Karim Benzema scored a spectacular hat-trick in the seventh minute salvo as Real Madrid beat Real Valladolid 6-0 on Sunday in La Liga.
Champions Real Madrid, second, sit 12 points behind leaders Barcelona after the Catalans beat Elche on Saturday, with 11 games remaining.
The race for the top four intensified as Villarreal, sixth, beat fourth Real Sociedad 2-0, and Atletico Madrid got a 1-0 victory over Betis in fifth.
Carlo Ancelotti’s Madrid warmed up for their Copa del Rey semi-final clash with rivals Barcelona in style by dismissing Valladolid, 16 and a point above the drop zone.
Rodrygo Goes opened the scoring early on, before Benzema’s hat-trick included a stunning effort, with Marco Asensio scoring five in the second half and Lucas Vazquez adding another late on. .
“Karim is an amazing player, a star in the world, he has been here for 14 years and every year he scores goals,” Vazquez told DAZN.
“Year after year, he is Madrid’s number nine, there is not much to say about him, I am very happy for him and enjoy (playing with) him in every game. “
Starting in the middle of the attack in the middle, Rodrygo installed the open house after 22 minutes after Asensio installed to open the water.
Vinicius Junior set up two goals for teammate Benzema, who took them with gusto.
The Frenchman completed his hat-trick after 36 minutes when he curled in a stunning effort from inside the six-yard box for his 14th goal of the season in La Liga.
The 35-year-old became the group’s second top scorer, behind Barcelona’s Robert Lewandowski on 17.
Ancelotti’s attacking side paid dividends and the coach said he was happy in front of him.
“The front four gave up, in every way,” he said Ancelotti.
“Everyone put it together really well, exchange moves, and move around, attack from deep, that’s what we were looking for.”
The coach said Rodrygo might start against Barcelona at Camp Nou.
“Rodrygo will not be punished against Barça, because he is very dangerous now, there is a chance that he can play,” added Ancelotti.
“It’s difficult to line up for Wednesday, it’s not a normal cup match, there is a deficit (after the first leg) and we have to do something.
“With Rodrygo, whatever the situation is, I will be calm.”
Madrid slowed down in the second half, with Belgian winger Eden Hazard making his first league appearance since September as a substitute for Benzema.
After Rodrygo set up Asensio to slot home from inside the area, Hazard teed up Lucas Vazquez to end the drive in stoppage time.
Vinicius was also given a break ahead of the Clasico in midweek, while Madrid sharpened their teeth.
Failing to disrupt Barcelona in the first 1-0 defeat in March, Los Blancos look more dangerous now.
Valladolid is facing a tough fight against relegation.
“Any deficit hits us like a sugar cane,” said their coach Pacheta.
“We can’t do bad things, we can’t let them run from us, we’ve done too much.
“We have to be stronger in attack, in defense, in transition, in everything.”
Diego Simeone’s Atletico, third, and in good form since the World Cup, won a late victory over Betis at the Metropolitano thanks to Angel Correa’s goal.
Jose Gimenez’s defender hit the bar with a header early in the second half and Koke had an impossible goal, but Juanmi went close for Betis, who suffered their first league in seven games.
Atletico took the lead four minutes from time when Correa broke the deadlock when he twice got a lucky chance on the edge of the box, before diving into the space and finishing well.
The Rojiblancos are five points behind Real Madrid and six ahead of Real Sociedad.
Villarreal took a late lead against Real Sociedad when Samu Chukwueze fell in the area and Dani Parejo scored the penalty.
Substitute Nicholas Jackson got the second but was later sent off for two yellow cards.
Celta Vigo was held 2-2 by Almeria, 18th.