The state of play across the European leagues as Real Madrid, Bayern and Inter battle for the title – Daily Mail

While the Premier League plugs away with its traditional festive fixture schedule – even in the midst of an Omicron surge across the country – the other four major European leagues are taking a well-deserved rest. 

It’s been an action packed start to the season for LaLiga, Serie A, Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga, with some teams running away with the title while other divisions are offering up a fascinating contest between a handful of sides at the top. 

There are also some big name outfits struggling to make their way up the standings – with Barcelona still finding their feet under new boss Xavi and Juventus well off the pace in Italy. 

Sportsmail provides the state of play and explains the biggest talking points in all four of the major European leagues. 

The four big European leagues have taken a winter pause, with some teams cruising and others fighting for glory this season

The four big European leagues have taken a winter pause, with some teams cruising and others fighting for glory this season

LALIGA

Top four: Real Madrid, Sevilla, Real Betis, Rayo Vallecano

It’s a new era in Spain’s top flight without Lionel Messi, and fans have certainly been served up a few surprises with some unlikely challengers for the top four spots. 

It’s Rayo Vallecano who have produced arguably the biggest shock, with coach Andoni Iraola lifting the Spanish minnows into fourth place, above both Atletico Madrid and Barcelona. 

Real Betis, meanwhile, were knocking on the door of the top four last season and now look serious about gatecrashing it – they are third on 33 points, but still five off the current second placed side Sevilla. 

LaLiga fans are so used to seeing Barcelona challenging with Real for the league crown, but it is the six-time Europa League winners – coached by Julen Lopetegui – who are pushing them closest. Sevilla have lost just twice, with 11 victories, but remain eight points off the pace, albeit it with a game in hand.

Madrid look like the clear favourites to take home the trophy under new boss Carlo Ancelotti, whose side have lost just once, with 14 wins and scoring a league high of 41 goals. 

Real Madrid are eight points clear at the top and look like the favourites to win the LaLiga title

Real Madrid are eight points clear at the top and look like the favourites to win the LaLiga title

Their perennial rivals Barcelona are struggling to keep pace and are currently in seventh place

Their perennial rivals Barcelona are struggling to keep pace and are currently in seventh place

But for their usual rivals Barca, it looks like they face a battle simply to get into the top four. 

They are currently seventh on 28 points, with seven wins, seven draws and four defeats. It is not the form of title contenders, though they are still just two points off fourth-placed Rayo, so will be confident they can still qualify for the Champions League next season. 

Just above them are Real Socieded on 29 and reigning champions Atletico Madrid in 5th – also on 29 – following an up and down season under Diego Simeone. 

Incredibly, only six points separates Athletic Bilbao in tenth and Rayo Vallecano in fourth. 

The relegation picture isn’t too surprising – with Alaves, Cadiz and Levante currently occupying the bottom three spots. 

SERIE A

Top four: Inter, AC Milan, Napoli, Atalanta 

Most expected Inter Milan to struggle after losing Romelu Lukaku with the club in a difficult financial situation too, but they’ve held their own under new boss Simone Inzaghi and have pushed their way to the top of the table.

The Nerazurri are on 46 points after leapfrogging their local rivals AC Milan – on 42 – who had led the way for most of the season before suffering a blip. 

The two rivals could not be separated when they played in a 1-1 draw last month and it promises to be an enthralling inter-city battle, with Milan looking for their first title since 2011. 

After finishing runners up to Inter last season, they will be hopeful of making a better fist of it this time out.

Following behind are Napoli, who trail Milan by three points on 39. Luciano Spalletti’s men beat Milan 1-0 this month, but that was their only win in their last five games and will look to bounce back in January. 

Inter Milan have leapfrogged their rivals AC Milan to go top of Serie A for Christmas

Inter Milan have leapfrogged their rivals AC Milan to go top of Serie A for Christmas 

Milan (right) are in second, with Napoli (left) also challenging for the title and top four

Milan (right) are in second, with Napoli (left) also challenging for the title and top four

Atalanta have been consistent challengers for the top four over the last few years, so it’s not a shock to see them occupy fourth spot as we go into the break. 

But for Juventus, it’s another year of turbulence – and it appears they have problems that even Max Allegri can’t fix after bringing back their successful boss to replace the troubled Andrea Pirlo. They are fifth on 34 points and the title looks out of reach already. The top four will be their priority.

And in sixth it’s Jose Mourinho’s Roma, who are 14 points off the top and facing a battle to earn a Champions League spot – although an impressive 4-1 win at Atalanta has given them hope. 

Making up the bottom three in Serie A is Genoa, Cagliari and Salernitana.  

LIGUE 1 

Top four: PSG, Nice, Marseille, Rennes

Anything exciting to inform you of in Ligue 1? Well if you were hoping for a closely-fought title battle, you may be disappointed, as it’s PSG cruising at the top, leading by 13 points, with a total of 46.

But what else could we expect with a forward line of Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar? 

The trio haven’t been exactly on song together as a trio – with Mbappe leading the way with nine goals and eight assists, with Messi only managing one league goal so far. Neymar has three, and has now been ruled out with injury.

Mauricio Pochettino has been under pressure to get the best out of his star players, with Sergio Ramos also struggling to get to grips with life in France, with winning Ligue 1 seen as a formality for the club’s owners.

Elsewhere, Nice are their closest challengers on 33 points, but in reality they will be scrapping for a top three spot that will give them a place in the Champions League.

PSG are cruising at the Ligue 1 summit - 13 points clear of Nice - but aren't without their issues

PSG are cruising at the Ligue 1 summit – 13 points clear of Nice – but aren’t without their issues

Reigning Ligue 1 champions Lille have failed to recreate their magic and are down in eighth

Reigning Ligue 1 champions Lille have failed to recreate their magic and are down in eighth

They’re level on points with third-placed Marseille, who have only lost three games but have been bogged down by six draws. Rennes round off the top four, with Montpellier and Monaco challenging further down in fifth and sixth place. 

Meanwhile, reigning champions Lille may have shocked PSG last season by winning Ligue 1, but this year they are way down in eighth place, though they are still just five points off a Champions League spot.

The teams struggling at the bottom are Metz, Lorient and Saint Etienne. 

BUNDESLIGA 

Top four: Bayern, Dortmund, Freiburg, Leverkusen

Bayern running clear with the title, that old chestnut? 

Just like Ligue 1, there aren’t many new developments in the German top flight this season. It’s Julian Naglesmann’s men at the top on 43 points, with Borussia Dortmund nine points behind them on 34.

The Bundesliga has been a breeze for Bayern Munich so far as they top the table by nine points

The Bundesliga has been a breeze for Bayern Munich so far as they top the table by nine points

Leipzig have challenged Bayern for many seasons but find themselves in tenth place so far

Leipzig have challenged Bayern for many seasons but find themselves in tenth place so far

Dortmund’s iffy recent form has left them trailing, while Bayern are on song with five wins in a row.

The biggest story of the season is Freiburg – who are flying in third place after an impressive campaign that sees them mixing it with Leverkusen and Hoffenheim for a Champions League place.

Competition for that coveted spot is fierce, though, with Frankfurt, Union Berlin and Cologne all in touching distance.

The biggest surprise is to see last year’s runners up Leipzig – who have finished in the top four in each of the last three seasons – down in tenth. 

The Red Bull owned side were forced to sack boss Jesse Marsch, with Domenico Tedesco coming in but being unable to arrest their poor form. 

At the bottom are Stuttgart, Arminia and Furth.  

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