MADRID, Jan 19 (Reuters) - Villarreal moved up to third spot in the Primera Liga and heaped the pressure on beleaguered Valencia when they crushed their regional rivals 3-0 at the Madrigal on Saturday.
A superbly-crafted opener from midfielder Robert Pires, a Joan Capdevila tap-in and a classy strike from the outstanding Nihat Kahveci completed an emphatic victory for home side.
For Ronaldo Koeman's Valencia, who stay in seventh place, defeat means they have now gone eight games without a win and have taken just three points from a possible 24.
Real Madrid, who visit Atletico Madrid in the city derby on Sunday, lead the standings on 47 points, seven clear of Barcelona who host surprise package Racing Santander.
Villarreal are third with 38, one ahead of Atletico and two clear of Espanyol.
Eighth-placed Sevilla missed their chance to climb the table when they continued their miserable run away from home, slumping to a last-gasp 3-2 defeat at Getafe.
The Andalucians, who have just one win on the road in the league, started brightly and took the lead after 16 minutes when leading striker Luis Fabiano got his 13th of the season with a close-range header.
But former Sevilla midfielder Francisco Javier Casquero put Getafe back on level terms with a fabulous first-time shot into the top corner from the edge of the area.
Getafe went in front just before the hour mark, Uruguayan midfielder Juan Albin stealing behind Sevilla fullback Ivica Dragutinovic to score with a diving header.
Dragutinovic seemed to have atoned for his error when he headed in from a corner a minute from time but the celebrations were cut short when substitute Cosmin Contra nodded home deep into stoppage time.
The win lifted Michael Laudrup's Getafe side four points clear of the relegation zone, and left them just two behind Sevilla.
Villarreal's former Arsenal player Pires said earlier this week he was concerned about his lack of form but the Frenchman put his worries behind him when he curled a superb shot inside the far post after a great run down the left.
The electric Nihat hit the woodwork twice and was denied by a great fingertip save from Timo Hildebrand before Capdevila made it 2-0 when he stabbed in after a corner.
The Turkish striker capped a brilliant performance when he chipped in over the keeper after Giuseppe Rossi had raced clear into the Valencia area.