MADRID: Champions Barcelona bushed aside Athletic Bilbao 4-1 on Saturday to return to the top of Spanish La Liga and open a three-point gap on Real Madrid who they face next week in 'El Clasico'.
Barcelona have a decisive week ahead of them with the Champions League quarter-final second leg at home to Arsenal on Tuesday and then a trip to Real four days later. They enjoyed the perfect preparation on Saturday with three points and a convincing win that puts the pressure on Real Madrid to win at Racing Santander.
The 22-year-old Jeffren Suarez opened the scoring with his first goal of the season on 26 minutes before the 19-year-old Bojan stole the show with a brace either side of the interval. Lionel Messi scored his 26th goal of the campaign to make it four after 66 minutes and Bilbao were desperate for the final whistle at Camp Nou.
Elsewhere, Sevilla ended a run of six league games without a win defeating Tenerife 3-0 to go a point above Real Mallorca into fourth. First half goals from Frederic Kanoute and Brazilian striker Luis Fabiano put the hosts in control as coach Antonio Alvarez tasted his first win in charge as Sevilla climbed back into the top four. It was another nightmare roadtrip for Tenerife who are the only side yet to win away from home and lie third from bottom, six points from safety.
Real Zaragoza moved seven points clear of the bottom three with a 2-0 home win over relegation rivals Malaga. Argentine Leo Ponzio scored his first goal of the season to put Zaragoza ahead on the stroke of half-time before Chile international striker Humberto Suazo killed the game off on 75 minutes. Zaragoza's second successive win see them jump a point above Malaga into 15th place with Racing Santander dropping to fourth from bottom, six points above the drop.
Italian Seria A
ROME: Rebel striker Mario Balotelli made a goalscoring return for Inter Milan on Saturday as the champions beat Bologna 3-0 while AS Roma and AC Milan also won to keep up the Serie A title pressure.
Mirko Vucinic scored the only goal of the game as second-placed AS Roma triumphed 1-0 at Bari, to stay one point behind Inter, while Milan stayed three points off top with a 3-2 success at Cagliari.
Having apologised publically in midweek for his part in a bust-up with coach Jose Mourinho, Balotelli, who had been frozen out for the previous six matches, ensured Cameroon international Sameul Eto'o's absence was hardly felt. He was involved in much of Inter's attacking work.
Roma produced a professional and controlled performance decided by Vucinic's 19th minute goal in a game of few chances and little action. Milan's victory came courtesy of a crazy first half in which all five goals were scored. Marco Borriello opened the scoring on seven minutes but Daniele Ragatzu levelled 10 minutes later.
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar restored Milan's advantage two minutes after that with a long-range effort only for Cagliari to level again just after the hour mark on a goal from Alessandro Matri.
But seven minutes before the break Milan grabbed their winner with a comical own goal as Ignazio Abate's cross was pushed out by Marchetti onto Davide Astori's thigh and over the line.
Turin giants Juventus saw their slim hopes of a top four finish hit once again as they slumped 3-0 at lowly Udinese. Their only saving grace was that fourth-placed Palermo fell 2-0 to Catania in the Sicilian derby, leaving them three points ahead of seventh-placed Juve.