Talking points from the weekend in European soccer leagues:
BARCELONA TAKE HUGE STEP TOWARDS LALIGA TITLE
Barcelona have tightened their grip at the top of the LaLiga standings after an electric 2-1 comeback win in an El Clásico against bitter rivals Real Madrid on Sunday.
Franck Kessié's stunner in added time gave Barça a well-earned victory that left second-placed Real trailing the leaders by 12 points with only 12 games to be played.
Only a major letdown would take the title away from Barcelona, who are set to lift their first LaLiga title in four years.
It is also a major boost in confidence to Barcelona who earned their third consecutive win in all competitions against their bitter rivals for the first time in over a decade. They will host Real Madrid again in two weeks in the second leg of their Copa del Rey semifinal tie after winning 1-0 away at Santiago Bernabéu.
With Real having to share their focus on their Champions League quarterfinal tie against Chelsea in their effort to win back-to-back European championships, Barça are starting to dream with the LaLiga and Copa del Rey double.
FEYENOORD LOOK ODDS-ON FOR DUTCH TITLE
Feyenoord exorcised their Amsterdam demons on Sunday as they claimed a first league win at Ajax in 18 years in ‘De Klassieker’ to open up a six-point lead over their bitter rivals at the top of the Eredivisie table.
Chasing a first championship since the 2016-17 season, Feyenoord showed immense character to come from 2-1 down and claim victory in a five-goal thriller that at times threatened to boil over in the first half.
Indeed, Feyenoord coach Arne Slot made the decision to remove Quilindschy Hartman from the game after only 24 minutes with the fullback on a yellow card and final warning from referee. It was shrewd management at a time when Ajax were well on top the game and Feyenoord losing their heads, but once the visitors settled, they proved the better side in the second half.
MORE UGLY SCENES FOR DUTCH FOOTBALL
The Eredivisie match between Groningen and Heerenveen was stopped for around 25 minutes late on when a fan of the relegation-threatened home side tried to enter the pitch, seemingly to berate his own team, who were trailing 2-0.
The disturbance in the stands grew and as Groningen players went over to speak with the section of the supporters, defender Jetro Willems was struck by a fan, though he appeared unhurt.
At Groningen v Heerenveen today pic.twitter.com/O8ma4iV8xm— (@thecasualultra) March 19, 2023
The referee took the players from the pitch and they later returned when the situation had calmed down to complete the game. Willems played the full 90 minutes as Heerenveen won with no further goals scored. It is yet another incident of hooliganism in Dutch football that has seen a number of unsavory incidents over the years.
Dortmund have steeled themselves for their upcoming Der Klassiker against Bayern Munich with a 6-1 demolition over Cologne.
With teams going into a one-week international break, the Ruhr valley club, who have won nine of 10 league games in 2023, could not have hoped for a better result before their April 1 big match in Munich that could go a long way in deciding this season's champions.
"We will be well prepared," talismanic captain Marco Reus said. "It will be a great match."
He was not yet with Dortmund when they last won the Bundesliga title in 2012.
NAPOLI CRUISE WHILE MILAN STUMBLE AGAIN
Napoli moved 19 points clear at the top of Serie A to effectively put one hand on the title with 11 games to play after Victor Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia scored yet again in a 4-0 win over Torino — their 10th win in 11 games.
Osimhen's double took his tally to 21 goals, becoming only the fourth Napoli player to score more than 20 goals in a Serie A campaign, while Kvaratskhelia is the first player in Italy to put up double figures for goals (12) and assists (10) this season.
Zlatan Ibrahimović became the oldest goal scorer in Serie A history but reigning champions AC Milan saw their Champions League hopes dented following a 3-1 loss to Udinese amid a poor run of form where they have lost five of their last nine games.
Stefano Pioli's side could have moved up to second place with a win at Udinese but the defeat left them in fourth with 48 points after Sunday's results.
Inter Milan suffered their third defeat in four Serie A games as they were beaten 1-0 by Juventus, who retained a minor chance of ending up in the top four despite their 15-point deduction.
Inter dropped to third behind Lazio, who won the derby against AS Roma 1-0.
MESSI WALKS OUT ON PSG FANS AFTER DEFEAT
Paris Saint-Germain were lucky enough to enjoy the continued support of their fans during their 2-0 home defeat against Rennes on Sunday — their first at home in Ligue 1 this season, but only a few players went to the Auteuil Kop to greet them after a dismal display.
Kylian Mbappé was one of them after the France forward was denied twice by Rennes keeper Steve Mandanda, but Lionel Messi, who looked nothing like the player who inspired Argentina to the World Cup title last December, walked straight to the dressing room, as did the disappointing Marco Verratti.
— Out Of Context Football (@nocontextfooty) March 19, 2023
PSG lead the standings on 66 points from 28 games with a seven-point advantage over Marseille, who ended Reims's 19-game unbeaten streak in the league with a 2-1 away win courtesy of an Alexis Sánchez double.
(Reporting by Nick Said, Karolos Grohmann, Rohith Nair, Hritika Sharma, Fernando Kallas; Editing by Stephen Coates)