Karim Benzema scored a stunning hat-trick in a seven-minute salvo as Real Madrid thumped Real Valladolid 6-0 on Sunday in La Liga.
The champions, second, sit 12 points behind leaders Barcelona after the Catalans beat Elche on Saturday, with 11 games remaining each.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side warmed up for their Copa del Rey semi-final clash on Wednesday with their arch-rivals in style by dismantling the helpless visitors, 16th and a point above the drop zone.
Rodrygo Goes opened the scoring early on, before Benzema’s hat-trick, including a spectacular acrobatic effort, with Marco Asensio netting the fifth in the second half and Lucas Vazquez adding another late on.
Rodrygo had another goal ruled out for handball by Vinicius Junior, who set up two of Benzema’s strikes, as Madrid ran riot in the spring sunshine at the Santiago Bernabeu.
“The team went out with a lot of conviction, a lot of desire to win the game and to play well in front of our fans,” Vazquez told DAZN.
“Karim is a spectacular player, a world-class star, he’s been here 14 years and year after year he scores goals.
“Year after year he’s been Madrid’s number nine, there’s not much left to say about him, I’m very happy for him and enjoying (playing with) him in each game.”
Starting in a central attacking midfield role, Rodrygo slotted home the opener after 22 minutes after being teed up by Asensio to open the floodgates.
Vinicius’s cross allowed Benzema to net the second after 29 minutes, and four minutes later, the Brazilian fed his French strike partner again and the forward curled home from the edge of the box.
Benzema completed his hat-trick after 36 minutes when Rodrygo crossed and he pulled off an impressive overhead effort from inside the six-yard box for his 14th goal of the season in La Liga.
The 35-year old overtook Getafe’s Enes Unal to become the division’s second top goalscorer, behind Barcelona’s Robert Lewandowski on 17.
Ancelotti’s attacking line-up paid dividends and the coach said he was delighted with his forwards.
“The four up front delivered, in all aspects,” said Ancelotti.
“Everyone combined very well, alternating movements, with mobility, attacking from deep, that’s what we were looking for.”
The coach said he might start Rodrygo against Barcelona at Camp Nou.
“Rodrygo is not ruled out against Barca, because he’s very dangerous at the moment, there’s a possibility he could play,” added Ancelotti.
“It’s hard to make the line up for Wednesday, it’s not a normal cup tie, we have a disadvantage (after the first leg) and we have to do something.
“Having Rodrygo, whatever situation it’s in, I will be calmer.”
– Easing off –
Madrid slowed down in the second half, with Belgian winger Eden Hazard making his first league appearance since September as a substitute for Benzema.
After Rodrygo set up Asensio to blast home from inside the area, Hazard teed up Lucas Vazquez to round off the rout in stoppage time.
Vinicius was also given a rest ahead of the Clasico clash midweek, as Madrid sharpened their teeth.
Having failed to trouble Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen in the 1-0 first-leg defeat in March, Los Blancos look far more dangerous now.
Valladolid face a tough fight against relegation.
“Any setback melts us like a sugar cube,” said their coach Pacheta.
“We can’t commit fouls, we can’t let them run at us, we made too many mistakes.
“We have to be a lot stronger in attack, in defence, in transition, in everything.”
Elsewhere, Celta Vigo were held 2-2 by Almeria, 18th, while Real Sociedad visit Villarreal and Atletico Madrid host Real Betis later on Sunday.