Samuel Eto’o scored twice as Barcelona beat Sporting Gijon 3-1 at Camp Nou on Sunday to re-establish their 12-point advantage over Real Madrid at the top of the Spanish table.
Eto’o scored in the 23rd and 40th minutes to take his personal tally to 21 for the season with Valencia’s David Villa his nearest rival on 17.
Brazilian Dani Alves added a third in the second half as Barcelona eased to their 10th successive league win.
“Alves never gets tired and is an extraordinary player while Eto’o is helping us a lot with his goals and work rate,” said Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola.
“We got our intensity back and switched well from defense to attack. There are fewer games left now but there are a lot of things that can still happen,” he said.
Champions Real notched their seventh win on the spin with a 1-0 triumph over Racing Santander on Saturday, but they were jeered off by their own fans for clinging to the slender lead rather than going for a second goal.
Barcelona had Sporting on the back foot from the start and deservedly took the lead on 23 minutes.
Sporting had a corner but when the ball was cleared the hosts launched a lightning quick counter-attack with Andres Iniesta carrying the ball at pace before feeding Thierry Henry who crossed for Eto’o to tap in.
Barcelona scored again shortly before half-time when Eto’o smashed an effort into the corner.
Alves made it 3-0 with a great solo goal before Gijon pulled one back through Kike Mateo three minutes later.
“We came here with the idea of giving them a fright but they gave us a fright,” said Sporting coach Manolo Preciado. “When you are on the pitch you realize that this [Barcelona] is the best team in the world. They have everything — fighting spirit, physical strength and the right attitude.”
New Atletico Madrid coach Abel Resino had a memorable debut as his side defeated Recreativo Huelva 3-0 to record their first win of the year.
Resino replaced the sacked Javier Aguirre this week and the change had the desired effect as Atletico closed to within two points of fourth-placed Valencia.
Atletico’s Sergio Aguero scored after just two minutes and Diego Forlan hit a quick-fire brace to wrap up the points.
Valencia fell to a 1-0 defeat at Osasuna. Miguel Flano scored on 57 minutes to down Valencia who have lost their last five away matches and have not won on their travels since November.
Villarreal stay two points ahead of Atletico in fifth after a 2-1 triumph over Numancia.