MADRID: Thierry Henry grabbed a hat-trick as Barcelona romped to a 4-0 demolition of title rivals Valencia at the Nou Camp on Saturday to extend their lead at the top of the Spanish first division to six points.
French star Henry scored in the 19th, 27th and 79th minutes with Dani Alves also on the mark, as Barca stretched their advantage after second-placed Villarreal drew 3-3 against Getafe.
Barca are now unbeaten in their last 20 games in all competitions - 13 in the league - and Real Madrid, nine points adrift of their rivals, need to win their game in hand against Sevilla on Sunday with 'El Clasico' at Barca next Saturday.
"We saw the result of the Villarreal-Getafe game so we were desperate to win this match," said Henry.
"We have Shakhtar Donetsk (in the Champions League on Tuesday) and then we can focus on 'El Clasico'. It is always a great game and we are all excited about it."
With Samuel Eto'o suspended, Henry was given a more central striking role and he responded with a treble to take his season's tally to seven.
With 19 minutes gone Henry raced onto a terrific backspin pass from Yaya Toure and finished with a deft lob reminiscent of his peak years at Arsenal.
Eight minutes later Henry finished off a brilliant move started by a raking pass from Alves, side-footing in after Alexander Hleb cut the ball back.
Valencia trudged off at half-time knowing it could have been worse with Xavi hitting the post for Barca in the second minute.
It was more of the same in the second half with Xavi sliding in Alves to smash in a third goal two minutes after the break.
Barca were leading Valencia, unbeaten on their travels before this match, a merry dance and Henry had a tap-in for his hat-trick with Bojan Krkic putting the ball on a plate.
Valencia are now eight points behind Barca who are threatening to run away with the title.
Villarreal are their nearest rivals and showed the spirit of champions coming from three goals down to draw 3-3 with Getafe at El Madrigal stadium.
Getafe scored three times in the first half and looked set for another giant-killing act after defeating Real Madrid 3-1 last weekend.
However, Villarreal gave their home fans a scintillating performance after the interval with Robert Pires pulling a goal back before Sebastian Eguren and Giuseppe Rossi struck in the final seven minutes.
Villarreal will certainly settle for the draw after being 3-0 down but coach Manuel Pellegrini will be concerned that his team have failed to win any of their last four home matches.
"Maybe a point could be seen as positive after trailing 3-0 but it is not enough for me," said Pellegrini. "In the second half, we took three of our countless chances and in the end we could have won it."
Getafe, coached by Victor Munoz, who was in charge of Villarreal from 2000 to 2003, are now unbeaten against last season's top three.
"The referee helped them to get the draw," he said.
It was a goal-packed Saturday with Atletico Madrid climbing to fifth with a thumping 5-2 win at Sporting Gijon.
Sporting took a fourth minute lead through Mate Bilic but Argentine Sergio "Kun" Aguero scored a first half brace to turn the game in Atletico's favor.
Diego Forlan scored twice and Maxi Rodriguez was also on target in the second half as Atletico ran riot.
Atletico had struggled against the so-called lesser teams of late so coach Javier Aguirre was happy to get three points.
"I am happy that we won because we could not afford to miss another opportunity after the games against Numancia (1-1) and Osasuna (0-0)," he said.
Atletico moved above Sevilla - who are in action against Real Madrid on Sunday - on goal difference.