Where the top European Leagues stand going into 2017 | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 23.12.2016
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Where the top European Leagues stand going into 2017

Several leagues around Europe are entering their winter breaks. From Chelsea's resurgence to Real Madrid's unbeaten run, DW breaks down what is happening in Europe's top leagues.

Spain - La Liga

In Spain, Zinedine Zidane's unbeaten Real Madrid head into the Christmas break three points clear of Barcelona at the top of La Liga with a game in hand. The Frenchman has overcome initial doubts over his managerial credentials to go 37 games unbeaten in all competitions - Real's last defeat coming away at Wolfsburg in the quarterfinals last season's Champions League.

The unstoppable Cristiano Ronaldo, who won his fourth FIFA Ballon d'Or in December, is Real's top scorer with ten goals in 11 league games - but Barcelona duo Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez are out in front with 12 goals apiece for the second-placed Catalans. Nevertheless, Barcelona's defensive frailty was brutally exposed by Celta Vigo in a calamitous 4-3 defeat on Matchday 7 and manager Luis Enrique was probably disappointed to watch his team concede a last-minute equalizer against Real Madrid in El Clasico.

Third-placed Sevilla don't seem to be suffering from the departure of three-time Europa League winning coach Unai Emery and find themselves only one point behind Barcelona. The flexible side of former Chilean national team coach Jorge Sampaoli has lined up in various different formations throughout the first half of the season and, with five different players having contributed three goals or more, they are highly unpredictable. Also into the knock-out stages of the Champions League to face England's Leicester City and with a Copa del Rey semifinal against Real Madrid coming up, Sevilla are mixing it with Europe's best.

Italy - Serie A

It is same old, same old in Italy. Juventus Turin are top of the league and looking to clinch their sixth Serie A title in a row. The squad of coach Massimiliano Allegri now stands four points clear ahead of second-placed AS Roma, who they beat 1-0 on December 17. Also, Juve still have one game to catch up on after the winter break, meaning they have a good chance to further extend their lead.

Champions League 2016/17 5. Spieltag Sevilla vs Juventus Turin (picture-alliance/Zumapress/M. Bottanelli)

Sami Khedira (middle) and Juventus have not skipped a beat after losing Paul Pogba

At the start of the season, the Bianconeri invested the huge sum of 90 million euros to buy Argentinean Gonzalo Higuaín from Napoli - and it seems to have paid off. The 29-year-old striker has scored 10 goals so far, trailing top scorer Mauro Icardi of Inter Milan by four strikes. But Higuaín scored winning goals against Fiorentina, Torino, Napoli and - last but not least - title rivals Roma. If Juve can keep it up, it will be hard for any other team to pinch the title.

AS Roma last won the title in 2001 and the whole city is ready for a repeat - and yet they never quite get there, having finished third last season and second the two years before. This season they have won all nine home games and also bagged the prestigious city derby against Lazio in early December with two goals within 12 minutes. But the loss against Juve a few weeks later meant a harsh setback for their title hopes. Maybe with Edin Dzeko in their ranks, who has so far scored 13 goals, they can make another run for the title in the second half of the season.

Napoli's young squad puts on a great show this season, dazzling many commentators with their fast and entertaining way of playing football. Standing at 40 goals so far, they have the highest goal scoring rate in the division, even higher than frontrunners Juventus. But the nerves get to them in the big moments; they lost against both Juventus and Roma, setbacks that put them in third place with 35 points. A glimmer of hope: Newcomer Arkadisz Milik is set to return to the pitch in January. He had put on a furious start to the season, scoring seven goals in nine Serie A and Champions League games, but then tore a knee ligament in October.

France - Ligue 1

Forget Leicester City and RB Leipzig - French football has a real fairytale story this season in the form of OGC Nice, the surprise leaders in the French league.

The "Gym" finished fourth last season, but have taken a huge leap forward under former Borussia Mönchengladbach manager Lucien Favre. The respected Swiss technician made the surprise move of bringing Mario Balotelli to the French Riviera, but the controversial Italian striker has more than repaid his manager's faith with eight goals in nine league games to leave the Eaglets two points clear at the top of Ligue 1. Having already been knocked out of a Europa League group which included Bundesliga side Schalke, Nice will have no distractions in the second half of the season.

