Madrid :Real Madrid served the spectacular performance demanded from coach Manuel Pellegrini by trouncing troubled Zaragoza 6-0 in its last game before the Spanish league's winter break on Saturday.
Madrid improved its standing to 37 points, two behind league leader Barcelona, which won the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
"We're playing better and better, our dynamic is improving and today we proved it," said Gonzalo Higuain, who scored twice. "Everybody played well."
Rafael Van der Vaart also notched two, Cristiano Ronaldo scored, and substitute Karim Benzema celebrated his 22nd birthday with a goal.
Elsewhere, Getafe beat Sevilla 2-1 with two goals from Roberto Soldado while Fernando Llorente scored one and set up another as Athletic Bilbao beat Osasuna 2-0.
Zaragoza sacked coach Marcelino Garcia after last week's loss to Athletic Bilbao slipped the club into the relegation zone. This was caretaker coach Jose Aurelio Gay's first game in charge, and the defense was no better against Real Madrid.
Zaragoza's defense lived up to its billing as the worst in the league when Higuain coolly slotted past goalkeeper Javier Lopez in the third minute.
That settled Madrid nerves in the absence of the injured Kaka and Pepe and the suspended Xabi Alonso.
Van der Vaart's brace was followed in the 34th by Higuain's second, a superb effort. He controlled a fumbled Zaragoza clearance before driving the ball into the top left corner on the half-turn.
Five minutes after halftime, the lively Ronaldo controlled a cross from Marcelo and toyed with the defense in the area before placing his shot into the left side of the net.
Soon after going on for Higuain, Benzema left-footed in a shot from Van der Vaart's pass.
Sevilla dominated Getafe for long spells but was let down by its finishing. Wingers Diego Perotti and Jesus Navas were involved in many of the attacks as the host tried to exploit the flanks.
A break by Getafe in the 12th minute saw Soldado sprint onto Jaime Gavilan's pass and knock the ball past the helpless Andres Palop. Soldado's 10th goal of the season was also against the run of play when defender Sergio Sanchez failed to intercept Juan Angel Albin's through pass, letting the Getafe striker burst through and score from a tight angle on the right.
Loose defending by Getafe after the break allowed Jesus Navas to cross for Alvaro Negredo who ran the ball into the net.
"This team is showing tremendous confidence," said Getafe's Pedro Leon. "But we still have to keep working."
Sevilla remained in third place with 30 points.
In San Mames Stadium, Bilbao's Francisco Yeste scored in the first minute from a meter (yard) out at the far post after Llorente dribbled into the area and crossed.
In the 12th, Llorente underlined Bilbao's superiority, receiving the ball with his back to goal and dribbling away from his marker before shooting low into the bottom left corner.
The Osasuna defense struggled to control the home side's attack and Carlos Gurpegi nearly scored a third in the 20th, although goalkeeper Ricardo Lopez blocked his first-time shot from the edge of the area.
With forwards Walter Pandiani and Carlos Aranda injured, Osasuna's lone striker Eduardo "Dady" Fernandes struggled.
Llorente was replaced in the 75th by Oscar de Marcos and in the 80th Yeste was replaced by Iker Muniain, who was celebrating his 17th birthday.
The win lifted Bilbao into sixth place, pending Sunday's results. Osasuna was 11th.
On Sunday it's Valladolid vs. Sporting Gijon, Villarreal vs. Racing Santander, Espanyol vs. Almeria, Malaga vs. Mallorca, Tenerife vs. Atletico Madrid, and Deportivo La Coruna vs. Valencia.