Angel di Maria inspired Real
Madrid to a 3-0 win at Sporting Gijon and Cesc Fabregas scored
twice in Barcelona's 5-0 drubbing of Levante on Saturday as the
two rivals warmed up in style for next weekend's 'Clasico'.
Real eased to a 10th consecutive league victory, and their
14th in a row in all competitions, to cement their three-point
lead over second-placed Barca who have played one game more than
Jose Mourinho's side.
Champions Barca have stuttered on their travels but they
maintained their superb home form against this season's surprise
packages Levante, taking their record at the Nou Camp to eight
wins and one draw with 39 goals scored and none conceded.
Real have 37 points from 14 matches. Valencia are third,
four points behind Barca with a game in hand after captain
Roberto Soldado came off the bench to score the winner in a 2-1
victory at home to Espanyol.
Levante are four points further back in fourth.
Mourinho praised his players for their solidity in defence
and efficiency in attack but was reluctant to discuss the crunch
game against Barca before Real's Champions League match at Ajax
Amsterdam on Wednesday.
"The team is winning and we are playing well," said the
Portuguese who is bidding to end his former club Barca's
three-year grip on the Spanish title.
"We are winning because of our quality, the spirit of the
players and our ability on the counter-attack," Mourinho told
Argentina winger Di Maria opened the scoring in the 35th
minute at the Molinon when he robbed a defender, surged into the
penalty area and surprised goalkeeper Juan Pablo at his near
post with a swerving low shot from an acute angle.
Joint La Liga top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo added the second
in the 65th, the Portuguese forward's 17th league goal of the
season, before Brazil full-back Marcelo made it 3-0 in added-time
after exchanging passes with France striker Karim Benzema.
Gijon finished with 10 men after Sebastian Eguren was
shown a second yellow card in the 80th minute.
Barca's 4-0 win over Rayo Vallecano on Tuesday was a game
brought forward because of their participation in the Club World
Cup in Japan later this month and Pep Guardiola's side produced
another dominant display against Levante whose annual budget is
less than 1/20th of the top two Spanish teams.
Former Arsenal captain Fabregas put the home side 2-0 ahead
with a low shot and a header before promising B-team player
Isaac Cuenca made it 3-0 after 37 minutes.
World Player of the Year Lionel Messi struck a fourth in the
55th minute, putting the Argentina forward level with Ronaldo on
17 league goals, and Chile forward Alexis Sanchez added the
fifth just after the hour.
"The feeling [about the 'Clasico'] is very positive," said
Barca defender Javier Mascherano. "It's going to be a
spectacular match and the whole world is watching and waiting.
"We are playing a great rival who we have faced many times
and we have our weapons."
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