Barcelona gave stand-in coach Jordi Roura a winning start as goals from Xavi, Lionel Messi and Cristian Tello downed Real Valladolid 3-1 to re-establish a nine-point lead at the Primera Division summit
Roura is deputising for Tito Vilanova, who was discharged from hospital last night after undergoing an operation on his parotid gland on Thursday, and saw his side take a 1-0 interval lead when Xavi tapped in Jordi Alba's cross.
The Spain midfielder then set up Messi for his 91st and last goal of an extraordinary 2012 and, after Javi Guerra pulled one back, Tello rounded off the win in injury time.
"We wanted to dedicate the win to Tito.," Xavi said afterwards.
"He's not going through the best of times but now he's home, and that's great news. The operation went well and we worked hard to be able to dedicate this victory to him.
"We're on a great run and we want to continue on this path. We're physically strong and when we return from the break we want to continue in this form."
Jose Mourinho remained defiant last night after watching Real Madrid's fading title hopes hit with another blow as his side slumped to a 3-2 defeat at Malaga.
Roque Santa Cruz struck twice in three second-half minutes to help fourth-placed Malaga heap the pressure on Madrid coach Jose Mourinho, who omitted captain Iker Casillas from his starting line-up.
Isco put Malaga ahead in the 48th minute before an own goal from Sergio Sanchez drew Madrid level midway through the second half.
But substitute Santa Cruz, who had been on the pitch less than 10 minutes, stunned the visitors by putting Malaga 3-1 ahead with a double strike in the 73rd and 76th minutes.
Benzema pulled another goal back with eight minutes remaining but Madrid could not find an equaliser.
The result leaves Real 16 points behind Barcelona, but Mourinho insisted he had no intention of stepping down despite the poor run of form from the Bernabeu side.
"Neither before, during or after the game have I thought about resigning," he said.
"I don't fear for my position. This is football. I'm not a child, nor have I been here for a couple of days.
"Coaches know that football has no memory and only takes into account what was done today and not what was done yesterday."
Apono and Helder Postiga were on target as Real Zaragoza ran out impressive 2-0 winners at Athletic Bilbao.
Zaragoza had won just one of their last five going into the game but looked in fine form as they eased to the three points courtesy of Apono's penalty and Postiga's effort shortly before the interval.
Real Mallorca got their first win in 15 games in all competitions as they came from behind to beat Champions League-chasing Real Betis 2-1 at the Benito Villamarin.
Benat's free kick had given the hosts an early lead, but Victor brought the Islanders level with a fine header on the half-hour mark.
And the comeback was completed just two minutes into the second half when Mario's challenge on Victor was deemed to have taken place inside the area and Javi Marquez comfortably slotted home the resultant penalty.
Granada secured only their second win in seven league games with a deserved 2-1 victory over Osasuna.
Nino had fired the hosts into an early lead with a looping header from Raoul Loe's flick-on, but Granada dominated thereafter and should have been level well before Diego Mainz did find the back of the net from Dani Benitez's free kick four minutes before half-time.
Benitez himself then put his side ahead two minutes into the second period with a wonderful left-footed strike.
Lyon moved level on points with Ligue 1 leaders Paris St Germain after a comfortable 3-0 win over Nice at the Stade de Gerland.
Goals from Lisandro Lopez and Anthony Reveillere either side of half-time put the title hopefuls on course for victory while Bafetimbi Gomis' penalty sealed a comfortable victory.
It was an unhappy return to Lyon for former boss Claude Puel whose side ended the match with 10 men after David Ospina was sent off in the build-up to the Gomis spot-kick.
Lyon's Dejan Lovren saw red after picking up a second yellow late on in what was the only negative of the night for Remi Garde's men.
Rennes go into the forthcoming two-week winter break in the top four following a 4-2 triumph at Ajaccio in a match which was delayed by 10 minutes after their fourth goal sparked a pitch invasion.
Julien Feret struck from an indirect free kick in the penalty area after goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa handled Carl Medjani's back-pass but a section of Ajaccio supporters, angered by the taking of the free kick, stormed from the stand to protest, forcing referee Ruddy Buquet to suspend the game until order was restored.
Rennes had twice come from behind in the first half, Feret and Romain Alessandrini equalising after goals from Adrian Mutu and Fousseni Diawara. Cheick Diarra put them ahead for the first time before Feret's controversial clincher.
Bastia won by the same score line, with three goals in the opening half-hour proving decisive against rock-bottom Nancy.
Jerome Rothen, Anthony Modeste and Sambou Yatabare were all on the scoresheet in the early stages before Benjamin Moukandjo clawed one back for the visitors.
Modeste's second all but sealed victory for Bastia although Nancy, whose run of five consecutive 1-1 draws came to an end, enjoyed a late consolation when Andre Luiz netted.
Defending champions Montpellier saw a run of three straight wins emphatically halted by a 4-1 loss at Lille.
A Daniel Congre own goal and further strikes from Dimitri Payet, Nolan Roux and Ryan Mendes boosted Lille's European aspirations.
Souleymane Camara netted a late goal for the visitors, who had Younes Belhanda sent off when they were 2-0 down just before half-time.
Reims were denied a first Ligue 1 win since early October as Pedrinho struck at the death to rescue a 2-2 draw for Lorient, whose six-match winning streak came to an end.
