Lionel Messi marked his 300th La Liga appearance with a record-equalling hat-trick and an assist for Neymar as Barcelona stayed hard on the heels of leaders Real Madrid with a 5-0 romp at home to Levante on Sunday.
The La Liga football returns to action this weekend following the Christmas break with several sides hoping the fortnight's inactivity could change their fortunes, while others hoping a weekend off would have done nothing to interrupt their form.
Japan`s senior players have leapt to the defence of their under-fire head coach Javier Aguirre, who again denied any involvement in a match-fixing case that continues to overshadow their Asian Cup preparations.
Real Sociedad were left frustrated after a late Levante penalty denied them a first league away win of the season on Saturday with their inability to hold on to the lead a further indication of the tough job facing coach David Moyes.
Real Madrid footballer Gareth Bale is doubtful for Wednesday's Champions League away match against Liverpool FC at Anfield as he is struggling to shake off a muscle injury picked up on international duty with Wales.
Cristiano Ronaldo netted his 14th and 15th goals to set a record scoring start in a Spanish league season as Real Madrid eased to a 5-0 win at Levante on Saturday, while Lionel Messi scored to move one goal from the competition's all-time scorer.