Football FC Schalke 04 v OGC Nizza- Europa League (Reuters/W. Rattay)

Former Bundesliga coach Lucien Favre has Nice at the top of the French league

Second-placed Monaco simply cannot stop scoring. High-scoring victories over Metz (7-0), Montpellier (6-2), Nancy (6-0) and Marseille (4-0) have made the m Europe's top scorers with 56 goals - an astonishing average of almost 3 goals per game. Former Manchester United, Chelsea and Atletico Madrid striker Radamel Falcao has found his form again with 11 league goals as the Monégasques lead the challenge to Nice.

Despite winning Ligue 1 by a scarcely believable 31 points last season, it's been far from plain sailing for the Qatari-backed Paris Saint-Germain this time around. New manager Unai Emery has struggled to compensate for the loss of superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who scored 38 goals in 31 league appearances for PSG last term. Edinson Cavani has done his best to plug the gap with 18 goals so far but, Lucas Moura aside, no other offensive player has scored more than 1. Argentinian midfielder Angel Di Maria has come in for particular criticism in the French press after defeats to Monaco, Toulouse, Montpellier and Guingamp left the champions five points off the pace in third.

Portugal - Primeira Liga

In Portugal, reigning champions Benfica go into the winter break with a four-point cushion at the top of the Portuguese league having only lost once in the league so far this season - a 2-1 defeat to Maritimo on Matchday 12. The Lisbon side have the second-best defense in the division, but could be weakened if reports in England are to be believed that Manchester United are interested in signing 22-year-old Swedish center back Victor Lindelof in January. Benfica will face Borussia Dortmund in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Northern rivals FC Porto are four points behind in second and go into the winter break on the back of a 12-game unbeaten run - including a 1-1 draw with Benfica in November. They face an equally tough Champions League tie with Juventus in the New Year.

Netherlands - Eredivisie

Feyenoord Rotterdam, who last won the title almost 20 years ago, lead the Dutch top flight ahead of record champions Ajax Amsterdam and last season's winners PSV Eindhoven. With 47 goals out of 17 games, Rotterdam have scored the most of all teams, which is thanks in part to their striker Nicolai Jörgensen, who has already netted 12 times - more than any other player in the division. Giovanni van Bronckhorst, the coach behind the solid performance, just extended his contract for another two years in the beginning of December. So the question for the second leg of the season is: Will Feyenoord manage to bring the title back to the port city of Rotterdam?

England - Premier League

While the rest of Europe takes a much deserved break over Christmas, there's no rest for England's Premier League. Since back-to-back defeats to Liverpool and Arsenal in September, Antonio Conté's Chelsea have won 11 games in a row to open up a six-point cushion at the top of the league. The Blues will be aiming to continue that run with home games against Bournemouth and Stoke over the festive period.

UK | Fußball | Crystal Palace vs Chelsea - Premier League - Selhurst Park Stadium (picture-alliance/ZUMAPRESS/D. Klein)

Antonio Conte has brought Chelsea back to the top in his first season

Leading the chasing pack are Jürgen Klopp's Liverpool, who remained second thanks to a last-gasp derby win over local rivals Everton. Former Mainz goalkeeper Loris Karius has received heavy criticism in the British media following some high-profile errors and was dropped for Monday's derby.

Former Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola got off to a perfect start at Manchester City, winning his first six Premier League matches, but a run of six games without a win in October soon brought the Sky Blues back down to earth. Former Wolfsburg star Kevin De Bruyne has been outstanding but ex-Dortmund midfielder Ilkay Gündogan suffered knee ligament damage against Watford in December.

Down in sixth, Manchester United got off to a slow start under José Mourinho but have slowly started turning draws into victories. Bastian Schweinsteiger has been largely frozen out under the new regime, whereas Henrikh Mkhitaryan has begun to establish himself as one of United's greatest attacking threats.

Champions Leicester City are only three points clear of the relegation zone.