By IAN HOLLIDAY
If Arsenal is able to turn around its 2011-12 Premier League campaign and return to UEFA Champions League football next year, the club will likely look back at Saturday's 5-3 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge as the turning point.
After twice coming back from a one-goal deficit, the visitors took a 3-2 lead on a 55th minute goal from Theo Walcott that looked like it might prove to be the winner before Juan Mata struck in the 80th. It was then that Arsenal captain and talisman Robin Van Persie took over. First, the Dutchman capitalized on a John Terry stumble and rounded Petr Cech to put the Gunners ahead in the 85th minute. Then, in stoppage time, he completed a hat-trick with a beautifully struck drive off an Arsenal counter.
The Gunners remain in seventh in the Premier League, but their 16 points are just three behind the Blues' total, which is good for third. For its part, Chelsea is suddenly reeling, having now dropped two in a row after last week's surprise defeat at QPR. The Blues are still in third on goal differential, but they're tied on points with Newcastle and Tottenham, each of which has a game in hand.
In Spain this weekend, surprise leaders Levante fell 2-0 at Osasuna, paving the way for Real Madrid to take the La Liga lead with its 1-0 victory over Real Sociedad. Levante actually dropped to third in the Spanish table with the loss, as FC Barcelona demolished Mallorca 5-0 on Saturday behind a Lionel Messi hat-trick.
The big matchups in Italy this weekend were Juventus' 2-1 win over Inter Milan in the Derby d'Italia and AC Milan's 3-2 win at AS Roma. The former kept the Old Lady at the top of the Serie A table, while the latter put the Rossoneri temporarily into second. That changed Sunday, however, with Lazio and Udinese each securing wins.
Elsewhere, Bayern Munich got back on track after last week's 2-1 loss at Hannover with a 4-0 drubbing of Nurnberg on Saturday. In France, Paris St. Germain continued its run of table-topping form with a 4-2 win over Caen.
Here is a rundown of all the weekend scores from Europe's top leagues:
While the drama between Arsenal and Chelsea dominated the headlines this weekend, the Manchester clubs quietly continued their good table-topping form. Manchester United rebounded from its 6-1 derby defeat last weekend with a hard-fought 1-0 win at Everton on Saturday. City, on the other hand, had a much easier time with its fixture against Wolves, overcoming a red card to Vincent Kompany to post a 3-1 victory and stay five points ahead of its rivals.
Tottenham 3, Queens Park Rangers 1
Everton 0, Manchester United 1
Chelsea 3, Arsenal 5
Manchester City 3, Wolverhampton Wanderers 1
Norwich City 3, Blackburn 3
Sunderland 2, Aston Villa 2
Swansea City 3, Bolton 1
Wigan Athletic 0, Fulham 2
West Bromwich Albion 0, Liverpool 2
Monday: Stoke City v. Newcastle United
Levante's defeat leaves Barca and Sevilla as the only undefeated clubs in La Liga, but neither's unbeaten record is good enough to top the table. Barca has kept pace with leaders Real Madrid, recording one fewer win and two more draws than the Merengues to stay within a point of the top. Sevilla, though undefeated, remains eight points off the pace with just four wins and five draws for 17 points. Even if the club defeats last-placed Granada Monday night, it will still be stuck in fifth place. The top two renew their Clasico rivalry on Dec. 11.
Sporting Gijon 1, Athletic Bilbao 1
Osasuna 2, Levante 0
Racing Santander 1, Real Betis 0
Atletico Madrid 3, Real Zaragoza 1
Malaga 2, Espanyol 1
Valencia 3, Getafe 1
Villarreal 2, Rayo Vallecano 0
Barcelona 5, Mallorca 0
Real Sociedad 0, Real Madrid 1
Monday: Sevilla FC v. Granada
While an undefeated record through nine games in La Liga is only good for fifth place for Sevilla, Juventus has posted a nearly identical record in Serie A en route to first place. While Sevilla's record is 4-5-0 (W-L-T) for 17 points, Juve's is 5-4-0 for 19. The lower point total for first means the Italian table is more compact than other leagues' tables at the moment. Just two points separate Juve, in first, from AC Milan, in fourth. After that, there's a three-point drop off to fifth, and nine clubs within three points of each other in the middle of the table.
Siena 4, Chievo Verona 1
Bologna 3, Atalanta 1
Fiorentina 1, Genoa 0
Lecce 1, Novara 1
Parma 2, Cesena 0
Udinese 1, Palermo 0
Cagliari 0, Lazio 3
AS Roma 2, AC Milan 3
Catania 2, Napoli 1
Inter Milan 1, Juventus 2
Bayern's defeat last week didn't set the Bavarian giants back much. The club still has a four point lead at the top of the Bundesliga table. Behind Bayern, however, things tighten up quickly. Schalke is second with 21 points, and behind it are five clubs within three points of its total. Borussia Dortmund, Werder Bremen, and Borussia Moenchengladbach are all on 20 points, while Hannover and Stuttgart are on 18 each.
FC Cologne 3, FC Augsburg 0
Hamburg 1, Kaiserslautern 1
Bayern Munich 4, Nurnberg 0
Borussia Moenchengladbach 2, Hannover 96 1
Schalke 04 3, Hoffenheim 1
VfL Wolfsburg 2, Hertha Berlin 3
VfB Stuttgart 1, Borussia Dortmund 1
Mainz 05 1, Werder Bremen 3
SC Freiburg 0, Bayer Leverkusen 1
PSG's victory kept it three points ahead of Montpellier, which defeated Nancy 2-0 on Saturday. The first- and second-placed clubs are six and three points ahead of their nearest challengers, respectively. Tied on 23 points for third and fourth place are Lyon and last year's champions Lille, which were held to a scoreless draw at Valenciennes on Sunday. The draw allowed Lyon, which won 2-0 over local rivals St. Etienne on Saturday, to climb back into the race for a UEFA Champions League spot.
Nice 1, Sochaux 1
Toulouse 1, Stade Rennes 0
Valenciennes 0, Lille 0
AC Ajaccio 0, Bordeaux 2
Brest 3, Lorient 1
Dijon FCO 2, Marseille 3
Evian Thonon Gaillard 3, AJ Auxerre 1
Montpellier 2, AS Nancy Lorraine 0
Paris St. Germain 4, Caen 2
Lyon 2, St. Etienne 0
What did you think of this week's results? See Arsenal making next year's champions league? What about Chelsea? Now that Real Madrid and Barca are in the top two places in Spain, are they there for good?