Big-spending English Premier League club Manchester City sacked manager Mark Hughes and installed Italian Roberto Mancini, the Inter Milan coach before Jose Mourinho replaced him.
In Spain, Real Madrid thrashed Real Zaragoza 6-0 and moved within two points of Barcelona who were in Abu Dhabi lifting the Club World Cup after a 2-1 win over Estudiantes of Argentina.
Chelsea had Frank Lampard to thank for converting three penalties but only one counted after other players had twice encroached. The Premier League leaders pulled four points clear with a 1-1 draw at West Ham United.
Champions Manchester United were humbled 3-0 at Chelsea's neighbours Fulham on Saturday, while Arsenal went third level on points with Aston Villa, six behind the top spot, after beating Hull City 3-0. Villa defeated Stoke City 1-0.
Manchester City beat Sunderland 4-3 on and then promptly sacked manager Hughes who was replaced by Mancini.
Inter Milan stretched their lead to eight points with a 1-0 win over Lazio thanks to a Samuel Eto'o goal at a bitingly cold San Siro in the last game before Serie A's winter break.
Second-placed AC Milan lost ground but they have a game in hand because their match at Fiorentina was one of four fixtures postponed due to heavy snow.
Juventus boss Ciro Ferrara is under intense pressure after his third-placed side suffered their third consecutive defeat in all competitions when they lost 2-1 to lowly Catania in Turin.
AS Roma climbed into the Champions League qualification zone by beating Parma 2-0 to move level with their surprisingly high-flying opponents in fourth place.
With leaders Barcelona away winning the Club World Cup, Real Madrid took full advantage to close to within two points with a 6-0 hammering of Real Zaragoza.
Gonzalo Higuain and Rafael van der Vaart scored two apiece in the first half, while Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema completed the rout after the break.
La Liga heads into the two-week winter break after 15 games with Barca top on 39 points, Real second with 37 and Sevilla back in third on 30 points after a 2-1 home defeat to Getafe on Saturday.
Playmaker Toni Kroos scored twice to make sure Bayer Leverkusen finished the year in top spot on 35 points, fighting back from 2-1 down to beat Borussia Moenchengladbach 3-2.
Schalke 04 continued their sparkling run under coach Felix Magath with a 1-0 win over Mainz, courtesy of Jefferson Farfan's sixth goal of the season to stay second, a point off the top.
On a snowy, freezing weekend, Bayern Munich demolished bottom-placed Hertha Berlin 5-2 for their fourth straight league win to stay in the hunt in third place on 33 points.
Two David Bellion goals helped champions Girondins Bordeaux outclass Lorient 4-1 in Ligue 1 on Saturday, ensuring they end the year in top spot.
Bordeaux, who have won seven successive games in all competitions, are eight points clear of second-placed Olympique Marseille who managed only a goalless draw at 10-man St Etienne, also on Saturday, and have a game in hand.
In-form Lille climbed into third, nine points off the pace, with a clinical 3-0 win over struggling Le Mans on Sunday.
Fourth-placed Olympique Lyon, who lost their title to Bordeaux last May, dropped 10 points off the pace with a 1-1 draw at Monaco.
There is one more round of matches on Tuesday and Wednesday before the winter break.
Benfica beat Porto 1-0 at home in a rain-drenched "classico" on Sunday thanks to a goal by Javier Saviola. The Argentine forward received a pass from defender David Luiz to drive in from inside the box on 22 minutes.
A headed goal by striker Meyong in injury-time of the first half earned leaders Braga a 1-0 away win over Pacos de Ferreira on Friday.
Braga and Benfica lead on 33 points after 14 matches, followed by Porto on 29.
Olympiakos failed to regain top spot in the Greek Super League on Sunday after slumping to a 1-0 defeat at Aris Salonica.
Argentine forward Javier Campora scored the only goal of the game after 69 minutes to condemn Zico's team to their first league defeat of the season, a result which leaves them on 36 points in second place following the 4-0 win by Panathinaikos over Yiannina on Saturday.
Panathinaikos lead the standings by two points having notched up their third consecutive win under new coach Nikos Nioplias at the Olympic Stadium. Djibril Cisse scored twice.
Rangers stretched their lead at the top to four points after beating Motherwell 6-1 and seeing Celtic lose 2-1 to Hearts on Sunday. Celtic defender Gary Caldwell was sent off on the half hour.
Rangers have 37 points with Celtic on 33 and Hibernian on 32. All three teams have played 16 games.
Twente Enschede went into the winter break on top of the Dutch league after all five top-flight matches on Sunday were postponed because of heavy snowfall making travel difficult.
Twente, topping the table with 47 points from 17 matches, were supposed to face Utrecht away, while second-placed PSV Eindhoven (45) were scheduled to travel to Roda JC Kerkrade.