Real close gap on Barcelona

Real Madrid reduced the gap on bitter rivals Barcelona at the top of the table to four points when substitute Guti and veteran skipper Raul scored in a 2-0 win at Espanyol. Espanyol, who had defeated Barcelona last weekend, were in charge at the Olympic Stadium through Ivan de la Pena's promptings in midfield, but their inability to create clear cut chances was to prove crucial.

An impressive run from De la Pena from the midfield, and a strike from Nene which went close, were all that Espanyol had to show for all their possession in the first half. Real soaked up the pressure before Guti put them ahead from a free-kick conceded after a rare attack in the 67th minute.

He curled a left-footed shot from 30 yards into the top corner and five minutes later Raul slotted home to give Real the three points and extend their winning run to ten matches. Barcelona face Atletico Madrid later today and midfielder Yaya Toure feels it is imperative they do not allow any more points to slip away.

"We cannot allow Real to make any ground on us. Our last three games have been difficult for us in the way that the opposition have played," he said.

Elsewhere, Villarreal will be looking to consolidate their UEFA Champions League place when they face Real Betis, while misfiring Valencia aim to pick up ground with a win against Real Valladolid. At the other end of the table, Numancia are in deep trouble and have asked for a big crowd to get behind the players against Deportivo La Coruna. Mallorca, who have put together back-to-back wins, know that a further victory against Sporting Gijon could take them clear of the relegation zone.