MADRID: Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez were on scintillating form as leaders Barcelona made light of the absence of injured World Player of the Year Lionel Messi with a 5-0 win at home to Real Mallorca in La Liga on Saturday. The victory, with Fabregas netting a hat-trick and Alexis scoring twice, restored Barca's 13-point advantage over Real Madrid at the top after their arch rivals had thumped Levante 5-1 in the earlier kickoff.
It was a timely confidence boost for Barca ahead of Wednesday's Champions League quarter-final, second leg against Paris St Germain and included the emotional return of defender Eric Abidal a year after he underwent a liver transplant.
Coach Tito Vilanova was also back on the Nou Camp bench for the first time since he returned from a programme of cancer treatment in New York.
It is still not clear if Messi, who damaged a hamstring in last week's 2-2 first-leg draw in Paris, will be available to face PSG.
On Saturday's evidence Barca would manage without him as Fabregas and Alexis combined superbly to see off Mallorca, who will end the weekend at the bottom of the table.
Fabregas played a one-two with Alexis and slotted past goalkeeper Dudu Aouate to open the scoring in the 20th minute.
Alexis followed up to net the rebound from a Fabregas shot two minutes later and another one-two between the pair led to a second for Fabregas in the 37th minute.
Alexis completed his double two minutes after that when Fabregas clipped a pass over the Mallorca defence and the Chilean took one touch before poking the ball into the corner.
Fabregas scored his third in the first minute of the second half when he ran on to a superb Andres Iniesta pass and a festive night for the fans was completed when Abidal returned to a rousing ovation as a 70th-minute substitute for Gerard Pique.
Gonzalo Higuain, Kaka and substitutes Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Ozil were all on the scoresheet for Real in their comeback win at home to Levante.
Coach Jose Mourinho left a number of key players out of his starting lineup as Real prepare to defend a 3-0 lead at Galatasaray in Tuesday's Champions League quarter-final, second leg.
Mid-table Levante took a surprise lead in the 31st minute when Michel finished off a swift attack before Higuain levelled with an acrobatic volley five minutes later.
Kaka put Real ahead from the penalty spot in the 38th minute after Christian Lell's handball and Ronaldo volleyed into the net from close range and set up Ozil for Real's fourth after coming on in place of Jose Callejon at halftime.
Ozil stroked in Real's fifth in added time as the champions moved on to 65 points from 30 matches, four ahead of third-placed Atletico Madrid, who play at Getafe on Sunday.
“The players who do not get many chances have these matches to prove they are capable of being in the side,” assistant coach Aitor Karanka told a news conference.
“We are also motivated by finishing second, because Atletico are close behind and we have to keep going so they can't go ahead of us,” he added.
Real Sociedad took advantage of fifth-placed Malaga's European hangover and strengthened their grip on fourth with a 4-2 home win over the Costa del Sol club earlier on Saturday.
Sociedad succeeded where Borussia Dortmund had failed in Wednesday's 0-0 Champions League quarter-final first-leg draw as Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini gave several of his top performers a break ahead of Tuesday's return game in Germany.
Carlos Vela fired the Basques ahead in the 21st minute at their Anoeta stadium in San Sebastian, Alberto De La Bella added a second three minutes later and Antoine Griezmann made it 3-0 just after the half hour.
Pedro Morales pulled a goal back for the visitors just before the break and Inigo Martinez nodded a fourth six minutes into the second half.
Roque Santa Cruz made it 4-2 with another header 20 minutes from time but Sociedad comfortably resisted Malaga's comeback attempt to move on to 51 points with eight games left.
Malaga have 47 in fifth, the same as sixth-placed Real Betis after their 5-1 win at Granada on Friday, and will be overtaken by Valencia if they win at home to Real Valladolid on Sunday (1900).
Pellegrini immediately left for his native Chile following the match after learning of the death of his father earlier in the day. It was unclear whether he would be back in time for Tuesday's game in Dortmund.
At the other end of the table, Deportivo La Coruna gave their hopes of avoiding relegation another boost with a 3-2 home win against fellow strugglers Real Zaragoza.
The victory lifted the Galician club off the bottom of the table to 18th on 26 points, two ahead of Mallorca and Celta Vigo, who host Rayo Vallecano on Sunday. Zaragoza are 17th on 27 points.