Lionel Messi's astonishing recent goal glut continued last night when he struck twice in a 2-0 win for Barcelona at struggling Racing Santander that trimmed Real Madrid's lead at the top of La Liga back to 10 points.
The Argentine World Player of the Year took his tally to 13 goals in his last five games for Barça, including a record five in Wednesday's Champions League match against Bayer Leverkusen.
Real had to come from a goal down to beat Real Betis 3-2 in Seville on Saturday when Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice and they set a club record of 10 successive wins on the road in coach Jose Mourinho's 100th game in charge.
"We had to put in a lot of effort," the Barça coach, Pep Guardiola, said after his side saw off Racing at El Sardinero.
"We did things well on a pitch that did not help the circulation of the ball," he added, in a reference to the poor state of the playing surface. "They put nine men behind the ball and that is never easy."
Messi put Barça ahead in the 29th minute when he slid in to turn a Cesc Fabregas centre into the net from close range. He doubled the lead with a 56th-minute penalty following a foul on Fabregas, his 30th goal of the campaign in the league, leaving him two behind top scorer Ronaldo, and his 50th in all competitions this season.
Winger Isaac Cuenca went close to a third, striking a powerful shot that cannoned back off a post, before Racing goalkeeper Mario Fernandez denied Messi a hat-trick with a fine save from the 24-year-old's rasping drive.
In Italy, Juventus hit the woodwork three times and had a goal controversially disallowed as they were held 0-0 at Genoa yesterday, their sixth draw in their last seven Serie A games.
Mirko Vucinic hit the crossbar and post with headers early in the second half, then Simone Pepe fired against the foot of the post before having a goal ruled out for offside as they lost more ground on leaders Milan.
The Rossoneri took full advantage with a 2-0 win at home to Lecce which took them four points clear of second-placed Juventus, who remain unbeaten after 27 games. Antonio Nocerino and Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored in each half for the defending champions.
In France, Ligue 1 leaders Paris St-Germain overcame Mohamed Sissoko's first-half dismissal to snatch a 2-1 win at lowly Dijon thanks to Kevin Gameiro's late goal.