Barcelona showed their intent in staying in the title race with a 5-1 win over third placed Valencia on Sunday.
Leo Messi bagged four goals and Xavi got the late fifth at the Nou Camp as the Spanish champions kept within 10 points of Real Madrid after the league leaders won 4-0 on Saturday against Racing Santander.
Valencia took a shock lead in the 8th minute when Piatti finished from a brilliant cross from the right from Sofiane Feghouli, but Messi evened the score when he capitalised on a hesitant clearance and finished from close range in the 22nd minute.
The Argentine number 10 doubled the lead two minutes later when he tapped in another close range shot after Eric Abidal’s low cross.
Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas had a number of chances between them, including the former Arsenal man hitting the bar, but it was Messi who was the most clinical and he completed his hat-trick in the 76th minute when he scored from a rebound after Diego Alves saved Sanchez’s first attempt.
Messi’s fourth came after a defence splitting pass from Sergio Busquets left the striker in acres of space and he chipped the ball over ‘keeper to score; a feat Xavi emulated successfully for Barcelona’s fifth of the day in stoppage time.
Atletico Madrid conceded their first goal in the league under Diego Simeone but maintained their manager’s unbeaten run on Sunday after a 1-1 draw away from home with Sporting Gijon.
Roberto Canella’s own goal put Atletico in the lead until Sebastian Eguren levelled the score for the home side in the 36th minute; the result leaves Madrid with three draws in a row in the league, lying sixth in the table.
Athletic Bilbao got back to winning ways on Sunday and moved up to fourth in the league after a 3-0 home win over Malaga, thanks to three goals in the space of just over three minutes in the second half, scored by Fernando Amorebieta, Mikel San Jose and Gaizka Toquero.
Levante finally relinquished their grip on fourth place with a 5-3 defeat at home at the hands of Rayo Vallecano, in a match which saw the away side go 4-1 up before Ruben scored a brace to make the scoreline less embarrassing.
Jose Barkero equalised with a penalty in the 49th minute after Vallecano had taken the lead in the first half through Lass, and the away side stormed to an emphatic lead with a brace from Diego Costa, another goal from Lass as well as a late goal from Andrija Delibasic before Ruben’s consolation goals.
Villarreal’s recovery from their first half of the season slump was halted by a 4-0 hammering at the hands of Mallorca; midfielder Joao Victor grabbed two, Marti Crespi and Jose Nunes got the other two goals for the home side.
Granada kicked off Sunday, which would prove to be a high-scoring day, with a 4-1 home win over Real Sociedad; Inigo Lopez and Franco Jara put the home side ahead before a brace from Ikechukwu Uche sealed the win.
Mikel Aranburu got the consolation goal for Sociedad, who played much of the game with 10 men after Asier Illarramendi was sent off at the end of the first half; Guilherme Siqueira was also sent off late on for Granada.
Real Madrid set down a benchmark for Barcelona on Saturday with a comfortable 4-0 win over Racing Santander at the Bernabeu, after a controversial sending off in the first half.
Real Madrid had taken an early lead thanks to a Ronaldo header when Domingo Cisma was shown a second yellow card for handling the ball in what looked like a very harsh decision by the referee.
Racing didn’t stand much of a chance with ten men at the Bernabeu and two goals from Karim Benzema and a fourth from second half substitute Angel Di Maria finished off a comfortable victory for the league leaders.
Elsewhere on Saturday, Sevilla beat Osasuna 2-0 at home with goals from Gary Medel and Piotr Trochowski while Getafe and Espanyol played out a 1-1 draw after Miku’s penalty cancelled out Alvaro Vazquez’s opener, five minutes later.