Valencia staked their claim for third place in La Liga with a stylish 5-0 win in Sunday's head-to-head match with local rivals Villarreal. Neither side tried to play down the importance of the match with both teams comfortably clear of the chasing pack, with the victory pushing Valencia six points ahead of Villarreal.
Valencia had more time to prepare as Villarreal were in European action on Thursday night and it showed as they were far livelier and put plenty of pressure on the Villarreal players. If the visitors were in good spirits after their 5-1 win over Twente then they were brought back down to earth quickly as Roberto Soldado gave Valencia an early lead.
Although they had further chances it was not until the second half that the floodgates opened against a tired looking Villarreal. Ever Banega scored in between two goals from Juan Mata and Soldado also got his second of the night.
"We have found it difficult to be consistent and play well for 90 minutes, but we have managed to do it in this match. It was an excellent performance," said Valencia coach Unai Emery.
Atletico fight on
Earlier, Atletico Madrid moved onto the verges of the European places with a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Real Sociedad who have now lost five games on the trot.
After an inconsistent campaign Atletico are still in the fight for a place in the Europa League and have hit form at the right time. Back-to-back wins mean that Atletico are level with sixth-placed Athletic Bilbao who lost to Real Madrid 3-0 and a point behind Sevilla who drew 2-2 with Mallorca.
Atletico were in charge against Sociedad from the start with a deft back-heel from Diego Costa setting up Felipe Luis to put them ahead and then shortly before half time Mario Suarez added another after good work from Jose Antonio Reyes.
Sociedad, now just five points above the relegation zone, are going through their worst run of the season and conceded a further goal from Sergio Aguero.
"We were hoping for a weekend like this as it has gone very well for us," said Quique Sanchez Flores. "We needed to close the gap, but we have some important games ahead including the next one against Espanyol. We have done well in the last seven games, except for the [Real] Madrid result."
Espanyol's poor form continued with a disappointing 0-0 draw away to Hercules. They have struggled badly since December and had lost eight of their last ten games going into the match. Hercules' Royston Drenthe carried the greatest threat and went closest to scoring with a header which came back off the crossbar.
Second-from-bottom Malaga remain behind Hercules on goal difference as they also drew 0-0 against Deportivo La Coruna. Sporting Gijon followed up their win over Real Madrid last weekend with a 1-0 victory against Osasuna thanks to a David Barral strike, while Racing Santander drew 1-1 with Levante. The visitors were heading for defeat following a Nano Rivas own goal, but were rescued by Rafa Jorda in the dying minutes.