TITO VILANOVA returned to the Barcelona bench with the minimum of fuss last night as his side got all of their work done inside the first 30 minutes of the Catalan derby against Espanyol.
Manager Vilanova (below), back at the helm after surgery on his parotid gland after contracting cancer for the second time, was given the easiest of nights as Barca coasted to a one-sided 4-0 win.
They had scored all of their goals by the half-hour and after that it was procession football, with Pedro twice denied a hat-trick by the offside flag while other chances also passed.
After Xavi had opened the scoring, Pedro then chimed in with his brace before Lionel Messi added a penalty.
The win leaves Barca 11 points clear at the summit after nearest challengers Atletico Madrid could only draw 1-1 at Real Mallorca.
Third-placed Real Madrid stay 16 points behind Barca after defeating Real Sociedad 4-3 despite playing for 84 minutes with 10 men.
Treacy has Irish aim
KEITH TREACY has targeted a recall to the international squad for 2013 after the Dubliner managed to revive his career with Burnley, writes AIDAN FITZMAURICE.
Treacy has won back his place in the first team at Burnley after a difficult period for the 24-year-old, who went for three months without playing a single game for the Clarets. The winger is now back in the club's plans since the arrival of new boss Sean Dyche and Treacy, who won his last senior cap against Croatia in 2011, is keen to re-establish himself in Giovanni Trapattoni's plans. "There were a couple of good things in there in 2012 but hopefully 2013 involves a lot of games in the Championship and hopefully another international call-up," says Treacy.
"Me and the previous manager didn't see eye to eye on a couple of things. When you get no confidence from him and you get nothing from the training ground, all you're getting is hammered every week, it's not what you want. I'm a footballer and if I'm not playing football then I'm not going to be happy, but it's all in the past now and I've got a good manager behind me who wants me to do well at the club."