lead by a point from Twente who are six clear of Ajax.

    Friday, 19 February 2010

    Montpellier continue the chase: Ligue 1 reviews

    Monaco 1-2 Marseille
    Valenciennes 2-1 Nice
    Le Mans 0-0 Sochaux
    Nancy 0-0 PSG
    Montpellier 1-0 Grenoble
    Lille 3-1 Boulogne
    Lyon 1-0 Lens
    Auxerre 1-0 Rennes
    Lorient 1-1 Toulouse
    Bordeaux 3-1 St Etienne

    Montpellier went level on points with Bordeaux at the top of Ligue 1 for a time over last weekend after beating Grenoble 1-0. Coming off the back of a mighty 5-0 drubbing of Auxerre, GF38 couldn't be underestimated and were certainly not the easy-beats the table would have you imagine. Victor Montano's ninth of the season was enough to see them off. Bordeaux responded by beating St Etienne quite comfortably. Wendel struck twice and Marouane Chamakh got the other in a relatively easy win. Lille kept up the pressure, beating lowly Boulogne 3-1 with Ludovic Obraniak getting two. Marseille beat fading Monaco and Lyon just needed a single goal to beat Lens while Auxerre had a 35-yard lob from Ireneusz Jelen to thank for victory over Rennes as that trio hold position in behind the top three.

    Le Mans could only draw with ten-man Sochaux and remain deep in trouble - the bottom three are becoming cut adrift - but better news for Sochaux is that American striker Charlie Davies is back from America after an horrific car accident and is close to resuming training. A goalless draw in Nancy hardly eased the pressure on under-pressure PSG manager Antoine Kombouaré as he looks to ease the pressure that's pressurising his position in the Parc des Princes pressure cooker. His former club Valenciennes got back to winning ways against Nice, Filip Sebo with a late winner while Lorient and Toulouse could only draw.

    This week:

    Bordeaux P-P Auxerre
    Boulogne v Le Mans
    Nice v Lorient
    Grenoble v Valenciennes
    Lens v Monaco
    St Etienne v Montpellier
    PSG v Toulouse
    Sochaux v Lyon
    Marseille v Nancy
    Rennes v Lille

    Bordeaux's game with Auxerre is off, so Montpellier have the chance to close the gap to mere goal difference. Technically, they could go top, but would need to put at least 16 past St Etienne and, while Les Verts are no great shakes, that seems unlikely. There's a big game at the bottom between Boulogne and Le Mans, but they both look doomed anyway, as do Grenoble although they were big winners last time out on home soil and stuttering VA may not fancy this one.

    Top three hold station: Bundesliga reviews

    Monchengladbach 2-1 Nurnberg
    Leverkusen 2-1 Wolfsburg
    Hannover 1-5 Bremen
    Hertha 1-1 Mainz
    Stuttgart 1-3 Hamburg
    Bochum 2-1 Hoffenheim
    Bayern 3-1 Dortmund
    Schalke 2-0 Cologne
    Eintracht 2-1 Freiburg

    Wins for the top three sees the situation unchanged at the pointy end of the table. Schalke continue the chase of the top two with a comfortable win over Cologne, ending their decent run. Joel Matip put the Royal Blues ahead on the stroke of half-time and Jefferson Farfan wrapped it up late on. They remain tucked in, three points off the pace set by Leverkusen and Bayern. Leverkusen beat the reigning champions, Stefan Reinartz and Eren Derdiyok doing enough to make the game safe before Edin Dzeko pulled one back - things really are going to a script for Die Wolfe - while Bayern were again pulled through by Arjen Robben who is in incredible form. After Mohamed Zidan put Dortmund ahead, the follically challenged Dutchman pulled them apart, having a major role in the two goals he didn't score, Mark van Bommel and Mario Gomez profiting from Robben's work.

    Hamburg lead the chase and Ruud van Nistelrooy is off the mark for his new club. Marcus Berg gave HSV a first half lead, Christian Trasch levelled it up for Stuttgart early in the second half, but two in two minutes from van Nistelrooy won it. The rest are nowhere. Dortmund have run into a brick wall and the rest are just too inconsistent - or consistently not good enough. Bremen battered Hannover, four goals to the good by half-time. Cue in rack, tedious second half, but a 5-1 win will suffice any time. Mainz and Eintracht are still duking it out for local bragging rights in mid-table. The former lost points at Hertha, Gustavo Ramos equalising after Aristide Bancé put Mainz ahead, but Eintracht won, coming from behind to beat Freiburg thanks to Halil Altintop's late, late winner. Hoffenheim were beaten again, this time by fast moving Bochum who have pulled well away from danger over the last month. Vedad Ibisevic equalised for the Villagers after Stanislav Sestak had put Bochum in front, but Zlatko Dedic restored the lead and Hoffenheim ended a man short, Luis Dias sent off late on. Gladbach are all but safe too after beating Nurnberg.

    This week:

    Hoffenheim v Monchengladbach
    Mainz v Bochum
    Cologne v Stuttgart
    Nurnberg v Bayern
    Dortmund v Hannover
    Hamburg v Eintracht
    Freiburg v Hertha
    Wolfsburg v Schalke
    Bremen v Leverkusen

    Big game this week sees Felix Magath return to the VW-Arena with his Schalke side riding high and his former charges languishing. That should be a spicy one. Bayern shouldn't have too many problems in Nurnberg, but Leverkusen will have to watch for Bremen who are beginning to refind their touch. There's a big six-pointer in Freiburg where Hertha are the visitors and lots of mid-table skirmishes elsewhere.

