Real Madrid cruises past Almeria

Almeria, Spain ( - Real Madrid claimed its 20th consecutive win across all competitions by cruising to a 4-1 victory at Almeria on Friday.

The in-form team staved off some early pressure from Almeria and eventually took the lead in the 34th minute when Isco drifted in from the left flank and curled a superb effort just inside the post.

Almeria managed to level the score in the 39th minute when Verza smashed a stunning volley into the bottom corner from distance, but Gareth Bale restored Madrid's lead three minutes later with a powerful header.

The hosts had a tremendous chance to get back on level terms just after the hour mark when Marcelo committed a foul in box, but Iker Casillas parried Verza's ensuing penalty to safety to preserve Madrid's lead.

The Merengues took the save in stride and ran away with the result as Cristiano Ronaldo struck twice in the span of seven minutes to complete the rout.

Real Madrid improves to 39 points on the season to go five points clear at the La Liga summit while Almeria remains on 10 points, slipping into the relegation zone on goal difference.

Barcelona is flying high after claiming a 5-1 victory over Espanyol last time out, a match that saw Lionel Messi produce his second hat trick in three outings. The Catalans, who enter the weekend in second place with 34 points, will hope to keep pace with Real Madrid by taking maximum points from their trip to Getafe on Saturday.

Valencia has hit a rough patch in its La Liga campaign, going winless in its last three games to slip to fifth place in the table. The club will attempt to reverse its fortunes on Saturday with a positive result against Rayo Vallecano at the Mestalla.

Celta Vigo will attempt to snap a three-game slide on Saturday when it heads to La Rosaleda to face Malaga while Levante and Cordoba will aim to pull away from the relegation zone when the two sides meet at the Estadio Nuevo Arcangel.

Atletico Madrid and Villarreal will meet for an appetizing fixture at the Vicente Calderon on Sunday. Atletico enters the weekend in third place with 32 points and a three-game winning run, but Villarreal, which has also won three straight, is just eight points back of the reigning champions.

Villarreal smashed Real Sociedad, 4-0, last weekend, leaving manager David Moyes to regroup ahead of La Real's clash with Athletic Bilbao at the Anoeta on Sunday.

Rounding out Sunday's La Liga slate, Espanyol will play host to Granada while Sevilla will welcome Eibar to the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.

Monday's lone contest in Spain's top flight will see Elche travel to the Riazor to take on Deportivo.