Liga leaders FC Barcelona picked up where they left off last year by subjecting Catalan derby rivals RCD Espanyol to a 4-0 reverse and moving 11 points clear of Club Atlético de Madrid at the summit.
Barcelona dropped just two points before the winter break and duly collected their 17th success from 18 league outings after Xavi Hernández lit the way on ten minutes, slotting in an Andrés Iniesta pass. Lionel Messi set up Pedro Rodríguez to register the second and Pedro also added the third, before Messi capped a scintillating first-half display by converting a 29th-minute penalty following a foul on Cesc Fàbregas.
The victory lifted Barça further clear at the top as Atlético could only draw 1-1 at RCD Mallorca. Raúl García put the second-placed side in front on 72 minutes, but Kevin García Martínez denied them the win with three minutes remaining. Atlético are nonetheless five points ahead of Real Madrid CF, who beat Real Sociedad de Fútbol 4-3 despite the sixth-minute dismissal of goalkeeper Antonio Adán, chosen ahead of Iker Casillas once again.
Adán was sent off for impeding Carlos Vela, and that allowed Xabier Prieto to step up to the spot and cancel out Karim Benzema's early opener. Prieto went on to post a hat-trick, equalising after Sami Khedira had restored Madrid's lead on 35 minutes and responding to a pair of Cristiano Ronaldo strikes in the second half. The visitors were unable to pull level again, though, and were reduced to ten men themselves when Daniel Estrada was shown a second yellow card.
In Sunday's other encounter, RC Celta de Vigo saw off visitors Real Valladolid CF 3-1.
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