    Groenendijk out as NEC move up: Eredivisie reviews

    NEC 4-2 NAC
    Vitesse 1-2 Twente
    Den Haag 3-0 Willem II
    Heerenveen 0-2 Ajax
    AZ 2-0 Roda
    Utrecht 0-0 Feyenoord
    Groningen 2-1 Waalwijk
    Heracles 0-1 PSV
    Sparta 2-0 VVV Venlo
    NEC 2-1 Willem II

    Contrasting fortunes for Willem II and NEC as they played twice in the week, against each other on Wednesday in the one remaining game to catch up on. NEC are suddenly on a great run, coinciding with the return of Bjorn Vleminckx from suspension. Just a few weeks ago, they were mired in the relegation battle, but after wins over NAC - Bram Nuytinck on target twice as they came from behind - and Willem II - Ramon Zomer and Vleminckx with goals just before half time - sees them just five points off the Europa League play-off places. By contrast, Willem II now look certainties to go down. Stefan Nijland's last minute goal was nowhere near enough to get anything out of the game with NEC and that followed a crushing defeat to fellow strugglers Den Haag last week. Ricky van den Bergh struck twice in an easy 3-0 win for ADO, but it was the NEC game that forced the board of the Tilburg club to act and put Alfons Groenendijk out of a) his misery and b) a job. Mark Schenning takes charge ahead of a tough trip to Enschede to take on Steve McClaren's high-flying Tukkers.

    Twente got back to winning ways, but they left it late against Vitesse. Paul Verhaegh put the Arnhemers ahead early in the second half and that looked like being enough until Bryan Ruiz struck eight minutes from the end and Ronnie Stam won it in stoppage time. PSV stay out in front thanks to yet another 1-0 win - Ola Toivonen heading the winner against Heracles. Ajax also won against ten man Heerenveen to keep their hopes alive. Christian Grindheim was sent off twenty minutes from the end with the score at 1-0 - Dennis Rommedahl with another in this Indian summer in his career - and Luis Suarez wrapped it up late on. Feyenoord lost more ground and fourth looks the height of their ambition following their 0-0 draw in Utrecht. The game only notable for the referee calling a halt to proceedings for a time after undue abuse from the crowd.

    I think we can say that Waalwijk are down. If not actually, then at least in their minds, RKC are gone. Another loss last weekend, Groningen pulling themselves up the table, and a red card for Charlison Benshop adds to the misery. Sparta keep their heads above the nasty red line on the table with a win over VVV Venlo, Joshua John in the first minute setting them on their way and not suffering too much after Donovan Slijngard was sent off. AZ won, but Europa League play-offs are as good as they will get. Pa-Modou Kah's own goal put them in front against Roda and Rasmus Elm sealed it.

    This week:

    Roda v Heracles
    NAC v Utrecht
    Waalwijk v Heerenveen
    VVV Venlo v AZ
    NEC v Groningen
    Feyenoord v Den Haag
    Ajax v Vitesse
    PSV v Sparta
    Twente v Willem II

    Wins in prospect for all the top three, all of them at home. Twente have the easiest task on paper against managerless Willem II while PSV have Sparta and Ajax play Vitesse. Differing fortunes in Europe for the trio, Ajax and PSV losing to Juventus and Hamburg respectively while Twente beat Werder Bremen, but they should all be too good for their opponents this weekend. At the bottom, Heerenveen can knock that first nail in for Waalwijk while Den Haag are at Feyenoord in what looks a stonewall 0-0 draw.

    Saturday, 13 February 2010

    Ligue 1 round 23

    Monaco v Marseille
    Valenciennes v Nice
    Le Mans v Sochaux
    Nancy v PSG
    Montpellier v Grenoble
    Lille v Boulogne
    Lyon v Lens
    Auxerre v Rennes
    Lorient v Toulouse
    Bordeaux v St Etienne

    One thing is certain: Bordeaux will still be top at the end of this round of fixtures. Whether it's on points or goal difference is the only thing open to question. Montpellier are three points behind the champions, but a massive 13 worse off on goal difference, so unless they stick ten past Grenoble this week, Bordeaux will still be top. A few weeks ago, you could envisage a situation where that could happen, but Grenoble were 5-0 winners a week ago and if that doesn't spark a turnaround in form, then nothing will. Even so, Montpellier will start favourites. Bordeaux also face an improved team from the lower reaches of the league; St Etienne. Les Verts pulled to seven clear of the drop zone thanks to last week's 3-0 win over Monaco and are no longer the easy-beats Bordeaux could have expected to face.

    Lyon, Marseille (still with that game in hand against Sochaux to come), Lille, Monaco and Auxerre are still all squabbling over third and they were joined by Rennes after their victory a week ago. Something has to give this week as Monaco and Marseille face off in the Principality and Rennes go to Auxerre, AJA being the side beaten so heavily by Grenoble last time out. Lille are at home to Boulogne who are now officially the worst side in the country and Lyon have a visit from Lens.

    Le Mans are still in deep trouble and face Sochaux, but it's PSG who are in the deepest mess of all, everything being relevant. They go to Nancy two points behind their hosts. Nice are still in trouble too and face fast fading Valenciennes and the winner of the Lorient v Toulouse clash will suddenly be right back in the European chase, joining that clutch of clubs vying for third. The loser can just about forget it.

    Bundesliga round 22

    Monchengladbach 2-1 Nurnberg
    Leverkusen v Wolfsburg
    Bochum v Hoffenheim
    Hertha v Mainz
    Hannover v Bremen
    Stuttgart v Hamburg
    Bayern v Dortmund
    Schalke v Cologne
    Eintracht v Freiburg

    We're late for Gladbach's morale boosting win over Nurnberg who look increasingly doomed. So to do Hertha, Mainz's opposition this week. Away from home, Mainz have been poor, but Hertha aren't fussed where they play: they're poor everywhere. Hannover are deep in trouble too and will be doing very well indeed to get anything out of Bremen. Freiburg are just out of immediate danger and go to Frankfurt to face Eintracht, the most frustratingly inconsistent side in the league. Bochum have been grinding the points out lately and are a good tip to beat Hoffenheim, despite the Villagers finally notching a win last week. Indeed, Bochum are just three points behind the champions. They'd have taken that if offered at the start of the season, but nobody could have foreseen Wolfsburg's implosion. And Die Wolfe face Leverkusen - still unbeaten and still top - this week. If results elsewhere go against them, the champions could be very much in the relegation picture. As Klaas-Jan Huntelaar continues to flounder in Milan, Edin Dzeko and the Milan club must both be wondering 'what if'.

