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For the first time since the start of November, Barcelona are on top of La Liga, though only by a point,after mauling Rayo Vallecano 6:1 at the Camp Nou. Real Madrid lost 1:0 at Athletic Bilbao and with only two wins in five league games, paid for their recent ropy form this weekend.

 

Aritz Aduriz headed Athletic into a 26th minute lead from Mikel Rico’s cross and the Basques survived a second-half Real fightback to dethrone the leaders on Saturday.

 

Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo were denied but Gareth Bale almost scored the goal of the season seven minutes from time when his shot from within his own half beat the goalkeeper but cannoned off the left-hand post.

 

Real can point to their injury list as excuses – particularly the lack of midfield creators Luka Modric and James Rodriguez, but boss Carlo Ancelotti will shoulder the blame in the coming week for surrendering their perch on top of the league.

 

Barça got a lucky break when Lionel Messi’s 56th minute penalty was ordered to be retaken for encroachment after his initial effort had been saved, though the blaugrana did lose Daniel Alves to a straight red card ten minutes from time.

 

Messi bagged another hat-trick, his 32nd for his club and a Spanish football record, to take his goals to 30 for the season, level with Cristiano Ronaldo. Luis Suarez scored a brace to take his tally to seven, while Neymar netted to take him to 15.

 

87,151 watched the one-sided contest, the Camp Nou’s biggest crowd this campaign.

 

Atletico Madrid drew 1:1 at home to Valencia to sit six points behind Real in third. Los Colchoneros led through Koke’s 33rd minute opener but failed to net a second and had their lead …

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