By IAN HOLLIDAY
Arsenal's chances of winning the Premier League have looked slim for a while now, but the Gunners refuse to fade away.
After Man United went provisionally ahead by 10 points with its 2-0 win over Fulham on Saturday, Arsenal needed a victory at Blackpool to keep itself within striking distance of the leaders. Early goals from Abou Diaby and Emmanuel Eboue put the Gunners in control, and Robin Van Persie sealed the 3-1 result.
If things break right, and the club wins its game in hand at North London rivals Tottenham on April 20, Arsenal could have a chance to cut United's lead to just one point when the Red Devils visit the Emirates on May 1.
In other action around Europe:
Several second-placed clubs are closer to their league leaders than Arsenal, including Napoli, which moved briefly into a tie with AC Milan at the top of Serie A on Sunday with a 2-0 win over Bologna. The leaders restored their three-point lead hours later with a 2-1 victory at Fiorentina.
In Germany and France, the second-placed clubs actually gained ground on the league leaders. Bayer Leverkusen took advantage of Borussia Dortmund's 1-1 draw at Hamburg to pull within five points of the Bundesliga leaders with a 2-1 win over St. Pauli, while Marseille gained a point on French leaders Lille with its 2-2 draw against Toulouse on Sunday. Lille had fallen 1-0 at AS Monaco on Saturday.
Spanish giants Real Madrid fielded a reserve-laden squad at Athletic Bilbao on Saturday, but still managed to leave with a 3-0 victory behind two penalty-kick goals from Kaka and a nicely worked play from second-half sub Cristiano Ronaldo. The result didn't gain the club any ground against Barcelona, however, as the leaders came from behind to defeat Almeria 3-1.
Here is a rundown of all the weekend scores from Europe's top leagues:
Chelsea continued its climb back toward Premier League relevance with a 1-0 win over Wigan on Saturday. While the Blues are unlikely to challenge for the title, they still have a visit to Old Trafford on May 8 that could have some bearing on the race's outcome. Chelsea may turn out to be even more influential on the race for fourth. As of Sunday, the Blues have played the same number of games as Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur and are in third place with 58 points. If that trend continues, City and Spurs could easily find themselves reprising last year's race for fourth. Just three points separate the clubs right now, and both have schedules that could seem them drop points between now and their second meeting of the season on May 10.
Blackpool 1, Arsenal 3
Aston Villa 1, Newcastle United 0
Wolverhampton Wanderers 0, Everton 3
Blackburn 1, Birmingham City 1
Bolton 3, West Ham United 0
Chelsea 1, Wigan Athletic 0
Manchester United 2, Fulham 0
Sunderland 2, West Bromwich Albion 3
Tottenham 3, Stoke City 2
Monday: Liverpool v. Manchester City
Going into the weekend, the most enticing La Liga matchup was Valencia hosting Villarreal in a battle for third place and the title of "best Spanish club not named Barcelona or Real Madrid." In the end, the match turned out to be less of a battle and more of a massacre. Valencia got braces from Roberto Soldado and Juan Mata sandwiched around a goal from Ever Banega en route to crushing the Yellow Submarine 5-0. Soldado has now scored six goals in his last two matches after netting all four of Valencia's goals against Getafe last week.
Hercules 0, Espanyol 0
Malaga 0, Deportivo La Coruna 0
Racing Santander 1, Levante 1
Sporting Gijon 1, Osasuna 0
Atletico Madrid 3, Real Sociedad 0
Valencia 5, Villarreal 0
Athletic Bilbao 0, Real Madrid 3
Barcelona 3, Almeria 1
Mallorca 2, Sevilla 2
Monday: Real Zaragoza v. Getafe
After leading the league for much of the first half of the season, Lazio had fallen off the pace and out of contention in Serie A in recent weeks. The Roman club isn't going to catch AC Milan for the title, but it will feel hard done if it finishes a season of overachievement within earning a UEFA Champions League spot. This week, the club was able to climb back into a champions league place with its 2-0 win over Parma on Sunday. Lazio benefitted from the work of its Roman rivals AS Roma, which handed Udinese its second successive defeat after it had gone 13 matches unbeaten.
Juventus 3, Genoa 2
Bari 1, Catania 1
Bologna 0, Napoli 2
Cagliari 1, Brescia 1
Lazio 2, Parma 0
Palermo 2, Cesena 2
Sampdoria 1, Lecce 2
Fiorentina 1, AC Milan 2
Inter Milan 2, Chievo 0
Udinese 1, AS Roma 2
For much of the season, the Bundesliga table was relatively static and boring. Now, with five matches left, the table is suddenly full of intriguing races. At the top, Bayer Leverkusen must make up five points in five matches to catch Borussia Dortmund, not an easy task, certainly, but a much more doable one than it seemed back in January when the leaders were lapping the field. The battle for third place rages on as well, with Hannover 96 reclaiming the league's third and final champions league spot again this week with a 2-0 win over Mainz. Bayern Munich's 1-1 draw with Nurnberg, which saw the club fall to fourth once again, resulted in the immediate dismissal of head coach Louis Van Gaal. The race to avoid relegation is heating up as well, with Borussia Moenchengladbach closer than it has been in a long time to climbing out of the Bundesliga cellar. After dismantaling FC Cologne 5-1 on Sunday, the club is just two points behind Wolfsburg for 16th place, which would qualify it for the German promotion/relegation playoff.
Borussia Moenchengladbach 5, FC Cologne 1
Bayer Leverkusen 2, St. Pauli 1
Hamburg 1, Borussia Dortmund 1
Hannover 96 2, Mainz 05 0
Nurnberg 1, Bayern Munich 1
SC Freiburg 3, Hoffenheim 2
Schalke 04 1, VfL Wolfsburg 0
VfB Stuttgart 2, Kaiserslautern 4
Eintracht Frankfurt 1, Werder Bremen 1
The general unpredictablility in the French table this season can be chalked up largely to a lack of dominant teams. This weekend was a perfect example of that. Of the top four clubs in Ligue 1, only Lyon managed a victory this weekend: It defeated Lens 3-0. As a result, the former seven-time champions returned to third place, gaining ground on both Marseille and Lille. Lyon is now two points out of one of France's two places in the champions league group stage, and five points off the pace for the league title. With eight games to go, the club is still very much in the hunt, but given the way this Ligue 1 season has gone, Lyon could just as easily crash and burn.
Marseille 2, Toulouse 2
Montpellier 1, Nice 1
Lyon 3, Lens 0
AJ Auxerre 2, St. Etienne 2
AS Monaco 1, Lille 0
Bordeaux 0, Arles 0
Caen 1, Paris St. Germain 2
Lorient 1, Sochaux 1
Valenciennes 1, AS Nancy Lorraine 1
Brest 2, Stade Rennes 0
What did you think of this week's results? Which clubs do you see winning titles this season? Which leaders are most likely to be caught?