    Bayern face Dortmund in what looks game of the week. Dortmund's terrific run came to a shuddering halt and it's Bayern who are the in-form team now. It'd be sweet for BvB to be the ones to end the 11-match run across all competitions that the Bavarians have put together. Stuttgart v Hamburg too looks a great game in prospect with the Swabians much improved under Christian Gross and Hamburg the best of the rest behind the top three. Schalke remain one of those three and face Cologne, a lot tougher a task than was the case even a month ago. Cologne have put a great run together to pull themselves away from trouble.

    Eredivisie round 23

    NEC 4-2 NAC
    Vitesse v Twente
    Den Haag v Willem II
    Heerenveen v Ajax
    AZ v Roda
    Utrecht v Feyenoord
    Groningen v Waalwijk
    Heracles v PSV
    Sparta v VVV Venlo

    A bit late with the previews this week, so late for the NAC/NEC clash and it's a massive boost for Nijmegen as they win again. More on that next week.

    Game of the week looks the clash at the Nieuw Galgewaard where Feyenoord travel to face Utrecht. Styles make fights, so goes the boxing cliché, and it's applicable here as obdurate Feyenoord face the more flamboyant Utrecht. After losing for the first time this season a week ago, Twente will be hoping their big local rivals can do them a favour. While the Tukkers are short odds to dispose of Vitesse, they'll have their eyes trained on their neighbours in Almelo and hoping PSV come a cropper there. Ajax have renewed hope after that win over Twente last week and ought to beat Heerenveen. Goals have started to flow recently and while Heerenveen are much improved, the goal threat Ajax pose can be overwhemling at times.

    Waalwijk are still miles adrift and another nail can be put in their coffin at Groningen. Sparta are the club they're aiming to overhaul and they face VVV Venlo at Het Kasteel. Den Haag v Willem II is a massive clash in terms of the relegation picture and Roda, who are just about out of the picture at the bottom, visit AZ.

    Monday, 8 February 2010

    Rennes blow title race wide open: Ligue 1 reviews

    Boulogne 0-2 Montpellier
    PSG 0-3 Lorient
    Lens 2-1 Le Mans
    Sochaux 1-1 Nancy
    Grenoble 5-0 Auxerre
    Nice 1-1 Lille
    Rennes 4-2 Bordeaux
    Toulouse 0-0 Lyon
    St Etienne 3-0 Monaco
    Marseille 5-1 Valenciennes

    From nine points just a month ago, Bordeaux's lead at the top of Ligue 1 is down to three after Rennes stunned the champions at Stade de la Route de Lorient. Sylvain Marveaux started the fun just four minutes in and Jimmy Briand, in his first game in nine months following a serious knee injury, stroked home penalty after quarter of an hour. Ismael Bangoura made it three just after the break before Bordeaux threatened a fightback. Yoan Gouffran and Wendel struck within three minutes of one another, but Asamoah Gyan, back fresh from the Africa Cup of Nations, came off the bench to kill the game off with Rennes's fourth. With games stacking up, Laurent Blanc has said he'll field a B-team in their league cup semi-final as the FFF refuse to shuffle fixtures around as Bordeaux continue to fight on four fronts.

    Result of the week was Grenoble thrashing Auxerre. Where the bloody hell did that come from? This 5-0 walloping was just their second win of the season and comes over a side that, previously to this at least, was in the frame for the championship. Four first-half goals simply blew AJA off the field. Danijel Ljuboja lobbed the keeper for the first and Nassim Akrour hit two either side of Daisuke Matsui's first. Matsui blasted his second and GF38's fifth just after the break. They're still massively adrift at the bottom though, especially as Nice and St Etienne both picked up points this week. Nice drew with Lille, a great result for them, Chaouki Ben Saada putting them in front early on, but holding on for a point after Tulio de Melo's equaliser with fifteen minutes to go. St Etienne were massively impressive in beating Monaco 3-0. They've let a lot of players go in the recently closed transfer window as they look to streamline and remove some disruptive elements. They've held onto Blaise Matuidi though and he opened the scoring quarter of an hour in. Quarter of an hour from the end, Gonzalo Bergessio made it two and Emmanuel Riviere wrapped it up, denting any hopes Monaco have of making the title.

    Back up at the top, Montpellier continued to impress, seeing off lowly Boulogne with comparative ease. Souleymane Camara put them ahead halfway through the first half and Victor Montano sealed it in the last minute. Marseille still have a game in hand and move ominously up the rankings with a 5-1 thrashing of troubled Valenciennes. Lucho Gonzalez opened the scoring just after the half hour with a superb finish following Hatem Ben Arfa's backheel set him up. Brandao bundled in the second and Benoit Cheyrou lashed one in from range. Carlos Sanchez pulled one back, but Mathieu Valbuena got OM back in the groove with a measured effort from the edge of the box. Mamadou Niang finished it in the last minute, tapping in from a yard out from Ben Arfa's cross.

    PSG hit a new low with a comprehensive defeat at home to Lorient. The supporters are revolting after this 3-0 defeat. After a bright start, the Parisians just crumbled. Marama Vahirua hit a penalty quarter of the way through the game and he was instrumental in setting up Kevin Gameiro for the second two minutes later. Morgan Amalfitano lobbed the third over Edel seven minutes from the break as boos rang round the ground. And they continued during and after the second half. Lorient didn't need a fourth as PSG blew every chance that came their way and the current situation can't last much longer. Toulouse had the better of their home game with Lyon, but couldn't find the breakthrough as it finished 0-0, Sochaux drew 1-1 with Nancy and Le Mans went down again, 2-1 at Lens, leaving them deep in trouble.

