Samuel Eto'o scored twice as Barcelona beat Sporting Gijon 3-1 at Camp Nou to re-establish their 12-point advantage over Real Madrid at the top of the Spanish table. Eto'o scored in the 23rd and 40th minutes to take his personal tally to 21 for the season with Valencia's David Villa his nearest rival on 17. Brazilian Dani Alves added a third in the second half as Barcelona eased to their tenth successive league win.
Coach Pep Guardiola reshuffled the Barcelona backline with central defenders Rafael Marquez and Gerard Pique, called into the Spain squad for Wednesday's friendly with England, both suspended. Carles Puyol returned from injury and Uruguayan international Martin Caceres, a 16.5 million euro signing from Villarreal, had a rare start in central defence.
Caceres had a quiet night as Barcelona had Sporting on the back foot from the start and deservedly took the lead on 23 minutes. Sporting had a corner, but when the ball was cleared, the hosts launched a lightning quick counter-attack with Andres Iniesta carrying the ball at pace before feeding Thierry Henry who crossed for Eto'o to tap in.
It was Barcelona's 100th goal this season in all competitions but they were not resting on their laurels, as Eto'o scored again shortly before half-time. Picking up a Lionel Messi pass, Eto'o jinked inside before smashing his effort into the corner.
Alves made it 3-0 with a great solo goal before Gijon pulled one back. Eto'o was denied a hat-trick by the post, while Henry could have got three himself after spurning several chances.
In the late match, relegation-threatened Osasuna dented Valencia's title hopes with a 1-0 home win thanks to a Miguel Flano goal 12 minutes after half time.