|Chelsea’s Fernando Torres (top) and Stoke City’s Wilson Palacios vie for the ball on Saturday. (AFP-Yonhap)|
Chelsea provisionally dislodged Liverpool from the top spot by cruising to a 3-0 victory over Stoke, while title rival Manchester City routed Southampton 4-1.
Atletico found it tougher, only overcoming Villarreal 1-0, while Barcelona beat Real Betis 3-1 and Real Madrid routed Real Sociedad 4-0.
Mohamed Salah marked his first Chelsea start with his second goal for the club and also helped create goals for Frank Lampard and Willian. Liverpool can ensure Chelsea’s stay at the top is short-lived with a victory at West Ham on Sunday.
For third-place Man City, Yaya Toure scored from the penalty spot in the third minute before Southampton striker Rickie Lambert leveled. City produced a rapid response to the equalizer, with Samir Nasri and Edin Dzeko both scoring in first-half stoppage time, and Stevan Jovetic added a late fourth.
Manchester United has struggled at home all season but maintained its good away form, with David Moyes’ sixth-place side claiming a league-leading 10th road win by beating Newcastle 4-0 with Juan Mata scoring twice.
Fulham climbed off the bottom with a 2-1 win at Aston Villa to 18th place, five points from Norwich, which lost 1-0 at West Bromwich Albion.
Crystal Palace’s recovery continued with a 3-0 win at Cardiff that moved the London club seven points clear of danger above Swansea, which lost 1-0 at Hull.
With leading scorer Diego Costa out for Atletico Madrid, it was left for Raul Garcia to score against Villarreal. Gareth Bale’s long-range goal also ensured Real Madrid didn’t miss star Cristiano Ronaldo as it cruised to a 4-0 victory at Real Sociedad, staying within three points of the pacesetters in third place.
Lionel Messi converted an early penalty and then slotted in the rebound after a second spot kick was blocked by goalkeeper Adan Garrido to seal Barcelona’s victory against Real Betis.
Barcelona unfurled a banner in the Camp Nou stands before the match that read “Hands Off La Masia,” referring to FIFA’s one-year transfer ban after soccer’s governing body found the Catalan club guilty of breaching regulations in signing youth players for its renowned training academy.
Paris Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc rested key players and still saw his team take a step closer to a second straight French title after coasting to a 3-0 win against Reims. Edinson Cavani made the most of a rare start in his favored center forward position, scoring his 15th league goal of the season as PSG moved provisionally 16 points clear of second-placed Monaco, which hosts Nantes on Sunday.
Bayern coach Pep Guardiola fielded a weakened lineup having seen his team already clinch the title last month.
Sascha Moelders scored the goal that handed Bayern its first league loss since a 2-1 defeat at home to Bayer Leverkusen on Oct. 28, 2012.
“That’s football, that’s sport,” Guardiola said. “You can’t always win. There was going to be a loss sooner or later.”