MADRID, April 24, 2011 (AFP) - A second-string Real Madrid side romped to a 6-3 win over Valencia on Saturday to cut Barcelona's lead to five points and hammer out a timely warning to their bitter rivals ahead of Wednesday's Champions League semi-final.
Coach Jose Mourinho fielded just Iker Casillas and Ricardo Carvalho from the side which beat Barcelona in the final of the King's Cup in midweek as he looked to rest his players before the two Spanish giants meet again in Europe.
Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain made the most of his opportunity with a hat-trick while Brazilian star Kaka grabbed a brace.
|AFP - Kaka gestures during the match Valencia vs Real Madrid|
Karim Benzema opened the scoring when the keeper failed to reach a Higuain pass and the Frenchman slotted passed two defenders on the line.
Higuain then slipped the ball home while defender Jeremy Mathieu dawdled in possession.
Still before half time Kaka and Higuain netted from crosses with the Valencia defence again ball watching.
After the break Valencia were a little better with Higuain completing a hat-trick before Roberto Saldado finally got the home side on the score sheet.
A piece of quality from Kaka saw him finish clinically after nutmegging a defender and then Valencia gave some respectability to the scoreline with goals from Jonas Goncalves and Jordi Alba.
Later Saturday, Barcelona face Osasuna and coach Pep Guardiola encouraged his team to move on quickly from the cup defeat emphasising that the league is their main target this season.
"The Osasuna game is the only important thing now. I expect it to be a similar match to that against Almeria two weeks ago," he said.
"The fixtures that we still have to play are against teams in trouble and they are difficult games. We need to put the effort in but we are very near now to the end.
"With each game we are getting closer and the league is the title that we value more than any other. To play a game just three days after a final which was decided in extra time will be hard physically and so we need the fans behind us."
Barcelona have defensive problems with Adriano the latest injury victim and he joins Eric Abidal on the sidelines while Carles Puyol is still on his way back to full fitness after three months out.
There is little to choose between the teams competing for the Europa League with Athletic Bilbao in pole position at the moment.
They face a Basque derby on Sunday against Real Sociedad who have been on their worst run of the season but got their first victory in eight attempts last weekend against Sporting Gijon.
Below Athletic are Sevilla, who take on Villarreal and Atletico Madrid who play a Levante side that have had an excellent second half to the season.
Espanyol also remain in the hunt and they travel to Sporting Gijon.
At the other end of the table there is a key relegation battle between basement side Almeria, now seven points adrift, and Zaragoza who dropped back into the bottom three after Malaga beat Mallorca.
A resurgent Malaga, with just one defeat in five games, now meet Racing Santander.
Hercules, also in the relegation zone, entertain Deportivo La Coruna while Getafe travel to Mallorca.