    Bayern draw level as Leverkusen just draw: Bundesliga reviews

    Bremen 2-1 Hertha
    Hoffenheim 2-1 Hannover
    Wolfsburg 1-3 Bayern
    Freiburg 0-0 Schalke
    Bochum 1-1 Leverkusen
    Cologne 3-3 Hamburg
    Nurnberg 1-2 Stuttgart
    Mainz 1-0 Monchengladbach
    Dortmund 2-3 Eintracht

    Another draw for Leverkusen, their ninth of the season, allowed Bayern to draw level at the top of the table with their eighth straight win. Eren Derdiyok had put Leverkusen in front at Bochum just before the break, but Bochum are on a decent run of their own at the moment and Slovenian star Zlatko Dedic levelled it up with twenty minutes left. Bayern were impressive at Wolfsburg and the DFB must be proud of their intervention as Arjen Robben turned out in red leggings this week. Whatever the colour of his clothing, Robben is in fine form and Wolfsburg couldn't handle him. He stole in to snatch the first in the opening two minutes and was at the heart of the second and third as Bayern eased into a comfortable lead. Robben's corner eventually found Daniel van Buyten for his eighth of the season, equalling his best ever return, and his free-kick was converted by Franck Ribéry. The cue went in the rack, but Die Wolfe failed to get back into it when Grafite missed a penalty although the big Brazilian did get one back late on, heading in from about a foot. That was his sixth of the season. This time last year he was on 18.

    Schalke lost ground as they were held 0-0 by Freiburg and Hamburg also drew, Cologne coming back with a late equaliser in a six-goal thriller. Marcell Jansen put Hamburg in front in the second minute and, though Youssef Mohamed equalised, a double from Mladen Petric helped Hamburg into a comfort zone. Milivoje Novakovic got one back and, with two minutes left and Hamburg preparing to bring on Ruud van Nistelrooy for his debut, Adil Chihi squared it up. After losing their long unbeaten run last week, Dortmund lost their even longer unbeaten home run as Eintracht stunned the Westfalenstadion crowd. Benjamin Kohler put the Frankfurters in front, but mats Hummels and the in-form Lucas Barrios put Dortmund ahead. Sebastien Jung scrambled in an equaliser and a stunner from range from Alex Meier won it for Eintracht. Their neighbours Mainz are tough to beat at home and duly won there again, Bo Svensson with the crucial goal just before the break to see of Gladbach.

    Stuttgart's great run continues - it's five wins on the bounce now - as they condemned Nurnberg to yet another loss. Albert Bunjaku equalised Timo Gebhart's opener, but Roberto Hilbert won it with three minutes to go. Elsewhere, two long losing streaks came to an end. Hoffenheim saw off the increasingly hapless Hannover with Carlos Eduardo and a Sejad Salihovic penalty putting them two up with Arouna Koné making life difficult for the Villagers for the last quarter of the game. Bremen had been on a terrible run, but beat Hertha to leave them with nothing yet again. Marco Marin was a constant threat, but so often he failed to get in a killer ball, but he was left alone in the box just after the hour and finished with a curling shot past Jaroslav Drobny. Thefanis Gekas equalised within two minutes, but Claudio Pizarro, who had missed a number of chances throughout the game, won it with nine minutes remaining.

    Twente unbeaten run ends: Eredivisie reviews

    Willem II 1-2 NAC
    PSV 2-0 Den Haag
    Heerenveen 2-0 Utrecht
    Roda 2-1 Sparta
    Heracles 4-3 Groningen
    Feyenoord 1-2 AZ
    Waalwijk 0-1 NEC
    VVV Venlo 2-0 Vitesse
    Ajax 3-0 Twente

    One of the seemingly invincible duo finally lost. 22 games into the season, Twente finally lost and at the same place as their last league defeat, the Amsterdam ArenA. They weren't good and Ajax, having refound their touch in midweek, took full advantage. Demy de Zeeuw's sixth goal of the season - that's a lot for him - gave Ajax the lead and Marko Pantelic stole in for the second just before the break. Theo Janssen had a particularly miserable evening for the Tukkers and was horribly exposed for the third, robbed of possession deep in defence by Luis Suarez - inevitably, the Uruguayan was at the hub of everything - who found Pantelic who teed up Dennis Rommedahl for an emphatic finish. Twente were poor and as close as they got was Kenneth Perez's late free-kick that came crashing back off the post - the only time Maarten Stekelenburg had been beaten. That left PSV clear at the top once again after their unbeaten run rolls onwards, ever onwards. Rodriguez Francisco and a clever Ola Toivonen chip eased them past Den Haag without needing to get out of second gear. PSV might be too far away for Ajax to catch, but they've a real chance of catching Twente for the second Champions League spot now.

    Game of the round came in Almelo where Heracles came from 3-1 down to win. Thomas Enevoldsen gave Groningen a 2-0 lead by half-time and the two-goal lead was restored by Morten Nordstrand after Bas Dost had pulled one back. The game turned with two red cards in four minutes. Gibril Sankoh saw red for an ugly lunge on Everton and Leandro Bacuna followed him moments later after his second booking. Playing against nine, Heracles cut loose. Dost hit a second and Willy Overtoom equalised with quarter of an hour left and Birger Maertens won a dramatic game in the last minute. AZ eased the gloom around the Almaarderhout with a win over Feyenoord. Mounir El Hamdaoui put the champions - resplendent in their newly sponsored kit - in front, but Pontus Wernbloom's first goal in the Netherlands levelled it as, unfortunately, it was at the wrong end. Hector Moreno won it with a coupl eof minutes left.

    Utrecht's European hopes took a knock as Gerland Sibon struck twice for Heerenveen, but NAC's claims were strengthened with a come-from-behind win over troubled Willem II. Mitchell Donald put the Tilburg side in front, but Edwin de Graaf equalised just before the break and Matthew Amoah won it ten minutes into the second half.