Visitors Reims took the lead through Odair Fortes and went ahead again - after Maxime Barthelme had levelled for Lorient - thanks to Gaetan Courtet but Pedrinho ensured the spoils were shared.
Bordeaux's goalless stalemate with Troyes, who are six points adrift of safety, was their fifth draw in succession.
PSV Eindhoven reclaimed top spot in the Eredivisie standings with a 6-1 away mauling of lowly NAC Breda.
Jeremain Lens set PSV on their way with a brace in the 11th and 17th minutes and, after NAC had halved the deficit through Jordy Buijs, the visitors made it 3-1 just before the half-hour thanks to Georgino Wijnaldum.
Mathias Jorgensen further extended PSV's advantage in the 37th minute before second-half goals from Luciano Narsingh and his replacement Jurgen Locadia sealed the victory.
Vitesse Arnhem missed the chance to replace Ajax in the top three ahead of the champions' match with FC Utrecht as they were beaten 2-1 at Heerenveen.
Goals from Heerenveen duo Filip Djuricic (30 minutes) and Alfred Finnbogason (50) sandwiched an equaliser from Guram Kashia (39) as stumbling Vitesse were left with just one point from their last three games.
Seventh-placed NEC Nijmegen are also going through a bad patch and their winless run stretched to four matches after they fell to a 2-0 defeat at ADO Den Haag.
NEC were reduced to 10 men in the 22nd minute when Kevin Conboy was handed his marching orders and ADO took full advantage through a brace from Jens Toornstra (33 and 86).
Heracles drew 1-1 at home with PEC Zwolle, the hosts taking a 15th-minute lead through Samuel Armenteros only to be pegged back by Youness Mokhtar's equaliser 12 minutes later.
Celtic powered on at the top of the Scottish Premier League standings with a 4-0 victory over Ross County at Parkhead.
All four goals came during a 24-minute spell at the start of the second half with Gary Hooper netting a brace in-between efforts from Scott Brown and substitute James Forrest.
The victory leaves pacesetters Celtic seven points clear of Inverness, who climbed back into second place with a 4-1 home win over Dundee.
Billy McKay continued his rich goal scoring streak with a double, netting the opener from the penalty spot before taking advantage of some slack play from the visitors to put Caley Thistle 3-1 up just after the break and take his tally for the season to 18 goals.
The striker has now found the net in seven consecutive matches, with seven goals in his last three games, topping the SPL scoring charts with 15 league strikes.
Caley Thistle's other goals came from Owain Tudur Jones and Andrew Shinnie with Dundee's reply coming from Nicky Riley, who had briefly made it 1-1 in the first half.
Niall McGinn's second-half double earned Aberdeen a 2-0 win over St Johnstone at a storm-lashed Pittodrie.
Lazio are the closest challengers to Serie A leaders Juventus after they moved up into second with a hard-fought 1-0 triumph at Sampdoria.
With Inter Milan being held to a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Genoa earlier in the day, the capital club took full advantage and Hernanes' strike on the half-hour was enough to beat the team bossed by former Lazio coach Delio Rossi.
The Biancocelesti are now eight points behind pacesetters Juventus, who beat Catania 3-1 last night, at the beginning of the winter break.
Inter lost further ground on their rivals although they were grateful for a point in the end as Esteban Cambiasso's strike five minutes from time cancelled out Ciro Immobile's 77th-minute effort for Genoa.
There was still time for the strugglers to spurn a golden opportunity in the last minute as Marko Livaja somehow hit the woodwork from a yard out.
Andrea Stramaccioni's men were also leapfrogged on goal difference by Fiorentina, who finished the year in the Champions League places with a comfortable 3-0 victory at lowly Palermo.
Stevan Jovetic had been a doubt for the game due to a thigh injury but opened the scoring in the 50th minute and then doubled his side's lead with a penalty seven minutes from time.
Jovetic might have been celebrating a hat-trick in the final minute after Fiorentina had won another penalty, but centre-back Gonzalo Rodriguez took over spot-kick duties and confidently converted.
Two late goals saw Napoli end a chastening week with a flourish following a 2-0 triumph at 10-man Siena.
The Italian Football Federation (FIGC) this week deducted two points from Napoli for a former player's involvement in match-fixing, while they then exited the Coppa Italia courtesy of a second home loss to Bologna in three days.
Christian Maggio broke the deadlock in the 86th minute, while Edison Cavani netted immediately after from the spot, while Siena's afternoon was compounded in added time when Emanuele Calaio was sent off after needlessly elbowing Valeron Behrani.
Goals from Jaime Valdes and Nicola Sansone helped Parma moved up to eighth after coming from behind to claim a 2-1 away win over Bologna, who took the lead through Frederik Sorensen.
Torino pulled clear of the relegation zone as a Gennaro Sardo own goal and a Alessandro Gazzi strike secured a 2-0 home victory against Chievo.
Atalanta striker German Denis struck from the penalty spot to cancel out Muriel's opener for Udinese as the mid-table teams shared a 1-1 draw.
A brace from Erik Lamela inspired Roma to a 4-2 home victory over AC Milan at the Stadio Olimpico.
Nicolas Burdisso broke the deadlock in the 13th minute with Pablo Osvaldo doubling Roma's lead 10 minutes later.
Lamela's double ensured there was no way back for the visitors, who at least grabbed late consolations through Giampaolo Pazzini and Bojan Krkic after Marquinho was sent off for Roma.
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