MADRID, Dec. 8 (Xinhua) -- FC Barcelona and Real Madrid maintained their head-to-head battle at the top of La Liga this weekend with relatively comfortable home wins.
Real Madrid had few problems dispatching second-bottom Espanyol 2-0 in the Santiago Bernabeu stadium on Saturday lunchtime, with a first half goal from Raphael Varane and a Karim Benzema finish 12 minutes from time.
The bad news for Real Madrid is that left-back Ferland Mendy was sent off in the closing minutes, leaving coach Zinedine Zidane without a specialized left-back for next weekend's visit to Valencia.
Lionel Messi presented his Ballon d'Or award to fans ahead of Barca's 5-2 win at home to Mallorca and then gave a demonstration of why he deserved it with his 35th career hat-trick.
The Argentinian scored twice from outside the area in the first half and added his third in the closing minutes just as Mallorca were causing a few nerves among the home fans.
Antoine Griezmann had opened the scoring after running from the halfway time, while Luis Suarez netted arguably the goal of the week with a powerful backheel after a precise passing move.
Third-placed Sevilla opened the scoring away to Osasuna, but were pegged back by Chimy Avila's goal on the stroke of half-time, and the side from Pamplona, who have only lost one of their last 33 home games, were able to hold on despite Oier's sending off with half an hour left to play.
Sevilla pressed hard, having a penalty denied after a VAR review and hitting the post in the second half, but were unable to force a winning goal.
Real Sociedad remain in fourth place despite being held to a 0-0 draw away to Real Valladolid.
Atletico Madrid look to be drifting out of the title race as they once again failed to hit the target in a 0-0 draw away to Villarreal.
Valencia showed personality to come back from 2-0 down to win 3-2 away to neighbors Levante, in a game where Levante's Roger Marti scored all three goals in the first half. Unfortunately for him, only two of those were for his side, while the third was in his own net and gave Valencia a lifeline which Kevin Gameiro gratefully seized with two goals in the 57th and 59th minutes to turn the game on its head.
Getafe moved into the top six with a 1-0 win away to Eibar, thanks to Angel Rodriguez's solitary goal.
38-year-old Joaquin Sanchez made history when he became the oldest player to score a hat-trick in La Liga. The Real Betis winger took advantage of some untypically loose defending from Athletic Bilbao to put his side 3-0 ahead against the Basque side, who then fought back to 3-2 and were close to taking a point with a spirited fightback.
Leganes also survived a fightback from Celta Vigo, but held on for a vital 3-2 win in a key relegation six-pointer.
Oscar scored two screamers from outside the area and Kevin Rodrigues made it 3-2 before Nestor Araujo and Iago Aspas gave the home fans a very nervous last ten minutes.
Granada ended a five-game run without a win as they beat Alaves 3-0 at Los Carmenes. Carlos Fernandez, Roberto Soldado and Yangel Herrera scored the goals, which all came after the break.