MADRID: Real Madrid returned to winning ways with a 3-0 home win over Espanyol, despite playing for almost 40 minutes with 10 men.
Following successive defeats by Valencia in the league and Atletico de Madrid in the cup, Real responded quickly through £71m James Rodriguez after 12 minutes.
Gareth Bale curled in a 20-yard free-kick, off the post, to double the lead.
Left-back Fabio Coentrao was sent off for a sliding tackle but it mattered little as Nacho slotted in the third.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side are four points clear of nearest rivals Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, with at least one of those sides poised to drop points when they meet Sunday.
Real, who will have played a match fewer than their title rivals after the Nou Camp clash, have taken control of La Liga on the back of 12 successive wins.
Last Sunday’s 2-1 defeat at fourth-placed Valencia ended their Spanish record run of 22 victories in all competitions, before they tumbled to another loss at neighbours Atletico in the Copa del Rey.
However, Italian boss Ancelotti insisted there was no cause for concern – and so it proved against mid-table Espanyol.