Digital Football Journalist
European title races: Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Ajax on the charge
Last Updated: 14/02/19 5:49pm
With some major surprises across Europe earlier in the season, what's the state of play in the continent's biggest leagues now?
Real Madrid's start to the season was so bad they parted company with Julen Lopetegui after just 14 games with Sevilla topping La Liga, while similarly troubled Bayern Munich held their nerve and kept their own new manager Niko Kovac.
Meanwhile, PSV Eindhoven, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain were running away with their respective leagues - so what has changed since?
La Liga: Real Madrid cling on to title hopes
They looked out of the title race for some while and as little as two games ago were 10 points off league leaders Barcelona, but Real Madrid are back in it under Santiago Solari.
Five wins in a row have given them an outside shot of the title - and have lifted them from an unthinkable position outside of the top four up to second.
As recently as last month there were rumours Florentino Perez might wield the axe on Solari after a 2-0 home defeat to Real Sociedad. Without Cristiano Ronaldo scoring goals like they are going out of fashion, they had scored only 26 in 18 to that point - but have since rediscovered their touch, with Karim Benzema netting three in as many games and excitement levels already rising about young Brazilian winger Vinicius Junior following a good run of form.
After a significant away win over Atletico Madrid to boost their chances of an unlikely second title in three years, Solari said: "Real Madrid always play to win La Liga. We always compete until the very end, the competition is far from over, and we have to continue in this way.
La Liga top scorers
"Obviously, Atletico Madrid will continue fighting (to win) for the title because they are a fantastic team with a great coach, so now that we are second, we must maintain winning next week, and now we play in the Champions League.
"We are happy now, but we have to keep with the feet down-to-earth, and we have to continue working."
Barca, however, have dropped only six points since November 11, putting their own relatively slow start behind them in the process.
Lionel Messi has led the way with 21 goals, and they have flowed throughout the season. It's been at the other end of the pitch where Barca have looked shaky, and they kept only one clean sheet in their opening 13 La Liga games.
But since then, a run of just four goals conceded in their last 10 games has helped them move clear at the top of the league, despite last weekend's 0-0 draw against struggling Athletic Bilbao.
Boss Ernesto Valverde waved away any talks of pressure, saying: "We end this week exactly like we ended the previous one. We were on top last week and we are on top this week. And, if my calculations are correct, we will be on top after next week as well. This is the situation.
"There are weeks when you make more points and there are weeks when you gain less points. There are different kind of games. It's still a long road and we have to get to the end."
Sevilla, who led the division as recently as late November, sit fourth after a run of two wins from 10, while Atletico Madrid had appeared Barca's closest challengers but have now suffered back-to-back league defeats, the latest to their cross-city rivals at the Wanda Metropolitano on Saturday.
Serie A: Invincible Juventus?
With 23 games gone in Serie A Juventus are in full flow and looking like they could repeat their wonderful unbeaten season from 2011/12, having dropped just six points all season to date.
That means even a respectable 52-point tally from Napoli in Carlo Ancelotti's first season at the helm doesn't look like it will be enough to mount any kind of title challenge, and they already trail the league leaders by 11 points.
Massimiliano Allegri's Juve could potentially register the all-time Serie A record points tally, beating Antonio Conte's record of 102 from 2013/14. That would mean dropping no more than five points in their last 15 games, but it's not something Allegri is bothering himself with anyway.
He recently said: "Conte's record of points in Serie A with Juventus, we will hardly be able to beat it. What matters to me is winning the Scudetto, winning a thousand points is pointless; we have to be good, in this moment, at bringing home points."
In any normal season, Napoli would be providing steady competition, and embarked on a run of 26 points from 10 games between October and December. This time last season, they would have trailed Juventus by only seven points, but the league leaders' incredible form seems insurmountable.
Serie A top scorers
Elsewhere, there's a nostalgic sight completing the Champions League places with Inter Milan and AC Milan both inside the top four. If they stay there, the two San Siro clubs will both find themselves in Europe's premier continental competition for the first time since 2011.
AC Milan have picked up the pace after landing just 12 points from their opening eight games of the season despite the poor form of summer loan signing Gonzalo Higuain, who has already packed his bags and left for Chelsea.
