How La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A, Ligue 1 and Eredivisie look at the halfway stage

Graphic
Image: La Liga, Bundesliga, Ligue 1, Serie A and Eredivisie are all at the halfway stage

As Bundesliga, Serie A, Ligue 1 and Eredivisie head for their winter breaks, while La Liga returns, we look at the state of play in Europe.

La Liga is up for grabs as several sides attempt to knock Barcelona off their perch, while Serie A and Eredivisie remain wide open at the halfway stage.

PSG and Bayern Munich have continued their dominance in Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga respectively, but there has been no shortage of stories elsewhere across Europe.

Neymar (C) celebrates with Barcelona forward Luis Suarez (L) and Lionel Messi (R)
Image: Barcelona's front three of Luis Suarez, Neymar and Lionel Messi have been in superb form this term

La Liga

Position Team Played Points
1 Barcelona 15 35
2 Atletico Madrid 16 35
3 Real Madrid 16 33
4 Celta Vigo 16 31

The season was touted as being the most competitive in La Liga for decades, but even with five points separating first and fifth, not too many have faith in Barcelona dropping somewhere underneath second gear for the remainder of the season.

They have reached fifth gear only fleetingly - namely the 4-0 win over Real Madrid at the Bernabeu in November, a win that will go down in the history books as one of Real's most humiliating nights - but Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez look simply unstoppable.

More importantly, Barca navigated their way through a five-game period without Messi, coming away with four wins following the Argentine's knee injury, and go into the break level on points with Atletico Madrid having played a game less.

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Gareth Bale, Rafael Benitez, Real Madrid v Rayo Vallecano, La Liga
Image: Rafa Benitez (right) was under pressure at Real Madrid before even losing a game

Diego Simeone's Atletico are clicking again after several changes in the summer, the Argentine proving once again he is one of the world's top coaches as they reach half-time in La Liga with a chance of an unprecedented second title in three years. 

Simeone attempted to add beauty to Atletico's brawn early in the season, but when that didn't work, he quickly returned to his roots and led the 2013/14 champions on a nine-game unbeaten run, winning seven of those.

Across Madrid, Real boss Rafa Benitez was being criticised before even losing a game, and the 'sack, hire, repeat' trend under Florentino Perez shows little sign of stopping. Is Benitez just another stop-gap? Guillem Balague thinks so. "I do not see Rafa being there next season," he said in November. "I am pretty sure that Florentino will think of something different."

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Jon Driscoll and Terry Gibson pick their best five goals from La Liga and the Copa del Rey in 2015

They are still in touch with the title, but the problems run deeper at the Bernabeu, and all eyes will be on Cristiano Ronaldo as his future remains unclear. For Balague, it is clear as day: "We have said many times there is a strategy for Ronaldo to go to another club next season."

Elsewhere, Gary Neville's appointment at Valencia caused a stir, and the ever-expectant fans at Mestalla will want to see results soon after the new year, while Celta Vigo and Villarreal both have a real chance of a top-four spot having impressed at the halfway stage. 

La Liga returns on Wednesday, December 30, with every game from matchday 17 live on Sky Sports. Real Madrid host Real Sociedad at 3pm (live on Sky Sports 1), Barcelona return to face Real Betis at the Nou Camp at 7.30pm (live on Sky Sports 2) and Gary Neville's Valencia go to Villarreal on Thursday at 3pm (live on Sky Sports 1). 

La Liga returns - all 10 matches live on Sky Sports

Weds, 3pm Levante v Malaga iPad, Xtra and SS1 red button
Weds, 3pm Real Madrid v Real Sociedad SS1
Weds, 5.15pm Vallecano v Atletico Madrid SS2
Weds, 5.15pm Sevilla v Espanyol iPad, Xtra, SS2 red button
Weds, 5.30pm Eibar v Sporting Gijon iPad, SS2 red button
Weds, 7.30pm Barcelona v Real Betis SS2
Weds, 7.30pm Celta Vigo v Bilbao iPad, Xtra, SS2 red button
Weds, 7.30pm Getafe v Deportivo iPad, SS2 red button
Weds, 8pm Las Palmas v Granada iPad, SS2 red button
Thurs, 3pm Villarreal v Valencia SS1

Bundesliga

Position Team Played Points
1 Bayern Munich 17 46
2 Dortmund 17 38
3 Hertha Berlin 17 32
4 Monchengladbach 17 29

Pep Guardiola is on course to win a third straight Bundesliga title in his final season at Bayern Munich having dropped only five points all season, winning by three goals or more in eight of their 17 games.

