|Villarreal's midfielder Cani jumps to avoid Zaragoza's defence as his team closes the gap on Barcelona and Real [AFP]
Villarreal cruised to a 3-0 win over last-place Zaragoza on Saturday with goals from Marcos Senna, Santi Cazorla and Nilmar helping protect their third place standing in Spain's Primera Division, trimming the gap with second-placed Barcelona to just four points.
Marcos Senna gave Villarreal the lead in the ninth minute with a shot from outside the penalty area, and Santiago Carzola added the second before the 20-minute mark.
Zaragoza played the last 25 minutes with ten men after Matteo Contini was sent off, and moments later Villarreal's Nilmar sealed the win.
Champions Barca host unbeaten leaders Real Madrid at the Nou Camp on Monday and Villarreal seized their chance to cut the advantage held by the big two before the eagerly-anticipated "Clasico".
"Winning today was fundamental,'' said Villarreal head coach Juan Carlos Garrido, who renewed his contract until 2014 on Friday.
"We played in a difficult stadium, regardless of Zaragoza's place in the standings.''
Zaragoza, who sacked coach Jose Aurelio Gay on November 18 and gave former Mexico boss Javier Aguirre the task of avoiding relegation, remain rooted to the bottom with just eight points from 13 matches.
Former Spain international Senna put the visitors ahead in the ninth minute at the Romareda with a superb half-volley that flew through a crowd of players and fizzed past goalkeeper Leo Franco into the top corner.
Cazorla added a second nine minutes later with a clever lob and Brazilian Nilmar put the game beyond Zaragoza's reach with a neat finish in the 65th.
Zaragoza defender Matteo Contini was dismissed moments before Nilmar's goal after picking up a second yellow card.
Sevilla missed the chance to climb above Espanyol, Valencia and Atletico Madrid into fourth after they squandered the lead and lost 3-1 at home to mid-table Getafe.
Mali striker Frederic Kanoute put the Andalusians ahead in the 31st minute at a half-full Sanchez Pizjuan when Ivory Coast midfielder Ndri Romaric hooked the ball across the goal for his African compatriot to sidefoot past Jordi Codina.
A first-time effort from Getafe striker Miku crashed back off Andres Palop's crossbar just after the break before Manu del Moral beat the Sevilla goalkeeper from the penalty spot in the 57th and Miku added a second three minutes later.
Pedro Rios made sure of the three points when he pounced on a loose ball and smashed it high into the net in the 78th.