European state of play: Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga title races hot up
Juventus and Bayern Munich dominance at risk, while Real Madrid change tack
Last Updated: 10/02/20 7:36pm
As we approach the business end of the season, the title races across the continent are beginning to hot up. What's the state of play in Serie A, La Liga and Bundesliga?
Incredibly, just one point separates the top three.
After eight years of Juventus dominance, the Old Lady's reign is under serious threat.
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It's a three-horse race after 23 games - Inter Milan (54 points), Juventus (54 points) and Lazio (53) points. Inter are looking for their first title since 2010 under Jose Mourinho, and Lazio seek their first since 2000 under Sven-Goran Eriksson.
Inter Milan fought back from two goals down to beat AC Milan 4-2 and move level with Juventus on Sunday, while Lazio have gone 18 games unbeaten for the first time in the club's history
Serie A table
Though Inter are interesting from a Premier League standpoint - they have Romelu Lukaku, Ashley Young, Victor Moses, Alexis Sanchez and Christian Eriksen on their books, plus Antonio Conte in charge - Lazio's run under Simone Inzaghi is more impressive.
They were a whopping 66/1 to win Serie A at the start of the campaign, having finished eighth last term, and don't have any European commitments between now and the end of the season.
In a nutshell, what's gone wrong at Juventus? Ronaldo is still doing his bit, scoring in a record 10th consecutive league game at Verona on Saturday, but some fans have turned on Maurizio Sarri after a 2-1 defeat, their second in three games. Sarri blames the attitude of the players, while fans are blaming his possession-based tactics.
Finally, Serie A fans have a title race to enjoy.
Key games: Lazio vs Inter Milan (Feb 16), Juventus vs Inter Milan (March 1), Atalanta vs Lazio (March 7), Lazio vs AC Milan (April 5), AC Milan vs Juventus (April 11), Juventus vs Atalanta (April 19), Juventus vs Lazio (April 26), Roma vs Inter Milan (April 26), Inter Milan vs Napoli (May 17), Napoli vs Lazio (May 24), Juventus vs Roma (May 24).
With 15 games remaining, Barcelona trail Real Madrid by three points, with another seven points to over-performing Getafe in third.
Both teams seem to want to chuck the title away; Real have drawn nearly a third of their games this season, while Barca have lost four already, as many as they've lost in any full season since 2016.
Behind the scenes, there have been rumbles of discontent at Barcelona, and a lack of distinct playing style as football moves away from a possession-based model.
La Liga table
A fine fightback win at Real Betis on Sunday evening will give them a confidence boost, but Real look rampant having scored 12 in their last four, and winning five on the bounce in La Liga.
We've seen a different side to Zinedine Zidane's Real Madrid this season, conceding just 14 goals in 23 La Liga games, fewer than any side across the top five European leagues. Defensively they are far stronger than previous seasons, but with less firepower in the final third.
And having won multiple Champions League trophies without triumphing domestically, Real are in a situation not too dissimilar to Liverpool. Their priority this year should be a second La Liga title in seven years.
For Barca, who are without Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele for the rest of the season, it's a case of keeping contact, with the March 1 Clasico at the Bernabeu the pivotal game.
Key games: Barcelona vs Getafe (Feb 15), Real Madrid vs Barcelona (March 1), Barcelona vs Real Sociedad (March 8), Real Madrid vs Valencia (March 22), Sevilla vs Barcelona (April 5), Real Sociedad vs Real Madrid (April 5), Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid (April 26), Real Madrid vs Getafe (April 26).
Similar to Serie A, Bayern Munich's seven-year dominance in the Bundesliga is under serious threat by the man who is consistently linked with the next top job at the Allianz.
Julian Nagelsmann's RB Leipzig trail Bayern by a point with 13 games remaining, though they did lead their rivals by four points just three weeks ago.
They stopped the slide with a credible goalless draw at Bayern on Sunday - billed as the Spitzenspiel (top game) and Titel-Krimi (title race thriller) - while third-placed Borussia Dortmund are now four points off leaders Bayern after a 4-3 defeat by Bayer Leverkusen.
And there's a fourth team in the hunt. Borussia Monchengladbach will also move a point behind Bayern if they win their game in hand, making this the tightest Bundesliga race in recent history.
"The Bundesliga is very tight this season and I know everyone in Germany wants to see that," said Hansi Flick, interim coach of Bayern, desperately looking stake a claim for the permanent job in the summer.
He's not wrong. The neutral has become tired of Bayern's dominance, and their rivals aren't impersonators. Dortmund have the added firepower of Erling Haaland, who has eight goals in just 271 minutes, while Monchengladbach have no European football to juggle between now and the end of the season.
For Leipzig, it may be a case of stage fright, but Nagelsmann isn't just in it for the ride: "The question is: do we want to reach the summit cross or do we stop briefly underneath and enjoy the beautiful view?"
Key games: RB Leipzig vs Bayer Leverkusen (March 1), Monchengladbach vs Dortmund (March 7), Monchengladbach vs Bayer Leverkusen (March 22), Dortmund vs Bayern (April 4), Bayer Leverkusen vs Bayern (April 18), Bayern vs Monchengladbach (April 25), RB Leipzig vs Dortmund (May 9)
Best of the rest
PSG's 12-point lead means Ligue 1 is all about the race for the third Champions League spot, with Rennes, Lille, Montpellier and Strasbourg in contention, plus a few straddlers in touch.
Ajax lead Alkmaar by three points in Eredivisie, with Feyenoord and Willem II way back in third and fourth.
And in Portugal, Benfica lead Porto by four points with 14 to play, with Sporting Lisbon nowhere near, another 15 points further back.