Real, Barça warm up in style for El Clasico
MADRID - Reuters
Barcelona's Lionel Messi reacts after a missed scoring opportunity against Levante UD during their Spanish first division soccer match at Nou Camp stadium in Barcelona December 3. REUTERS PhotoAngel Di Maria inspired Real Madrid to a 3-0 win at Sporting Gijon and Cesc Fabregas scored twice in Barcelona’s 5-0 drubbing of Levante on Dec. 3 as the two rivals warmed up in style for next weekend’s ‘Clasico’.
Real recorded a 10th consecutive league victory, and its 14th in a row in all competitions, to cement the team’s three-point lead over second-place Barça, who has played one game more than Jose Mourinho’s side.
Champions Barça maintained its superb home form against this season’s surprise package Levante, who briefly topped the table in October, taking its record at the Nou Camp to eight wins and one draw with 39 goals scored and none conceded.
Real has 37 points from 14 matches. Valencia, who beat Espanyol 2-1, is third on 30 from 14 games with Levante a point further back in fourth.
Argentina winger Di Maria opened the scoring in the 35th minute at the Molinon when he robbed a defender, surged into the penalty area and surprised goalkeeper Juan Pablo at his near post with a swerving low shot.
Joint La Liga top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo added the second in the 65th, the Portuguese forward’s 17th league goal of the season, before Brazil fullback Marcelo made it 3-0 in added time.
Gijon, who finished with 10 men after Sebastian Eguren was shown a second yellow card in the 80th minute, are 19th with 12 points.
Barça’s 4-0 win over Rayo Vallecano on Nov. 29 was a game brought forward because of their participation in the Club World Cup in Japan later this month and the Catalans produced another dominant display against Levante whose annual budget is less than 1/20th of Real Madrid’s.
Former Arsenal captain Fabregas put the home side 2-0 ahead with a low shot and a header before promising B-team player Isaac Cuenca made it 3-0 after 37 minutes.
World Player of the Year Lionel Messi struck a fourth in the 55th minute, putting him level with Ronaldo on 17 league goals, and Chile forward Alexis Sanchez added the fifth just after the hour.