MADRID (AFP) - Real Madrid's deadly strikeforce of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain engineered a 2-0 win at Racing Santander on Sunday to put their side back on top of La Liga and push Barcelona into second place.
Ronaldo won and converted a penalty for his 18th league goal in just 21 games before Argentine Higuain netted for the fifth consecutive game to make it 24 goals for the season.
The duo have scored 42 out of Real's 83 goals this campaign and Madrid have now notched 12 consecutive league wins to move above Barcelona on goal difference.
Champions Barcelona also have 77 points after their 4-1 win over Athletic Bilbao on Saturday to set up the mouthwatering 'El Clasico' clash in Madrid next Saturday between the two great rivals.
"I don't think there is a favourite for the match as both teams are on form and winning a lot of games," said Real coach Manuel Pellegrini.
"In these matches the team that makes the fewest mistakes wins. We need to recover the points we lost at Camp Nou (where they lost 1-0) and I am sure we can win."
Real are able to rest up for that duel while Barcelona have a tough Champions League quarter-final second leg at home to Arsenal on Tuesday before the trip to the capital four days later.
German defender Christoph Metzelder made just his second Real appearance of the season with Sergio Ramos suspended and Pepe out for the season.
Racing fielded 19-year-old starlet Sergio Canales who has already reached a deal to join Real in the summer for a reported 4.5 million euros.
The first opening fell to Canales on the quarter hour mark. Iker Casillas's clearance went straight to the teenager but with an open goal he lobbed his shot wide.
Real were looking dangerous and Ronaldo won a penalty on 23 minutes with several step-overs confusing defender Jose Moraton who clipped the Portuguese star and the winger went down easily to win the spot-kick.
Ronaldo converted the penalty with a fierce drive to the left for his 18th goal of the season.
Racing had failed to score in their last four outings against Madrid and have the worst home record in the league so the omens didn't look good for the hosts.
After the break Racing improved but struggled to create clear-cut chances while Real went off the boil and Guti was introduced on the hour mark.
It was a poor second half from Real but Alvaro Arbeloa produced a sublime pass to Higuain on 76 minutes and the Argentine raced through to cooly slot home.
Elsewhere, Spanish international striker David Villa took his season's league tally to 20 with a late brace as Valencia defeated Osasuna 3-0 to reinforce their bid for a Champions League place.
Joaquin netted the opener before Villa scored two late goals scoring on 89 minutes and then converted a penalty three minutes into stoppage time.
With fifth-placed Real Mallorca falling eight points behind after a 1-1 draw at Almeria, Valencia, in third, now look odds-on to net one of the four Champions League spots.
Valencia will travel to Atletico Madrid on Thursday for the second leg of the all-Spanish Europa League quarter-final with the tie evenly balanced at 2-2.
Atletico beat Deportivo La Coruna 3-0 at home on Sunday to move five points off the top six.
Defender Juanito's first goal of the season put Atletico in front before Diego Forlan scored his 16th of the campaign and Tiago added a third.
Real Mallorca's away form continues to undermine their Champions League hopes as the islanders drew 1-1 at Almeria as they missed the chance to go back above Sevilla into fourth.
Mallorca have won 12 out of 14 games at home but on the road they have won just twice and lie level on points with Sevilla, 3-0 winners over Tenerife on Saturday.
In other matches, Villarreal moved two points behind sixth-placed Athletic Bilbao with a 2-0 win at Valladolid.
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