by JACK PRENTICE
Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid struck a hammer blow to local rivals Atleticos title hopes with a dominant 3-0 victory at the Vicente Calderon.
Portuguese forward Ronaldo struck an incredible 39th Real Madrid hat-trick to put Los Blancos nine points clear of Atletico after just 12 matches.
Having not won at their nearest rivals for three years and only once in ten meetings, this was a display that suggested Real could win their first Liga title since 2012.
Ronaldo set the ball rolling with a deflected effort midway through the first half to set Real on their way.
He followed that up with a penalty 10 minutes before the end and completed his treble with 13 minutes left to condemn Diego Simeone to his worst defeat against Real Madrid throughout his time with Atletico, who are now sixth.
Barcelona also dropped points to leave Real Madrid four points clear at the top of La Liga.
Barca, who were missing Lionel Messi through illness, could only manage a goalless home draw at home to mid-table Malaga.
Los Cules had 30 shots on the Malaga goal including numerous chances for Neymar, but couldn’t break down nine-man Malaga.
The visitors had ex-Real Madrid man Diego Llorente sent off for a challenge on Neymar, Juankar followed his teammate for an early bath in stoppage time for dissent.
Sevilla bounced back from their 2-1 home defeat to Barcelona with victory away at struggling Deportivo La Coruna.
Goals from Ryan Babel and Florin had put the hosts 2-0 up two minutes before half-time.
However, a minute later and Sevilla were back in the game through ex-Stoke and Blackburn midfielder Steven N’Zonzi.
Sevilla completed the turnaround in the dying embers when Victor Perez levelled on 87 minutes, before Gabriel Mercado won it in stoppage time.
Elsewhere, Villarreal suffered a 1-0 defeat away at Athletic Bilbao to slip to fourth in the table, while Bilbao rise to seventh, and Real Sociedad are up to fifth courtesy of their 3-1 win away at Sporting Gijon.
Real Betis 2-0 Las Palmas
Eibar 1-0 Celta Vigo
Alaves 0-1 Espanyol
Valencia 1-1 Granada
Leganes 2-0 Osasuna