MADRID - Real Madrid maintained their lead at the top of La Liga as Cristiano Ronaldo's 39th goal of the season handed them a hard-fought 1-0 win away to Malaga.
It was a similar story for second-placed Atletico Madrid as they remained three points behind the leaders with a 1-0 victory over Espanyol at the Vicente Calderon thanks to Diego Costa's second-half winner.
Ronaldo made the breakthrough with a resounding finish from the edge of the area midway through the first-half and was only denied from adding to his tally by a series of saves from Willy Caballero.
Malaga pushed hard for an equaliser in the final quarter, but couldn't find a way through as they remain just three points above the relegation zone.
Real now lead third-placed Barcelona by seven points, but the Catalans can cut that gap when they host Osasuna today.
And with Real and Barca set to meet in El Clasico next weekend at the Santiago Bernabeu, midfielder Xabi Alonso underlined the importance of consolidating their advantage.
"It is a very important three points. There is one less game to play and now we will focus on Tuesday and then Sunday," he told Canal Plus.