League leaders Bayern Munich demolished Hamburg SV 9-2 with four goals from striker Claudio Pizarro and two from Arjen Robben on Saturday to put one hand on the Bundesliga trophy with seven games to play.
With a dazzling performance that will act as a warning to Italys Juventus ahead of their Champions League quarter-final next week,Bayern,resting several key players,could have celebrated their 23rd German league title were it not for Borussia Dortmunds Robert Lewandowski.
The Poland striker scored a late winner earlier on Saturday to give the champions a narrow 2-1 victory at VfB Stuttgart and put Bayerns title champagne on ice for at least another week.
With a 20-point lead over second-placed Dortmund,however,the Bavarians look set to lift their 22nd Bundesliga trophy. We played textbook football at times today and the title cannot really slip away any more, Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes told reporters.
It was important to fill up on confidence. But Tuesdays game will be different with Juve being a top European team and much more aggressive.
For Hamburg it equalled their heaviest defeat in the Bundesligas 50 years and put a dent in their hopes of claiming a European spot. I have not experienced this as a coach before, said Hamburgs coach,Thorsten Fink. I do not have an explanation for this 9-2. Everyone has to be self-critical,both team and coach.
Bayern,looking for a treble of titles this season,unleashed one attack after another from the start,with Xherdan Shaqiri opening their account with a low drive in the fifth minute.
Bastian Schweinsteiger headed in their second goal before Pizarro volleyed in from close range and Robben added another in a scintillating 33-minute spell.
Peruvian Pizarro,the Bundesligas all-time top foreign scorer,got his second goal on the stroke of halftime and completed his hat-trick eight minutes after the restart with a superb backheel before Dutchman Robben was again on target a minute later.
In Stuttgart,early substitute Lukasz Piszczek headed a Marco Reus free kick past goalkeeper Sven Ulreich for Borussia Dortmunds opener in the 29th minute.
Alexandru Maxim drew Stuttgart level with a low drive in the 63rd. The hosts,who had also hit the post earlier,were lucky to have the goal awarded after Antonio Ruediger stepped well inside the pitch with a throw-in that led to the goal.
Stuttgart then had Georg Niedermeier sent off for a second booking after a rough challenge on Mario Goetze in the 68th and Dortmund made the extra man count when right back Piszczek raced clear down the wing to feed Lewandowski for the tap-in.
In Spain,second-placed Real Madrid failed to make up ground on Barcelona as they could only manage a 1-1 draw with Real Zaragoza.
Barcas draw with Celta Vigo had handed Madrid the chance to cut the Catalans lead at the top to 11 points,but Rodri put the hosts in front after just five minutes. Madrid were level before the break as Cristiano Ronaldo equalised with a Gonzalo Higuains pass. Real couldnt find a way through in the second-half and were grateful to goalkeeper Diego Lopez for the point as he made two fine saves to deny Helder Postiga.
Liverpool beat Villa
In England,Steven Gerrards penalty sealed a second-half turnaround by Liverpool in a 2-1 win over relegation-threatened Aston Villa,boosting his teams hopes of playing in Europe next season.
Villa,which is now third from bottom with seven games to play,took a halftime lead thanks to Belgium striker Christian Bentekes 14th goal of the campaign but Jordan Henderson started Liverpools comeback with an equaliser in the 47th.
Luis Suarez then tumbled in the area under a challenge from Nathan Baker and Gerrard converted the spot-kick into the bottom corner to keep Liverpool five points behind fifth-place Arsenal,which occupies the final European position.