Real Madrid went 13 points clear of Barcelona in La Liga on Saturday as Karim Benzema grabbed a brace in a 4-0 win over 10-man Racing Santander.
Jose Mourinho’s men have given Barca little margin for error having now won 18 of their past 19 games since they drew 0-0 at Santander at the end of September.
On Saturday, they were not so forgiving toward Racing as they stayed on track for their first league title since 2008.
“It was not a brilliant performance, but we won without too much effort and it was a good result,” Mourinho said.
A Cristiano Ronaldo header hit the post as Real came out all guns blazing and after six minutes they were a goal up when Kaka crossed for Ronaldo to head in from close range for his 28th league strike of the season.
Real were given a further boost by the harsh dismissal of Domingo Cisma after 38 minutes when he was adjudged to have handled the ball.
On the stroke of halftime Benzema doubled the lead when he clipped the ball in from an acute angle and after the break Real remained firmly in control.
Xabi Alonso had a shot from the edge of the area which went narrowly past the post, before substitute Angel Di Maria, returning from injury, hit his shot into the back of the net, although Racing goalkeeper Antonio Rodriguez perhaps should have done better.
Benzema completed the rout with a deflected strike a minute from the end.
Mourinho said he was happy to see Di Maria as well as Sami Khedira return to the side, particularly with Champions League matches on the horizon.
“They have come back at the right time and especially Di Maria gives us options which we lacked when he was injured, in terms of winning the ball back and attacking. It’s good to have Khedira available now we are starting to play every three days,” he said.
RCD Espanyol moved into fourth place despite being held 1-1 by midtable Getafe.
Espanyol were looking to bounce back from a surprise defeat against Real Zaragoza last week which brought to an end a seven-match unbeaten run, but they started slowly as Abdelaziz Barrada and Jaime Gavilan missed chances to put Getafe in front.
Espanyol had openings of their own, with Philippe Coutinho in particular shooting just wide before the break.
Nicolas “Miku” Fedor saw a header well-saved by Espanyol goalkeeper Francisco Casilla after 65 minutes, before substitute Alvaro Vazquez clinically finished to give Espanyol the lead.
However, the advantage lasted less than a minute as Miku was hauled down by Thievy Bifouma, with Miku himself dispatching the penalty.
Casilla was the busier of the two goalkeepers, while Getafe were unable to take advantage when Espanyol defender Ernesto Galan was given a second yellow card with 10 minutes to go.
Jose Miguel Gonzalez had his first victory as Sevilla coach with his side beating CA Osasuna 2-0 with goals from Gary Medel and a stoppage-time strike from Piotr Trochowski.