Four-star Barca sink Espanyol, ten-man Real overcome Sociedad
Tito Vilanova returned to the Barcelona bench to see his side beat Espanyol 4-0 at Camp Nou, while Real Madrid won a seven goal thriller against Real Sociedad.
Manager Vilanova, back at the helm after a brief spell out for surgery on his parotid gland after contracting cancer for the second time, saw his side maintain their lead at the top of the table with a comfortable win over their Catalan neighbours.
Barcelona took control of the game early on with Xavi scoring early on from Andres Iniesta's pass.
Pedro doubled the lead on 15 minutes as he got the slightest of touches to Lionel Messi's shot and he made it 3-0 after 27 minutes when he latched onto Sergio Busquets' defence-splitting pass before lobbing Espanyol keeper Francisco Casilla.
Barcelona added a fourth goal on the half hour mark when Messi scored from the penalty spot after Cesc Fabregas was fouled inside the box.
The home side took their foot off the gas in the second half as they eased to another win to move closer to the title.
Atletico Madrid lost ground on Barcelona after being held to a 1-1 draw at Real Mallorca.
The visitors were without striker Radamel Falcao due to suspension and their lack of threat showed in a poor first period.
Raul Garcia gave Atletico the lead on 72 minutes with a close-range finish, but Kevin Garcia popped up with an equaliser for Mallorca three minutes from time.
The hosts nearly claimed all the points as Giovani Dos Santos' wicked free-kick in injury time came back off the post, leaving Atletico relieved to come away with a point.
Real Madrid claimed a thrilling 4-3 victory over Real Sociedad in their first outing of 2013 despite playing for 84 minutes with 10 men.
Karim Benzema had swept the champions into the lead after just 90 seconds but Jose Mourinho's decision to once again leave Iker Casillas on the bench backfired just six minutes in as Antonio Adan brought down Carlos Vela inside the area and was rightly sent-off.
Xabi Prieto slotted home the penalty on what was to be a memorable afternoon for him and both sides exchanged further goals before half-time as Sami Khedira put Madrid back in front only for Prieto to level again five minutes later.
Cristiano Ronaldo then looked to have sealed the points with two goals in two minutes midway through the second-half, but Sociedad were given another lifeline when Prieto completed his hat-trick with 15 minutes remaining.
However, the visitors themselves were reduced to 10 men on 80 minutes as Dani Estrada was shown a second yellow card for bringing down Ronaldo and the Basques failed to muster another serious effort on goal.
Two goals from Iago Aspas and another wonderful strike from Alex Lopez were enough to hand Celta Vigo only their second win in 11 league games as they moved three points clear of the relegation zone with a 3-1 win over Valladolid.
Aspas enhanced his burgeoning reputation with a fine run and finish from Michael Krohn-Dehli's through ball after just eight minutes, but Valladolid were back level moments later when Alberto Bueno converted from the spot after Javi Varas had brought down Javi Guerra.
However, Aspas restored the lead with a penalty of his own on the half hour mark and Lopez sealed the points seven minutes into the second-half with a brilliant strike from 25 yards that rocketed into the top corner.