Pitchside

European Review: Tight at the top in frantic Liga title race

Pitchside

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Lionel Messi's hat-trick blew the Spanish title race wide open as Sunday's Clasico produced a stunning conclusion to a remarkable weekend of action across the continent.

Barcelona's 4-3 victory over Real Madrid in the Bernabeu left La Liga heading for a three-way fight to the finish with Atletico Madrid ending the weekend top of the standings.

Bayern Munich Munich moved to the brink of the Bundesliga title as Juventus and Paris St Germain marched on in Italy and France.

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SPAIN

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Lionel Messi's hat-trick gave Barcelona a 4-3 comeback win against 10-man Real Madrid in a breathtaking Clasico to leave the title race on a knife edge.

Barca took a seventh-minute lead at the Bernabeu through Andres Iniesta before a Karim Benzema double and Messi's first of the night made it 2-2 at the break.

[RONALDO CLAIMS CLASICO CONSPIRACY IN INCREDIBLE REF RANT]

Cristiano Ronaldo put Real ahead from the penalty spot 10 minutes after halftime after he was tripped by Daniel Alves but the match turned when Real skipper Sergio Ramos was sent off for clipping Neymar when he was through on goal.

Messi, the all-time top scorer in 'Clasicos' with 21 goals, tucked home the resulting penalty and struck the winner from the spot six minutes from time after Iniesta was bundled down.

[RAMOS: BARCA WIN WAS 'PRE-MEDITATED']

With nine games left, Real have 70 points, level with city neighbours Atletico Madrid who won 2-0 at bottom side Real Betis, and one ahead of third-placed Barca.

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GERMANY

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Bayern Munich are a win away from securing their 24th German league title after beating Mainz 05 2-0 on Saturday to stay 23 points clear with a maximum 24 still available from the remaining eight games.

[BAYERN RULE OUT DRAXLER SWOOP]

Late goals from Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mario Goetze secured a league record 18th successive win to maintain their huge lead at the top, having also stretched their league unbeaten run to 51 games.

They can set a record for the fastest title if they beat Hertha Berlin on Tuesday and clinch the trophy with seven games left.

Fellow Champions League quarter-finalists Borussia Dortmund stayed second after a 3-0 win at Hanover 96, one point ahead of Schalke 04, 3-1 winners over Eintracht Braunschweig.
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ITALY

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Juventus stayed 14 points clear of AS Roma and on course for a third successive Serie A title after both sides won away from home.

Serie A leading scorer Carlos Tevez gave Juventus a 1-0 win at bottom club Catania with his 16th goal of the season while the Sicilians had striker Gonzalo Bergessio sent off for elbowing Giorgio Chiellini.

Roma won 2-0 at Chievo with first-half goals from Gervinho and Mattia Destro. Napoli's grip on third place, the Champions League playoff spot, was loosened when they lost 1-0 at home to fourth-placed Fiorentina after Joaquin Sanchez headed an 87th minute winner.

Juventus have 74 points from 29 games and Roma 64 with a game in hand. They are followed by Napoli (58) and Fiorentina (51).

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FRANCE

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Paris St Germain's march towards a second Ligue 1 title in succession continued when they beat Lorient 1-0 on Friday and second-placed Monaco were held 1-1 at home by Lille on Sunday.

[SILVA FRACTURES CHEEKBONE BUT SHOULD MAKE CHELSEA GAME]

The results left PSG with 73 points with eight matches left, 10 points ahead of Monaco.

PSG were not at their best in Brittany but Thiago Motta's first-half goal was enough for them to secure the points.

In Monaco, Mounir Obbadi's early strike was cancelled out by Vidock Origi's goal six minutes before the break.

Lille stayed third on 54 points, three ahead of St Etienne who beat Sochaux 3-1 on Sunday.

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PORTUGAL

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Benfica beat Academica Coimbra 3-0 to stay on course for their first league title since 2009/10 as the top three all won.

Two goals from Lima and one from Enzo Perez gave the Eagles their seventh successive league win to keep them seven points clear at the top.

Adrien Silva, with a penalty, William Carvalho and Jefferson scored in second-placed Sporting's 3-1 win at Maritimo.

Titleholders Porto, a further five points back in third, needed a late Juan Quintero goal to beat 10-man Belenenses 1-0.

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GREECE

Nelson Valdez scored a hat-trick before halftime as Olympiacos bounced back from Champions League elimination by Manchester United with a resounding 4-1 away win over Ergotelis in Crete on Sunday.

Michel's team, who wrapped up their 41st league title last weekend but slipped to a 3-0 defeat to United in the second leg of their last 16 tie in Europe's elite competition, were 3-0 up by the 13th minute after Valdez netted the fastest treble in Super League history.

The top five all recorded wins, with Atromitos and PAOK Salonica maintaining second and third place respectively, 18 points behind the champions.

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