Barca's derby delight, Villarreal third
Pedro and David Villa struck a brace apiece as Barcelona brushed aside Espanyol 5-1 in the Catalan derby at Cornella, ending their city rivals' perfect home record in the league this season and ensuring top spot as the Primera Division heads into the winter break.
Pedro and Xavi gave Pep Guardiola's side a healthy lead at half-time, before the Tenerife-born winger struck again in the second half. Dani Osvaldo got one back for Espanyol after that, but Barca always looked in control and David Villa added two more late on for the visitors.
The champions are now five points ahead of rivals Real Madrid, who host Sevilla at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday.
Villarreal got their league campaign back on track following last week's disappointing defeat to Getafe by beating Real Mallorca at El Madrigal 3-1.
The Yellow Submarine suffered only their third loss of the season after going down to a last-minute goal against a Getafe side which finished the match with nine men, but goals from star trio Santi Cazorla, Giuseppe Rossi and Nilmar saw them through.
Cazorla opened the scoring in the 11th minute and although Mallorca equalised through Jonathan De Guzman, the home side took the spoils thanks to Rossi's 35th-minute penalty and Nilmar's strike at the start of the second half.
The victory ensures Villarreal will finish 2010 in third place and improves their impressive home record under Juan Carlos Garrido to 19 wins from 22 games.
Diego Castro Gimenez eased the pressure on Sporting Gijon coach Manuel Preciado with a late equaliser in a 1-1 draw away to Deportivo La Coruna.
Depor defender Aythami Oliva looked to have added to Preciado's woes with an early goal until Gimenez earned his side a precious point. Sporting made the trip to the Riazor in the bottom two of La Liga and with just two wins in 27 competitive matches since beating Depor 2-1 at home back in March.
Igor Gabilondo inspired Athletic Bilbao to a 2-1 win over Levante at the Ciutat de Valencia.
Gabilondo set the visitors on their way with a ninth-minute free-kick into the top right corner. And Gabilondo then laid on a winner for Javi Martinez after Felipe Caicedo had grabbed a Levante equaliser.
In the day's late game, Valencia had to rely on a late strike from Aritz Aduriz to seal a 2-1 win over Real Sociedad away from home. Xabi Prieto's wonderful chipped penalty gave Sociedad the lead after a foul on David Zurutuza by David Navarro, but Los Che hit back.
Alberto Costa's incredible free-kick levelled the scores on the stroke of half-time as he hammered the ball into the top corner from just outside the box and Aduriz capitalised on a poor clearance from goalkeeper Claudio Bravo to smash home the winner in the 91st minute.
The result puts Los Che into 4th place, with Sociedad are unmoved in 9th.