By IAN HOLLIDAY
There are better strikers than Gonzalo Higuain, but there may not be any in better form right now. On Saturday, Higuain scored his third hat-trick in four matches to lead Real Madrid to a 4-1 victory over Real Betis.
It was the striker's second hat-trick in as many La Liga matches, bringing his goal total to eight on the season, behind only fellow Argentine Lionel Messi for the league lead. Higuain's effort followed an international break in which he netted another three goals in Argentina's 4-1 win over Chile in World Cup qualifying.
This weekend also saw Manchester City gain the upper hand in its battle for the top of the Premier League with rivals Man United. While the Red Devils needed a late Javier Hernandez goal to salvage a 1-1 draw at archrivals Liverpool, City got goals from four different players – including a bicycle kick from Mario Balotelli – in an easy 4-1 win over Aston Villa.
The results leave City ahead of United by two points, but the club's reign at the top of the English table could prove to be short-lived, as the two sides meet next Sunday at Old Trafford.
Elsewhere, Inter Milan's dismal start to the Serie A season continued with a 2-1 loss at Catania, while Bayern Munich extended its shutout streak to 12 games across all competitions with a 4-0 blowout of Hertha Berlin. And in France, Paris St. Germain got a hat-trick from Kevin Gameiro to defeat AC Ajaccio 3-1 and remain three points clear at the top of the Ligue 1 table.
Here is a rundown of all the weekend scores from Europe's top leagues:
Wolverhampton Wanderers took seven points from their first three matches to find themselves near the top of the August Premier League table. Since then, however, it's been all downhill for Wolves. Five straight defeats, including a 2-0 loss to West Bromwich Albion on Sunday, have seen the club slip all the way to 16th. Wolves were one of only two clubs to fail to score in the Premier League this weekend. The other was Fulham, which fell 2-0 at Stoke. Every other club scored at least one goal, led by Man City's four. Norwich City, Chelsea and, surprisingly, Bolton all scored three to secure needed victories.
West Bromwich Albion 2, Wolverhampton Wanderers 0
Arsenal 2, Sunderland 1
Newcastle United 2, Tottenham 2
Liverpool 1, Manchester United 1
Manchester City 4, Aston Villa 1
Norwich City 3, Swansea City 1
Queens Park Rangers 1, Blackburn 1
Stoke City 2, Fulham 0
Wigan Athletic 1, Bolton 3
Chelsea 3, Everton 1
While Higuain's hat-trick spearheaded Real Madrid's victory over Real Betis, his countryman Messi bagged a brace in Barcelona's 3-0 win over Racing Santander. The result kept Barca at the top of the table on 17 points, one ahead of Real's 16. In between the two clubs everyone expects to be atop the table at the end are last year's 14th-placed club Levante, which has managed to put together a record identical to Barcelona's. This week, Levante matched Barca's comfortable 3-0 win with one of its own over visiting Malaga.
Rayo Vallecano 0, Espanyol 1
Real Zaragoza 2, Real Sociedad 0
Levante 3, Malaga 0
Sevilla FC 2, Sporting Gijon 1
Getafe 0, Villarreal 0
Mallorca 1, Valencia 1
Real Madrid 4, Real Betis 1
Barcelona 3, Racing Santander 0
Granada 0, Atletico Madrid 0
Monday: Athletic Bilbao v. Osasuna
While goals were easy to come by for English sides this weekend, Italian clubs struggled mightily to find the back of the net. More than half of the clubs in Serie A posted goose eggs on the scoreboard, including ten clubs that played to five scoreless draws, all on Sunday. The only clubs to score on Sunday were Bologna, which won 2-0 at Novara, and the two clubs involved in the Roman derby. Lazio came from behind to defeat AS Roma 2-1 on a stoppage time goal from Miroslav Klose.
Cesena 0, Fiorentina 0
Atalanta 0, Udinese 0
Cagliari 0, Siena 0
Chievo Verona 0, Juventus 0
Genoa 0, Lecce 0
Novara 0, Bologna 2
Lazio 2, AS Roma 1
Catania 2, Inter Milan 1
AC Milan 3, Palermo 0
Napoli 1, Parma 2
While Bayern Munich continues to run away with the early part of the Bundesliga season, the next seven clubs behind it are separated by just three points, and just five points separate second place from 12th. Currently claiming second is Borussia Moenchengladbach, which barely escaped relegation last year and is the only club to have scored on Bayern so far this season. 'Gladbach drew 2-2 with eighth-placed Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday. Tied for third place with 16 points and a plus 8 goal differential are VfB Stuttgart last year's champions Borussia Dortmund, both of which claimed 2-0 victories over the weekend.
SC Freiburg 1, Hamburg 2
FC Cologne 2, Hannover 96 0
Bayern Munich 4, Hertha Berlin 0
Borussia Moenchengladbach 2, Bayer Leverkusen 2
Mainz 0, FC Augsburg 1
VfB Stuttgart 2, Hoffenheim 0
VfL Wolfsburg 2, Nurnberg 1
Schalke 04 1, Kaiserslautern 2
Werder Bremen 0, Borussia Dortmund 2
After a slow start to the Ligue 1 season, last year's champions Lille have begun to make their way back into relevancy in the French title race. The club defeated AJ Auxerre 3-1 on Saturday to bring its total to 19 points on the season, good for fourth place, one point behind Montpellier and Lyon, which currently occupy the league's two UEFA Champions League places. Those clubs each posted victories on Saturday as well. Lyon downed last-placed AS Nancy Lorraine 3-1, while Montpellier came back from an early two-goal deficit to defeat Dijon 5-3.
AC Ajaccio 1, Paris St. Germain 3
Valenciennes 3, Sochaux 0
Stade Rennes 2, Lorient 0
AJ Auxerre 1, Lille 3
Brest 1, Caen 1
Evian Thonon Gaillard 1, St. Etienne 2
Lyon 3, AS Nancy Lorraine 1
Montpellier 5, Dijon FCO 3
Toulouse 0, Marseille 0
Nice 3, Bordeaux 0
What did you think of this week's results? Will Mourinho stick with Higuain for Real's champions league match against Karim Benzema's former team Lyon on Tuesday? Any chance Man City can beat United at Old Trafford next week?