European roundup: Festive joy for Leicester, Real on fire

Football Soccer - Chelsea v Sunderland - Barclays Premier League - Stamford Bridge - 19/12/15 Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich shakes hands players on the pitch after the game Action Images via Reuters / John Sibley Livepic (Reuters)

LONDON (Reuters) - Shock leaders Leicester City are certain to go into Christmas at the top of the table in England while champions Chelsea began the post-Jose Mourinho era with a 3-1 home win over Sunderland. Bayern Munich, who announced Carlo Ancelotti would be replacing Pep Guardiola as coach in the summer, enter the Bundesliga's winter break with an eight-point lead. Real Madrid crushed nine-man Rayo Vallecano 10-2 to close the gap on joint leaders Barcelona and Atletico Madrid in Spain. ENGLAND Claudio Ranieri's Leicester City, bottom of the Premier League a year ago, will go into Christmas as leaders whatever happens in Monday's meeting of the two teams just below them, Arsenal and Manchester City. A 3-2 win at Everton was Leicester's seventh victory in eight games on Saturday, the same day as champions Chelsea began the post-Jose Mourinho era with a 3-1 triumph over Sunderland at Stamford Bridge. Louis van Gaal's Manchester United suffered a shock 2-1 home defeat by struggling Norwich City, losing their place in the top four to Tottenham Hotspur who won 2-0 at Southampton. On Sunday, Liverpool slumped to a 3-0 defeat by Watford who stayed above them in seventh place following a fourth successive win. GERMANY Champions Bayern Munich go into the winter break with an eight-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga after winning 1-0 at Hanover 96 but they will spend the second half of the season knowing that coach Pep Guardiola has decided to hand over the reins to Carlo Ancelotti in the summer. Bayern, on track for a record fourth consecutive title, have 46 points with second-placed Borussia Dortmund stuck on 38 after conceding two late goals to slump to a 2-1 defeat at Cologne. Surprise packages Hertha Berlin tightened their hold on third place with a 2-0 victory over Mainz 05, their fifth win in six matches. SPAIN Atletico Madrid missed a chance to seize top spot outright from Barcelona when they were beaten 1-0 at Malaga while chasing Real Madrid closed to within two points of the leaders thanks to a 10-2 demolition of nine-man Rayo Vallecano. Captain Gabi was sent off for Atletico 11 minutes into the second half and Malaga made the breakthrough three minutes from time. Real put hapless Rayo to the sword at the Bernabeu as Wales forward Gareth Bale helped himself to the first four-goal haul of his career, Karim Benzema netted a hat-trick and Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice. Barca and Atletico have 35 points, with the Spanish and European champions having played one game fewer. Real are third on 33 while Celta Vigo and Villarreal stayed hard on their heels when they each won 2-0, at Granada and Real Sociedad respectively. ITALY Inter Milan's lead was cut to one point as they lost 2-1 at home to Lazio, the home team's Felipe Melo giving away a penalty and being sent off. Napoli and Fiorentina, in joint second position, both won to close the gap on Inter. AS Roma eased the pressure on coach Rudi Garcia with their first win in eight games, beating Genoa 2-0. Champions Juventus registered their seventh straight victory, coming from behind to down Carpi 3-2 in the first ever Serie A meeting between the clubs. Inter have 36 points, Napoli and Fiorentina are on 35 and Juventus 33. FRANCE Paris St Germain sunk Caen 3-0 to head into the winter break with 51 points, breaking the record for the most amassed during the first half of the season set by Olympique Lyonnais in 2006. Lyon lost 2-1 at Ajaccio thanks to a Mohamed Wael Larbi double while Angers' good run came to an end with a 1-0 defeat at St Etienne. PSG are 19 points clear of second-placed Monaco who have 32 after drawing 0-0 at 10-man Troyes. Angers, in third, have 31 and Caen are on 30.Tenth-placed Olympique Marseille drew 1-1 at Girondins Bordeaux. (Editing by Tony Jimenez)