    Roda beat Sparta with Willem Janssen put them in front on the half hour and Mads Junker made it safe, safe enough for Erik Falkenburg's late goal to mean precious little in the grander scheme of things. VVV Venlo were helped on their way to three more points thanks to Civard Sprockel's early own goal and Patrick Paauwe's second in a week made the game safe in the dying moments. Waalwijk and NEC looked headed for a goalless draw, but Bas Sibum won it in the last minute for the Nijmegeners to pull them away from immediate danger.

    Dear Marouane Chamakh. An open letter

    Dear Marouane Chamakh,

    Pack it in will you? Just about every day since the last month or two of last season, there's been something in the papers about your determination to leave Bordeaux and play for Arsenal, Liverpool or, indeed, pledging your future to Bordeaux again. It's tiresome.

    Everybody is aware that your contract ends at the end of the current season and it's becoming rapidly apparent that nobody cares any more. So do us all a favour: shut your mouth, stay out of the papers, crack on with your job and your future will sort itself out.

    But for crying out loud, shut up.

    The football-supporting world

    Friday, 5 February 2010

    How Luis got his groove back: Eredivisie reviews

    NAC 1-1 AZ
    NEC P-P Willem II
    VVV Venlo 3-1 Heerenveen
    Groningen 2-0 Den Haag
    PSV 2-1 Utrecht
    Twente 2-0 Heracles
    Luis Suarez 4-0 Roda JC
    Sparta 1-1 Vitesse
    Waalwijk 0-1 Feyenoord

    Happy days for Luis Suarez FC who refound their goalscoring touch. After a goalless first half at the Amsterdam ArenA (complete with it's superfluous capital A), Suarez broke the deadlock with a penalty which he earned and gave Davy de Fauw a yellow card. Quarter of an hour later, repeat as above, only this time it was Siem de Jong who was fouled by de Fauw. Penalty awarded - duly converted by Suarez - and yellow card for de Fauw followed closely by a red one. So far, so easy and Suarez kicked on to bag a third, set up by Marko Pantelic just in case you thought Luis Suarez FC was some sort of one-man team, and a fourth, blazed home from distance. After a few weeks of struggle, Luis Suarez FC look back on track.

    Much good it'll do them though, seeing as the top two are still unbeaten. PSV continue to lead on goal difference, but it was trimmed by one as Twente saw off local rivals Heracles at the Arke Stadion with Bryan Ruiz converting a Kenneth Perez free-kick and Blaise N'Kufo punishing a slack clearance. The Eindhoveners eventually overcame Utrecht who put up a great fight after Ola Toivonen had put PSV in front early on. Sander Keller got Utrecht back level before the break, but was sent off after Orlando Engelaar, with his first goal in PSV colours, had restored the lead and gave his team-mates little hope of getting back into the game. Feyenoord remain a lonely fourth despite beating Waalwijk, Jon Dahl Tomasson with the only goal of the game as the Rotterdammers finished with ten men, Denny Landzaat sent off late on.

    Waalwijk remain bottom then, with NEC and Willem II unable to pull away as their game was called off. Den Haag also remain still within striking distance of Waalwijk after another loss, away at Groningen who are beginning to find some sort of mojo. Andreas Granqvist's penalty opened the scoring and Danny Holla wrapped it up. Sparta and Vitesse drew 1-1, Serginho Greene equalising for the Armhem side in the last minute after Erik Falkenburg had given Sparta the lead on the hour. NAC also nabbed a last-minute leveller at home to AZ. Niklas Moisander had given the champions hope of finally recording a win, but Kees Kwakman equalised in stoppage time. A blistering opening quarter hour from VVV Venlo saw off Heerenveen at De Koel. Ferry de Regt is fast getting a reputation as a goal-scoring defender and put VVV ahead 11 minutes in. Five minutes later it was 3-0, Gonzalo Garcia and Sandro Calabro with the goals. Gerald Sibon arrested the damage with a penalty on 35 minutes, but they'd been blown away.

    This weekend then, and the top game is Twente's trip to Luis Suarez FC. If Ajax are going to challenge for the title, then this is must-win. Otherwise, it will be left to the Tukkers and PSV to dispute. For their part, PSV have a pretty easy looking task at home to Den Haag while the big game at the bottom sees NEC go to Waalwijk. It may be RKC's last chance.

    Willem II v NAC
    PSV v Den Haag
    Heerenveen v Utrecht
    Roda v Sparta
    Heracles v Groningen
    Feyenoord v AZ
    Waalwijk v NEC
    VVV Venlo v Vitesse
    Ajax v Twente

    Thursday, 4 February 2010

    Ligue 1 round 23

    Boulogne v Montpellier
    PSG v Lorient
    Lens v Le Mans
    Sochaux v Nancy
    Grenoble v Auxerre
    Nice v Lille
    Rennes v Bordeaux
    Toulouse v Lyon
    St Etienne v Monaco
    Marseille v Valenciennes

    Laurent Blanc has been in denial mode all week following a report that he's agreed in principle to take over as national team coach after the World Cup. This has taken the heat off his players who have been misfiring a little lately. That said, they still lead by six and go away to Rennes this week. They can be a tricky side, espaecially at home, and Bordeaux will have to be on their guard. Montpellier continue to lead what passes for a challenge and they travel to take on Boulogne as red hot favourites but they've a host of clubs tucked in behind and breathing down their neck. Lille head that clutch and have secured the services of Eden Hazard until 2014 which is a massive boost as there are plenty of admirers of the young Belgian with wider wallets than Lille. They're away at Nice this week.

    A point behind Lille, there are three clubs on 39 points, Lyon, Auxerre and, on the back of four straight league wins, Monaco. Nobody's backing against them making it five as they go to St Etienne this week. Auxerre shouldn't have any problem in beating Grenoble while Lyon go to Toulouse. Marseille are three behind those, although with a game in hand. They're at home to Valenciennes who were once in the race, but have fallen away lately.

