MADRID, March 17 (Xinhua) -- Leo Messi was again the star of the show this weekend in Spain as he scored two more goals and set up another as FC Barcelona beat Rayo Vallecano to remain 13 points clear of Real Madrid in the BBVA Primera Liga.
Messi set up David Villa for Barca's opener and Villa returned the favor for Messi's two goals, the first of which was a low shot before halftime and the second of which came after another excellent run from the striker.
It ends a great week for Barca after they sealed their place in the quarterfinals of the Champions League last Tuesday and that win seems to have worked wonders for morale as Barca were again looking quick and sharp against a Rayo side who to their credit tried to play attacking football and were rewarded by Raul Tamudo's consolation goal with 20 minutes remaining.
Saturday saw Real Madrid produce five dramatic minutes early in the second half of their 5-2 win at home to Mallorca. Madrid had been trailing 2-1 at halftime to a side battling against relegation before Cristiano Ronaldo, Luka Modric turned the game on its head to leave Mallorca, who had led through goals from Emilio N'Sue and Alejandro Alfaro, groggy.
Karim Benzema scored Madrid's fifth in injury time, but Mallorca will draw heart from their first half performance.
Atletico Madrid recovered from last week's home defeat to claim a hard-fought win away to Osasuna.
Diego Costa, who left the game injured in the closing minutes, was the man of the match with goals in each half. The result keeps Atletico just one point behind Real Madrid in the table, while Osasuna have lost their last three matches to again drop close to the bottom three.
Real Sociedad moved into fourth place with a 4-1 thrashing of Valladolid. Antoine Griezmann scored twice, while Imanol Aguirretxe and Xabi Prieto also netted in a rout that gives the Basque side a great chance of playing in the Champions League next season.
Valencia look as if they will be Real Sociedad's main rivals for that top four finish after they defeated direct rivals, Betis 3-0 in Mestalla.
Roberto Soldado opened the scoring with a controversial penalty after a foul that may have been committed out of the area, before a late own goal from Paulao and an injury time strike from Jonas Goncalves sealed the win to lift Valencia up to fifth.
Meanwhile Malaga paid for their Champions League heroics in midweek as they lost 2-0 at home to Espanyol.
Diego Colotto took advantage of a rare error from Malaga keeper, Willy Caballero to open the scoring, while Sergio Garcia scored a brilliant goal midway through the second half to take his side to 35 points and virtually assure their Primera Liga survival.
Athletic Club Bilbao still have work to do before they relax after losing 1-0 to Getafe. Borja Fernandez's early goal, his first in five years, was enough to give his side a win that gives them a chance of playing in Europe next season.
The win would have been more comfortable had it not been for a fine performance from Athletic keeper, Gorka Iraizoz, who made a series of inspired saves.
Zaragoza's miserable 2013 continued with a 4-0 thrashing away to Sevilla. Two goals from Sevilla right back Coke opened the scoring before Jose Antonio Reyes and Alvaro Negredo rounded off the scoring.
Zaragoza have now taken just four points from their last 11 games and coach Manolo Jimenez's job must be at risk. Finally Granada and Levante produced a tedious 1-1 draw.
The weekend kicked off with bottom of the table Deportivo la Coruna beating local rivals Celta Vigo 3-1 in the Galicia derby on Friday night. Deportivo remain bottom, but further complicate life for Celta, who are just one place above them.