He has been replaced by Krzysztof Piatek, who they signed for €35m (£30.7m) in January - only seven months after he had joined former club Genoa for a measly €4m (£3.5m) the previous summer. The Polish forward has hit the ground running, scoring four times in his first four games.
Their form has moved them a point clear of fifth-placed Atalanta, who are looking to repeat their feat of 2016/17 when they reached fourth in the table. Duvan Zupata's 21 goals in all competitions have played a big part in their superb season, which sees them as the top scorers in Serie A and semi-finalists in the Coppa Italia.
Bundesliga: Bayern Munich bounce back
It wasn't too long ago that Nico Kovac's job at Bayern Munich appeared to be hanging by a thread within a dozen league games of his appointment, with his new club trailing Borussia Dortmund by nine points.
Throwing away a 3-1 lead to draw at home to Fortuna Dusseldorf looked like it could be the final nail in the manager's coffin, but having been given a stay of execution, he has instead used the disappointment to rack up eight wins from nine and move within five points of leaders Dortmund.
Lucien Favre's table-toppers, looking for their first league title in seven years, looked invincible for the opening period of the season, before Dusseldorf proved a thorn in their side too, providing their first, and so far only, taste of defeat.
Bundesliga top scorers
|2=||Robert Lewandowski||Bayern Munich||13|
|2=||Marco Reus||Borussia Dortmund||13|
But they have not taken their foot off the gas from their 15-game unbeaten start to the season. Two draws in as many games have given recent weeks a slightly sour note but as one German national newspaper remarked last month: "Favre has the most exciting and fastest team in the Bundesliga, it's as cool as it was under coach Jurgen Klopp and usually as pretty as a herd of galloping wild horses."
Borussia Monchengladbach are still on Bayern's coat-tails and chasing a Champions League spot, and owe much of their success to the meanest defence in the Bundesliga. The arrival of Michael Lang from Basel has played a big part in that, joining compatriot Nico Elvedi in a backline which is on course to concede around 20 goals fewer than it did last season.
Ligue 1: A non-starter for PSG rivals
There's no prizes for guessing who is running away with Ligue 1 again this season. Until earlier this month, two draws in early December were the only blots on PSG's copybook.
A surprise 2-1 loss at Lyon on February 3 was their first of the season, but after the game manager Thomas Tuchel defended his side, saying: "It was a tough game because Lyon have a lot of quality. They are deservedly in the knockout stages of the Champions League."
Don't get too hopeful of a collapse though. Tuchel's side are 10 points clear at the top with two games in hand, and four of their nine remaining away games come against teams in the bottom seven.
Kylian Mbappe has come back from the World Cup in stunning form, notching 18 goals from just 13 Ligue 1 starts to leave even Neymar eating his dust before the Brazilian was injured last month.
Ligue 1 top scorers
In terms of the best of the rest, Lille have mounted a stunning turnaround under Christophe Galtier, who took over the relegation-threatened club in December 2017 and kept them up by a single point last season.
With 14 games left to go of this season, they have already exceeded their points tally from 2017/18 and currently sit second, with Nicolas Pepe, one of few positives from the last campaign, stepping up his level again from out wide and chipping in with 16 league goals.
Brazilian Thiago Mendes has also impressed in midfield, as has former West Ham and Southampton defender Jose Fonte at the back.
Lyon, despite recording victories over PSG in the league and Manchester City in the Champions League this season, are a distant third - 16 points behind the leaders having played two more games.
Eredivisie: PSV in driving seat
PSV Eindhoven were on for the perfect season for a while. Thirteen wins to start 2018/19 put them in a pretty good position to win the Eredivisie. They have since drawn twice and lost away to Feyenoord, but remain top of the table with 13 games remaining.
Their form isn't a one-off, though. This time last year they had dropped eight points and this season they've dropped seven in a relentless display of their winning mentality continued under Mark van Bommel, who took the reins from Philip Cocu last July.
Eredivisie top scorers
|1||Luuk de Jong||PSV||20|
|2=||Fran Sol||Willem II||13|
Spare a thought for Ajax, who are doing their best to stay in touch with the league leaders, and are a creditable six points off the top.
The Amsterdam side do host the leaders on March 31, and will hope they are still in with a realistic shout by then to keep their hopes of a first league title in five years alive.