    PSG have slumped badly and Antoine Kombouaré is under pressure. Defeat at home to Lorient may force action to be taken. Le Mans are still in trouble and have a difficult trip to Lens and there's a mid-table clash between Sochaux and Nancy.

    Bundesliga round 21

    Bremen v Hertha
    Hoffenheim v Hannover
    Wolfsburg v Bayern
    Freiburg v Schalke
    Bochum v Leverkusen
    Cologne v Hamburg
    Nurnberg v Stuttgart
    Mainz v Monchengladbach
    Dortmund v Eintracht

    Last time Bayern paid a visit to the VW-Arena, Wolfsburg tore them a new hole, winning 5-1 - thanks in part to this stunner from Grafite - and really laying down a marker en route to their ultimate title triumph. How times change. Grafite looks a fat, lazy shadow of the 2008/9 vintage, Zvjezdan Misimovic is not exerting the same influence on the side and only really Edin Dzeko is living up to the standards laid down by Felix Magath last season. By contrast, Bayern's only real problem are Arjen Robben's leggings. He's been wearing a pair of grey longjohns while the temperatures are rock bottom and the DFB seem concerned that he ought to be wearing red ones. Yes, really. If this is what they're worried about, then German football must be in rude health.

    Leverkusen go to Bochum as unbackable favourites, but it's this kind of trip that's caused them problems in the past, leading to the Neverkusen tag. They look in no mood to trip up this time. Barnetta, Kroos, Hyypia, Adler, Derdiyok... They're all in great form. Patrick Helmes can't get on the field and they've scarcely noticed that Simon Rolfes is done for the season. Bochum have picked up some useful points lately, but should be no match. Freiburg were Leverkusen's victims last week and they face fellow front-runners Schalke this week. It looks like a similar outcome to last week in the offing.

    Still eight points from safety, Hertha take on misfiring Bremen with both sides desperate for points. Despite all their attacking flair which took them, briefly, to the top of the tree, it's all gone wrong for Bremen while Hertha are just awful. This could be a war of attrition, but a win for either side may inject life into the campaign that's much needed. Nurnberg remain second bottom and face fast improving Stuttgart while Hannover go to Hoffenheim. The Villagers have been in rotten form and look increasingly unlikely to make Europe. If they are to get there, then this is the sort of fixture they need to get them back on track. Cologne have scored some great results lately and have a visit from Hamburg - a tougher test than they've had of late.

    Dortmund's run of six straight wins came to an abrupt end last week, but a home game with Eintracht should be a good way to get back on track while Gladbach can go above Mainz should they win that clash. Mainz at home are a tough nut to crack though.

    Tuesday, 2 February 2010

    Double sacking as boards get twitchy: La Liga reviews

    Espanyol 1-0 Athletic
    Sporting 0-1 Barcelona
    Deportivo 1-3 Real Madrid
    Tenerife 1-3 Zaragoza
    Villarreal 0-2 Osasuna
    Valladolid 1-1 Almería
    Getafe 0-0 Racing
    Xerez 2-1 Mallorca
    Atlético 0-2 Málaga
    Sevilla 2-1 Valencia

    Two coaches lost their jobs after this latest round of fixtures. Ernesto Valverde endured a horror start to the season at Villareal, but had seen his team rally to as high as tenth, but it seems as if he was always one loss from the sack since they pulled away from the drop zone. Two Juanfran goals saw Osasuna beat the Yellow Submarine and Valverde was out almost immediately. Valladolid didn't even lose this week, but still offed Jose Luis Mendilibar after the draw with Almería. Valladolid had slid down the table inexorably and remain a point above the relegation places. They needed a late equaliser from César Arzo to grab that point as they trailed to Albert Crusat's early opener and had Manucho sent off.

    Sevilla v Valencia is one of those fixtures that sets the pulses racing, but it failed to light up La Liga late on Sunday this time around. With so much attacking talent, perhaps we'd raised expectations too much and should have been happy with what we got in difficult conditions. Alvaro Negredo scored twice with only a very late consolation, such as it was, from David Navarro coming back the other way. Barca belted Sporting, but only had the one goal to show for it, an accomplished finish from Pedro. El Real also won, for the first time since 1982 at the Riazor. Guti was the star with the assist of the season, a delightful back-heel into the path of Karim Benzema to give Los Merengues a 2-0 lead after Esteban Granero had previously put them in front. A Riki penalty late on threatened to make a game of it, but Benzema's second wrapped up the points.

    Xerez won for just the second time this season, but they're still doomed. Mallorca are terrible away from the island and lost despite Pierre Wébo's early goal. Artiz Aduriz missed a penalty as well, but Carlos Calvo struck twice to win it for the basement club. Zaragoza also won, again despite going behind. Tenerife were ahead three minutes after the break through Juan Luis Lorite, but three in six minutes won it for Zaragoza. Humberto Suazo's penalty got them going and Adrián Colunga and Lafita followed in.

    Getafe and Racing produced a stalemate despite Moratón's dismissal five minutes after the break reducing Racing to ten. Atlético slumped to another home defeat, Duda and Javi Lopez helping Málaga to a handy three points and Luis Garcia struck the only goal of the game as Espanyol beat Athletic.

