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Juventus Takes Two-Point Lead Atop Serie A; Real Heads La Liga

Juventus established a two-point lead atop Italian soccer’s Serie A by beating Novara 2-0, while Valencia defeated Malaga to close the gap on Spanish top two Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Simone Pepe and Fabio Quagliarella got goals in Turin yesterday as Juventus extended its unbeaten league record this season to 15 matches.

The victory took Juve to 33 points in the standings ahead of defending champion AC Milan and Udinese, which drew 2-2 at Lazio in the late game. Inter Milan climbed to fifth following a 1-0 win at Cesena, while AC Milan beat Siena 2-0 two days ago.

There is a midweek round of Serie A games before the league pauses until Jan. 7

Real Madrid enters the midseason break in Spain with a three-point lead over defending champion Barcelona following a 6-2 victory at Sevilla two days ago. Cristiano Ronaldo got a hat trick for Madrid, which played more than half the match with 10 men after Pepe was red carded.

Barcelona was in action at the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan, where Lionel Messi scored two goals in yesterday’s 4-0 win against Brazil’s Santos in the final.

Valencia got a goal in each half from Roberto Soldado against Malaga last night to move to 33 points in La Liga, four points behind Barcelona. Levante is another four points back following a 2-1 loss at Granada.

Bayern Tops Bundesliga

Fourth-place Borussia Moenchengladbach kept pace with the leaders in Germany’s Bundesliga by beating Mainz 1-0. Kaiserslautern and Hannover tied 1-1 in yesterday’s other game.

Bayern Munich leads the standings with 37 points after a 3-0 victory against Cologne on Dec. 16, while Borussia Dortmund and Schalke have 34 points and Moenchengladbach 33.

Hertha Berlin fired coach Markus Babbel yesterday. Michael Preetz, the club’s director of sport, said in a statement on the club’s website that he saw “no way that we can work together in a trustful manner.”

In France, Lille prevented Paris Saint-Germain from regaining the Ligue 1 top spot as the teams played out a scoreless draw last night. The result put PSG level on 37 points with Montpellier, which leads on goal difference.

The French league will break off for 3 1/2 weeks after a round of midweek matches.

PSV Eindhoven cut AZ Alkmaar’s lead atop the Dutch Eredivisie to one point after a 5-1 win at Heerenveen yesterday. AZ lost 2-1 at NAC Breda. FC Twente and Ajax are four points further back.

Italy: Chievo 2-0 Cagliari, AC Milan 2-0 Siena, Fiorentina 2-2
Atalanta, Catania 2-0 Palermo, Cesena 0-1 Inter Milan, Genoa 2-1
Bologna, Juventus 2-0 Novara, Parma 3-3 Lecce, Lazio 2-2
Udinese, Napoli 1-3 Roma.

Spain: Real Mallorca 1-2 Getafe, Sporting Gijon 1-2 Espanyol,
Athletic Bilbao 2-1 Real Zaragoza, Sevilla 2-6 Real Madrid,
Atletico Madrid 0-2 Real Betis, Granada 2-1 Levante, Osasuna 2-1
Villarreal, Racing Santander 0-0 Real Sociedad, Valencia 2-0

Germany: Bayern Munich 3-0 Cologne, Bayer Leverkusen 0-3
Nurnberg, Hamburg 1-1 Augsburg, Hoffenheim 1-1 Hertha Berlin,
Freiburg 1-4 Borussia Dortmund, Wolfsburg 1-0 Stuttgart, Schalke
5-0 Werder Bremen, Kaiserslautern 1-1 Hannover, Borussia
Moenchengladbach 1-0 Mainz.

France: Brest 1-0 Auxerre, Caen 1-2 Nancy, Dijon 1-2 St Etienne,
Marseille 2-1 Lorient, Montpellier 1-1 Toulouse, Nice 2-0
Valenciennes, Lyon 2-1 Evian, AC Ajaccio 1-0 Rennes, Bordeaux 1-
0 Sochaux, Paris Saint-Germain 0-0 Lille.

Netherlands: De Graafschap 1-3 RKC Waalwijk, Heracles Almelo 0-1
Vitesse Arnhem, NEC Nijmegen 2-0 VVV, Roda JC 7-0 Excelsior,
Groningen 1-0 FC Utrecht, Ajax 4-0 Den Haag, Feyenoord 3-2 FC
Twente, NAC Breda 2-1 AZ Alkmaar, Heerenveen 1-5 PSV Eindhoven.

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