By Alex Dunn
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Barcelona keep a seven point advantage over Madrid after a 5-1 defeat of Real Betis.
Champions Barcelona keep a seven point advantage over Real Madrid after a 5-1 defeat of Real Betis at Camp Nou.
After a rare pair of defeats in recent weeks Barca were keen to warm up for a midweek meeting with Chelsea in style and they did just that with a five-star display.
Henrik Larsson got the goalscoring underway in the 17th minute when he finished a flowing Barca move by converting Samuel Eto'o's right wing delivery.
Betis, exposing a weakness at the heart of Barca's defence, missed two golden opportunities before Melli endured a nightmare two minutes when he scored two own goals.
The first saw him divert Ronaldinho's through ball beyond his goalkeeper before Barcelona's Brazilian bent a free-kick, in the 33rd minute, that hit Betis' wall and then Melli's derriere before nestling in the corner of the goal.
Another Ronaldinho free-kick was squeezed home in the 58th minute before Joaquin scored a clever setpiece of his own at Barca's near post.
Substitute Lionel Messi gave a trademark cameo appearance from the bench and delighted the home crowd when he netted in the dying stages after his initial shot had been saved.
Earlier in the evening Real Madrid kept up the pressure on Barcelona with a comfortable 3-0 over managerless Alaves.
On home soil Madrid were always in control and it took just six minutes to find a breakthrough as Guti finished Robinho's pass in some style with a low drive.
Within four minutes and this lead had been doubled when after Julio Baptista's explosive overhead kick came off the post, Robinho made no mistake with the rebound.
In the second period David Beckham was taken off as a precaution as he picked a knock, with his replacement Cicinho completing a satisfactory night's work with Real's third in the 78th minute.
The biggest cheer, however, was reserved for the return of Raul, as the talismanic striker came on for the final 25 minutes after a three month lay-off.
Villarreal's European aspirations were handed a boost as they cruised to a 4-0 success over Espanyol at Estadio El Madrigal.
The Yellow Submarines have been well below par of late but on a day of dramatic improvement, had far too much for their counterparts from Barcelona.
Italian midfielder Alessio Tacchinardi gave his side the lead in the 24th minute and just ten minutes later, Villarreal had doubled their advantage.
Marcos Senna's strike sent the home crowd into raptures and by half time their glee had intensified as Diego Forlan had etched his name on the scoresheet also.
The second period was an understandably quieter affair as Hector Font added gloss to a polished performance eight minutes from time with Villarreal's fourth.
Javier Saviola's 11th minute goal was enough to give Sevilla the points against Celta Vigo.