Record breaker Raul propels Real

Current club captain Raul now stands alone as Real Madrid's all-time leading goalscorer with 309 goals, scoring twice as Real hammered Sporting Gijon 4-0 to close to within ten points of Barcelona at the summit. Raul, 31, scored on the quarter-hour mark to overtake the great Alfredo di Stefano's long-standing record of 307 goals. He then added another in the second-half as Juande Ramos's side sealed an eighth successive league win. Dutch forward Klaas-Jan Huntelaar was also on target with his first Real goal, while Brazilian Marcelo also grabbed a rare goal.

Real have managed to shave two points off Barca's lead this weekend, after Barca's run of ten consecutive wins came to an end with a 2-2 draw at Real Betis. Defending champions Real are now ten points behind Barca with 15 games left, although Barca have the superior head-to-head record, having beaten Real 2-0 at Camp Nou in December.

Real paid a costly price for the international friendlies in midweek with Dutch winger Arjen Robben picking up a knock. Rafael van der Vaart was also suspended, forcing Ramos to switch things around, but Huntelaar was not complaining as he was handed a rare start up front.

Raul struck after 15 minutes with his record-breaking 308th goal in Real's colours and Sporting, who were hammered 7-1 by Real in September, justifiably feared another rout. Huntelaar had not scored for Real since a 20 million euro move from Ajax, but broke his duck with a neat finish on 37 minutes.

Marcelo, jeered by Real fans on several occasions this season, then produced a deft finish to wrap up the game early in the second period before Raul netted again. Real's win applies a bit of pressure on Barca who came from two goals down to draw 2-2 at Betis with Samuel Eto'o scoring twice to make it 23 goals for the season.

Raul made his debut as a 17-year-old in October 1994 and has been a regular in the Real side ever since winning three UEFA Champions League crowns (1998, 2000 and 2002) and five Spanish championships (1995, 1997, 2001, 2003 and 2007).

Villarreal miss chance to go third
Villarreal finished above Barca last season, but have been anything but consistent this season and drew 1-1 with Racing Santander. Villarreal missed the chance to go third and are now locked on 38 points with Valencia and Sevilla who have a game in hand.

Opportunity for Sevilla
Two out of form sides are also playing today in the match between Sevilla and Espanyol. Sevilla have lost their last three matches, including a painful derby defeat to Betis, while Espanyol have not won since the beginning of November.

Valencia's 1-1 draw with Malaga yesterday has handed Sevilla, currently fourth, a chance to pull three points clear of their UEFA Champions League rivals. "As far as I am concerned, not getting in the Champions League this season would be a catastrophe," said Sevilla midfielder Adriano.

Espanyol slip to the bottom
Espanyol now prop up the table after Real Mallorca climbed above them with a 1-0 win over fellow strugglers Numancia. Atletico Madrid are another side harbouring UEFA Champions League aspirations and have a derby match against Getafe later today.