La Liga preview: Barca out to continue dominance
Barcelona will head into the Christmas period with what looks increasingly like an unbeatable gap to the chasing pack.
Barcelona have won their past nine La Liga games, the latest a comprehensive 4-1 trouncing of a very good Atletico Madrid side on Sunday, a result that could well prove the death knell for Real Madrid, after they dropped another two points late on against Espanyol.
The next victim in waiting for Barcelona is Real Vallodolid on Saturday, while Real face a tricky trip to fourth-placed Malaga.
Lionel Messi continues to add to the all-time record goals haul after another brace on Sunday to bring up his 90th goal of 2012.
Barca lead Jose Mourinho's Real side by a whopping 13 points with 22 games to play.
It's not insurmountable, but for a side that has won 15 of 16 games there would have to be a monumental collapse.
Christiano Ronaldo scored and set up Fabio Coentrao's go-ahead goal but he continues to carry much of the burden, one Mourinho is finding increasingly difficult to deal with given the inpatient nature of the club's supporters.
Atletico can get back on track at home to Celta de Vigo after an excellent first-half performance against Barcelona still ended in a 4-1 defeat for the league's second best side.
Rayo Vallecano welcome fifth-placed Levante on Thursday with one side looking to break into the top six and other looking to stay there.
Sevilla eye a first league win in five games away to Real Sociedad and Espanyol head back home to host Deportivo La Coruna in the other games on Thursday.
Struggling Valencia will look to haul themselves out of mid-table when Getafe visit on Friday and on Saturday, Real Betis take on Mallorca and Osasuna entertain Granada, who are without a win in their past five league games.
Athletic Bilbao play Real Zaragoza in the other clash on Saturday.