Barcelona turned on the style tonight to reassert their supremacy in La Liga as the leaders came from behind to beat second-placed Atletico Madrid 4-1 at the Nou Camp.
In a game billed as a shoot-out between Lionel Messi and Atletico striker Radamel Falcao, the Argentine came out on top, scoring twice to Falcao's solo strike and being at the heart of a dominant Barcelona display that leaves them nine points clear at the top of the table
Ironically, Messi was partly at fault as Atletico took the lead in the first half. He lost the ball on the halfway line in the 31st minute and Falcao was sent running in on goal, held off the Barcelona defence and beat the goalkeeper Victor Valdes with an outrageous chip.
Five minutes later Barcelona hit back, Adriano cutting in down the right and unleashing a left-footed curler into the far corner of the visitors' goal from just outside the area.
Barcelona started to turn the screw and after several near things the Atletico defence cracked again, the ball dropping to Sergio Busquets from a 45th-minute corner and the midfielder scoring from six yards with a neat side-step and rising drive.
Messi gave Barcelona some breathing space in the 57th minute, picking up a pass from Alexis Sanchez 30 yards from goal, beating his man with a sharp turn and drilling the ball into the bottom corner. In the 88th minute Messi got his 90th goal of the year, latching on to a poor back pass and chipping the keeper to make it 4-1.
Real Madrid slipped up at home, drawing only 2-2 with lowly Espanyol to leave them 13 points behind Barcelona. Sergio Garcia had given the visitors a shock lead with a smart finish to a rapid counter-attack but Cristiano Ronaldo equalised on the stroke of half time and set up Fabio Coentrao to make it 2-1 in the 48th minute. Yet Real were stunned when Juan Albin brought Espanyol level with just two minutes left, bundling the ball in after Jose Mourinho's side failed to clear a corner. Real were whistled off
In Italy, leaders Juventus easily brushed aside 10-man Atlanta 3-0, all the goals coming in the first 27 minutes with Andrea Pirlo's dipping free-kick the pick. Afterwards, the Juve coach, Antonio Conte, ruled out making an approach for former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba, now at Shanghai Shenhua, in the transfer window.
Internazionale in second place in Serie A lost 1-0 at Lazio on Saturday and Napoli crashed to a 3-2 defeat to Bologna at San Paolo last night, meaning Juventus lead by seven points.
In France, the midfielder Blaise Matuidi lifted some of the pressure on the Paris St-Germain coach, Carlo Ancelotti, as his goal on the stroke of half-time earned PSG a 1-0 win over Lyons that took the big-spending club to the top of Ligue 1.