    Inter sit pretty as rivals stumble: Serie A reviews

    Bari 4-2 Palermo
    Napoli 0-0 Genoa
    Cagliari 2-2 Fiorentina
    Milan 1-1 Livorno
    Chievo 1-1 Bologna
    Roma 2-1 Siena
    Sampdoria 2-0 Atalanta
    Catania 1-1 Udinese
    Parma P-P Internazionale
    Juventus 1-1 Lazio

    The inclement weather claimed as it's only Serie A victim the game at Parma where league leaders Inter were due in town. Instead, they could sit back and watch as their nearest rivals failed to make ground. Milan battered Livorno at the San Siro for 89 minutes and 48 seconds, but only had Massimo Ambrosini's goal just before half-time to show for it. Livorno were quite content to just sit and take a pummelling, but for 12 glorious seconds, they put together their only attack of the game and Cristiano Lucarelli steered the ball past Christian Abbiati to level the scores. The misfiring Marco Boriello was replaced by the even more off key Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and he was joined by Pippo Inzaghi late on, but Milan simply couldn't find a way through as Livorno stood firm, Nelson Rivas standing out in a great defensive performance. Juve also blew a lead, but they never looked like hanging on in Alberto Zaccheroni's first game in charge. Alessandro del Piero put them ahead with a penalty twenty minutes from time, but Stefano Mauri equalised within ten minutes to give Lazio a valuable point. Roma had Fulham-bound Stefano Okaka to thank for giving them the win over Siena that draws them level with Milan. John Arne Riise was again on the scoresheet to put Roma ahead, but it was level at the break thanks to Simone Vergassola. Two minutes remained when Okaka flicked the ball into the bottom corner with a deft touch off his heel. Napoli also failed to make ground as they were held by Genoa to a goalless draw.

    The big six-pointer between Udinese and Catania turned into a big one-pointer as Marco Biagianti drew Catania level late on after Antonio Flores had put Udinese ahead on the half hour. Atalanta remain in the mire after defeat to Sampdoria who seem to have found their touch again, albeit after dropping Antonio Cassano. Angelo Palombo and Giampaolo Pazzini got the goals, both coming just before the break, although the afternoon was soured a little when Marco Padalino was sent off in stoppage time.

    Palermo were beaten in Bari in game of the week. Bari were two up inside ten minutes through Leonardo Bonucci and Edgar Alvarez, but the sides were level just after the break as Edison Cavani and Javier Pastore pulled Palermo back into it. But just two minutes after drawing level, Fabio Liverani was sent off and Bari capitalised with a Paulo Barretto penalty and Vladimir Koman's clincher in the dying moments. Fiorentina took an early lead at Cagliari through Marco Marchionni, but were behind early in the second half with Andrea Lazzari and Davide Astori the scorers. Three minutes after going ahead, Cagliari were down a man, Andrea Cossu sent off, and Stevan Jovetic grabbed a share of the spoils for La Viola. Bologna took the lead at Chievo through Marco di Vaio, but Sergio Pellissier equalised five minutes into the second half to ensure a split pot.

    Monday, 1 February 2010

    Lead trimmed to six: Ligue 1 reviews

    Nancy 1-0 Lorient
    Monaco 3-2 Nice
    Lille 1-0 Lens
    Le Mans 1-3 Toulouse
    Rennes 4-0 Grenoble
    Bordeaux 0-0 Boulogne
    Montpellier 2-0 Marseille
    Auxerre 1-0 St Etienne
    Valenciennes 1-1 Sochaux
    Lyon 2-1 PSG

    Six points is still a healthy lead on the league table at this stage of a season, but Bordeaux are just coming back towards the chasers. It's a slow, grinding process, but while the champions were wasting a string of chances in a goalless draw with lowly Boulogne, Montpellier and Lille were both winning. Montpellier were particularly impressive in dismantling Marseille, Karim Ait Fana ending a weaving run into the box with a delightful finish and Benoit Cheyrou nodding a corner past his own keeper for the second when under little pressure. Lille just needed the one to beat Lens in the northern derby, exciting young Belgian Eden Hazard tapping in from a couple of feet.

    At the bottom, Grenoble's misery was absolute. Sylvain Marveaux got two as Rennes ran out to a 4-0 lead and Hugo Ciani was then sent off, leaving Grenoble a man short for the last 25 minutes. That they survived that without leaking more goals is probably the highlight of their week. Le Mans remain in difficulty, beaten 3-1 at home by Toulouse. After a goalless first half, Paulo Machado and André-Pierre Gignac gave TFC a 2-0 lead. Idir Ouali got one back, but Colin Kazim-Richards's first goal for Les Violets wrapped it up. St Etienne remain just above the drop zone after defeat to Auxerre, Jean-Pascal Mignot with the only goal of the game and Nice aren't out of the woods following defeat to local rivals Monaco. Park Chu-Young scored twice for Monaco as Nice fans ran riot on the terraces, either side of Chaouki Ben Saada's goal which briefly equalised. Nene made it 3-1 before Didier Digard set up a grandstand finish. But Nice couldn't find a third and finished with ten after Renato Civelli was sent off.

    Lorient's European push took a hit with defeat to Nancy, Youssouf Hadji again to thank for that, Valenciennes and Sochaux battled to a 1-1 draw and Lyon left it late to beat PSG who led for a long time following Mevlut Erding's early opener. Mamadou Sakho was sent off for a tug on Bafetimbi Gomis when clean through and Gomis it was that drew things level. With nine minutes remaining, defender Cris gave Lyon the win.

    Three horse race: Bundesliga reviews

    Hamburg 1-1 Wolfsburg
    Hertha 0-0 Bochum
    Monchengladbach 4-3 Bremen
    Hannover 1-3 Nurnberg
    Eintracht 1-2 Cologne
    Bayern 3-0 Mainz
    Schalke 2-0 Hoffenheim
    Stuttgart 4-1 Dortmund
    Leverkusen 3-1 Freiburg

    And then there were three. The front runners have opened up a gap back to the rest after this week's round of fixtures and it looks a three-way tussle for the title. Schalke poured more misery on Hoffenheim with a thoroughly professional performance that leaves the Villagers 19 points off the leaders. Kevin Kuranyi bundled home the opener early on and Lukas Schmitz sealed the win just after the break. Hoffenheim look a shadow of the side that burst onto the scene last year. They're defending way too deep and the attackers are isolated. They've got issues. Bayern rallied after the break against Mainz to come up with all three points. Hans-Jorg Butt missed a first-half penalty, his first ever miss from the spot, but Daniel van Buyten eventually gave them the lead, heading through the keeper's legs early in the second half. Mario Gomez made it safe quarter of an hour from time and Arjen Robben added a third late on. Leverkusen survived an early scare from Freiburg and came through after a devastating five-minute spell swung the game their way. Rene Adler spilled the ball on his own line early on and at least 80% of the ball crossed the goal-line before the German international scrambled it clear. Approaching half-time goalless, Tranquillo Barnetta planted a fabulous cross onto the head of the prolific Stefan Kiessling for 1-0 and it was two within a minute, Freiburg keeper Simon Pouplin clearing straight to Eren Derdiyok and the young Swiss striker finished in style. Five minutes later, Sami Hyypia scored his second in as many games, a thunderous header from Barnetta's corner. Felix Bastians pulled one back in the second half, but Leverkusen were in cruise control by then. Leverkusen remain top and undefeated.