Outside of Bavaria, Borussia Dortmund manager Thomas Tuchel has fit himself into the rather large Jurgen Klopp-shaped indent seamlessly, sitting comfortably in second place eight points behind Bayern and six clear of third-place Hertha Berlin.

Tuchel will be desperate to hold onto 27-goal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who is already the latest Dortmund star to be linked with a move to Europe's finest, but it is the form of another Bundesliga striker that has most English fans taking notice.

Henry on Pep's three Ps

Henry on Pep's three Ps

Thierry Henry spoke on Monday Night Football about Pep Guardiola's philosophy, and the 'three Ps'

Pep Guardiola will leave Bayern Munich at the end of the season to be replaced by Carlo Ancelotti
Image: Pep Guardiola will leave Bayern Munich at the end of the season to be replaced by Carlo Ancelotti

Former Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez has more goals (17) in his last 14 games for Bayer Leverkusen than Louis van Gaal's entire side have managed in that period, prompting Bayer's CEO Michael Schade to describe the Mexican as the club's "dream transfer" at a reported £7.3m.

Bayer sit fifth, in a fight for the top-four spots alongside MonchengladbachWolfsburgSchalke and Hertha Berlin

Serie A

Position Team Played Points
1 Inter Milan 17 36
2 Fiorentina 17 35
3 Napoli 17 35
4 Juventus 17 33

Serie A looked much like the Premier League in late October; champions Juventus' fall from grace was dramatic, sitting 12th having won just three of their first 10 games, while Roma were at the summit, looking good for a first title in 15 years.

While Chelsea's similar plight showed no sign of stopping going into winter, Juventus have won seven games on the bounce to leave themselves three points off the lead, while Roma have won just twice in the same period to drop to fifth. 

Roberto Mancini
Image: Roberto Mancini's Inter MIlan sit top of Serie A at the halfway stage

Just four points separate first and fifth in one of the most open title races in years, but a familiar face leads the way at the halfway stage.

Former Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini sits top of Serie A with Inter Milan, who have the worst goalscoring record in the top six, but the best defence in the entire league, keeping an astonishing 10 clean sheets in just 17 games.

Fiorentina, who have not won a title since 1969, and Napoli, 26 years without a crown themselves, make up the top three, setting up an entertaining second half to the campaign.

Ligue 1

Position Team Played Points
1 PSG 19 51
2 Monaco 19 32
3 Angers 19 31
4 Caen 19 30

Done and dusted. No defeats, just six points dropped and just nine goals conceded, PSG will win their fourth straight French league title long before May, barring a collapse of mammoth proportions.

Laurent Blanc's side go into the winter break with a record 51 points, 19 clear of second-place Monaco, but will momentum from the domestic easy street be a help or hindrance in their quest for a first Champions League crown?

Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates after scoring for PSG v Toulouse in Ligue 1
Image: Zlatan Ibrahimovic and PSG are an incredible 19 points clear of Ligue 1

As Bayern Munich have found in previous seasons, such dominance is not always best preparation for potential meetings with Barca or Real in the knockout stages, but the feeling is this PSG side is Blanc's finished article.

Aside from PSG's rule, the story of the season is undoubtedly the rise of newly-promoted Angers, who sit third going into the winter break with a real chance of Champions League football next season.

Inexperienced but producing miracles, manager Stephane Moulin is one to look out for, but Angers face competition for a top-three place from overachievers Nice, Rennes and Lorient, as well as Saint-Etienne, Marseille, Monaco and Lyon.

Eredivisie

Position Team Played Points
1 Ajax 17 41
2 PSV 17 38
3 Feyenoord 17 36
4 Heracles 17 30

Ajax sit top of the Dutch league looking for their fifth title in six years, three points clear of current champions PSV and five ahead of third-place Feyenoord

For Phillip Cocu's PSV, the loss of Memphis Depay and Georginio Wijnaldum in the summer to the Premier League has been telling, though Luuk de Jong has contributed with 14 goals to keep them in touch.

Luuk de Jong scored a hat-trick as PSV won 6-0
Image: Luuk de Jong is Eredivisie's top scorer with 14 goals

But Ajax's spread of goals has them leading the way, with four players - Anwar El-Ghazi, Arkadiusz Milik, Davy Klaassen and Viktor Fischer - having scored seven or more goals in the league. 

For Feyenoord, Dirk Kuyt hit the ground running back at his former club, scoring 13 goals in the league including two hat-tricks in two games, keeping Giovanni van Bronckhorst's side within reach of a first league title since 1999.

Watch the second half of La Liga and Eredivisie seasons in the new year live on Sky Sports

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