Real Madrid rose to the challenge of Barcelona to thrash Athletic Bilbao 5-1. Cristiano Ronaldo matched Lionel Messi's earlier exploits as he scored a hat-trick in a 5-1 victory over Athletic Bilbao that ensures they will start next week's showdown with arch-rivals Barcelona in top spot.

With Barca winning 8-0 earlier in the evening Madrid knew they needed a victory to take a one-point lead to the Nou Camp for 'El Clasico', and Jose Mourinho's in-form side made no mistake as they made it seven league wins on the trot.

Ronaldo netted three of the goals - the final one coming from the penalty spot deep into injury-time - while Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Ramos, with another penalty, were also on the scoresheet.

Athletic, who have a miserable record at the Bernabeu, had made it 2-1 just before half-time through star striker Fernando Llorente but they could make no further in-roads as Madrid - for whom Mourinho was serving the second of a two-match touchline ban - completed a deserved, if slightly flattering, victory.

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