    The gap opens up thanks to Dortmund and Hamburg both dropping points. Dortmund's great run came to a shuddering halt at Stuttgart. Pavel Pogrebnyak had the Swabians in front inside a quarter hour, bundling the ball in after a right scramble in the goalmouth. Just after the break, Stuttgart won a penalty after an awful challenge on Ciprian Marica by Patrick Owomoyela, but the Romanian blazed it against the bar. Inevitably, Dortmund went and equalised, Lucas Barrios with his tenth of the season. Stuttgart weren't to be denied and with 13 minutes to go, Zdravko Kuzmanovic blasted a free-kick in to restore the lead. Marica got his deserved goal four minutes from time and Christian Traesch added some gloss with a fourth. Hamburg were lucky to get anything from their game at home to Wolfsburg. The champions were ahead through Edin Dzeko (who else?) with a fine, fine finish ten minutes from half-time, and that looked like being enough. But, with the last kick of the game, Piotr Trochowski fired in a free-kick that arced majestically en route to goal to deny them the win.

    Gladbach raced into a three-goal lead at home to Bremen with Marco Reus, Roberto Colautti and Raul Bobadilla all on the scoresheet within 20 minutes of kick-off. Mesut Ozil pulled one back, but it was soon 4-1 after Bobadilla's second. Claudio Pizarro made it 4-2 at the break and Bremen were much better in the second half, but only had a Torsten Frings penalty to show for it as Gladbach hung on for three vital points. Cologne won again, a Marco Russ own goal handing them the points five minutes from time. Nurnberg scored a very important win over Hannover, Albert Bunjaku's hat-trick seeing them home. Hertha could only pick up a single point from an insipid game against Bochum which leaves them five points adrift at the foot of the table.

    PSV's turn to stumble: Eredivisie reviews

    Willem II 2-1 Waalwijk
    NEC 1-0 Sparta
    AZ 0-1 Groningen
    NAC 2-0 VVV Venlo
    Den Haag 2-1 Heerenveen
    Feyenoord 1-1 Ajax
    Utrecht 0-0 Heracles
    Twente 2-0 Roda
    Vitesse 0-0 PSV

    After two games without a goal, Twente had relinquished their lead of the Eredivisie to PSV who just keep on winning. This week, however, it was PSV's turn to struggle, a dour game at the Gelredome ending goalless. In their previous two wins, they'd been a touch lacklustre as well, but managed to win. Not this time. Twente looked to be heading for another 0-0 themselves, but a run of 250 minutes without a goal since the winter break came to an end with two in two minutes. With 19 minutes remaining in the match, some nifty footwork on the edge of the box from Kenneth Perez saw him lose his man and slot in a neat finish and barely 60 seconds later, a brilliant Miroslav Stoch cross found Bryan Ruiz sliding in at the back post for 2-0 and take Twente back level on points with PSV. Ajax lose ground on the Tukkers, but remain nine points adrift of the league leaders after a thrilling draw in the Classic at De Kuip. Feyenoord bossed the game for large periods, but couldn't make the breakthrough. Inevitably, Ajax did, Demy de Zeeuw teeing up Marko Pantelic for a tap-in. With injuries biting, Martin Jol fielded the attack-minded Urby Emanuelson at left-back and it was he who created the equaliser. A lack of communication with Maarten Stekelenburg saw Emanuelson prod the ball away from his keeper and allow Georgino Wijnaldum in to level the scores. De Zeeuw almost won it in the dying seconds, but his shot from range curled high and wide. It would have been undeserved.

    Waalwijk remain rooted to the bottom after defeat on Friday. They pegged Willem II - second bottom, but now five points clear of RKC - back after the in-form Stefan Nijland had put the Tilburgers ahead through Fred Benson, but Sergio Zijler poked home the winner ten minutes from the end. NEC also won, Saidi Ntibazonkia grabbing the latest of late goals to see off Sparta 1-0. Den Haag, also struggling, also won, coming from behind after Gerald Sibon put Heerenveen in front. Darryl Janmaat was then sent off for the Frieslanders and late goals from Wesley Verhoek and Bogdan Milic won it for ADO.

    Utrecht were held to a goalless draw by fellow European hopefuls Heracles and ended with ten men thanks to Mihai Nesu's late dismissal while NAC made ground on them both, beating VVV Venlo 2-0. Patrick Zwaanswijk put them ahead late in the first half and Anthony Lurling doubled the advantage late in the second. They leapfrog AZ who were beaten by Groningen, Tim Matavz with the only goal of the game ten minutes into the second half.

    It's a Belgian week this week with a full midweek programme. The big game sees Twente take on local rivals Heracles (available on ESPN for UK viewers) and there's a huge game at the bottom between NEC and Willem II. PSV have a tricky test at home to Utrecht.

    Groningen v Den Haag
    NAC v AZ
    NEC v Willem II
    VVV Venlo v Heerenveen
    PSV v Utrecht
    Twente v Heracles
    Ajax v Roda
    Sparta v Vitesse
    Waalwijk v Feyenoord

    We'll wrap those up later in the week.