Karim Benzema and Toni Kroos both netted in the first half as Real Madrid eased to a 2-0 victory over a disappointing Valencia side.
Real dominated proceedings from the first whistle and were ahead after 12 minutes when the French striker collected a ball from Kroos on the left hand edge of the penalty area and curled a low effort into the far corner.
Three minutes before the break, Real netted a deserved second after a long passage of passing play, substitute Lucas Vazquez squared for Kroos on the edge of the box and with trademark precision he drove into the corner.
Varane to Man Utd is Real’s next step in plan to sign Mbappe – Paper Round
After Thibaut Courtois saved Valencia's only noteworthy effort at goal not long after the restart, a 25-yard bullet from Maxi Gomez, Real had the ball in the net once more when Vinicus Junior found adventurous full-back Ferland Mendy in the box but, though he stylishly finished, it was ruled out by VAR for him being just offside.
Real move into second place three points ahead of Barcelona, having played a game more, and five behind city rivals Atletico, who have two games in hand.
Toni Kroos (2.v.l.) und Real Madrid feiern den Heimsieg gegen den FC Valencia
Image credit: Getty Images
TALKING POINT - Valencia are in trouble
In the 2015/16 and 2016/17 campaigns, Valencia were deep in relegation trouble before changing their coach - in the first instance a certain ex-England full back - and four years on, this could well be on the cards once more.
After back-to-back fourth-placed finishes, and a Copa del Rey triumph, under Marcelino it seemed Valencia were once more set to be a force in domestic and European football they had been for much of the 21st century, but they disappointed under Albert Celades last season and now have gone back further with Javi Gracia in this campaign.
In Gracia's defence, selling skipper Dani Parejo and Ferran Torres made his job thankless, but the listless way they went about playing Real Madrid - not long after a similarly one-sided 3-0 drubbing from Sevilla - suggests this side is once more in danger of heading to the second tier for the first time since the mid-1980s.
At a superficial glance, in 12th position they do not look in too much danger, but they are just three points clear of third-bottom Real Valadolid and only Getafe and Huesca have found the net on fewer occasions since the New Year.
MAN OF THE MATCH - Toni Kroos (Real Madrid)
Coming up to his seventh year at the club and though the team may not be the force they once were, he remains the reliable driving force that keeps them a contender. He was not up against much in Valencia on Sunday, but he made sure his side did not drop off and play to the level of their opposition providing a goal, an assist in this match and hardly an errant pass.
The goal was his usual type, an unerring low effort from the edge of the box, which makes it surprising that he has only scored just over 40 in club competition. Luka Modric, Casemiro and he will have more difficult opponents in the upcoming weeks but their presence is what gives Real a sniff of silverware.
Real Madrid – Valencia
Image credit: Getty Images
Real Madrid: Courtois 7; Carvajal 6, Varane 6, Nacho 6, Mendy 7; Kroos 9*, Casemiro 7, Modric 8; Asensio 7, Benzema 8, Vinicius Junior 7. Subs: Vazquez 8, Arribas 6, Isco 6, Diaz 6.
Valencia: Domenech 6; Correia 6, Gabriel 6, Ferro 5, Gaya 6; Wass 5, Racic 6, Soler 6, Guedes 5; Maxi Gomez 6, Vallejo 5. Subs: Gameiro 6, Musah 6, Oliva 6, Lee 6, Cutrone 6.
12' GOAL! Real Madrid 1-0 Valencia (Benzema): Benzema beats Domenech from 20 yards out, curling a low effort just inside the far post. Great finish.
42' GOAL! Real Madrid 2-0 Valencia (Kroos): Kroos gives Domenech no chance with turning home a square ball from substitute Lucas to double the Spanish champions' lead
54' Bullet! Valencia's best football of the game so far. By a mile. It ends with Maxi Gomez firing a bullet from 25 yards which Courtois saved very well diving to his left.
63' Goal disallowed! Mendy nets for Real, easily side-stepping Ferro in the box after receiving a square ball from Vinicius Junior in the box and then powerfully stroked the ball to Domenech's right while showing the goalkeeper the eyes to put him off the scent. Vinicius Junior was just offside from the initial long ball played over the top for him.
- 94 - Toni Kroos' passing accuracy (101 of 107), including 12 of 13 long balls.
£34m fee agreed for Varane move to Manchester United - report
Real to wait for Mbappe after he tells PSG he will not sign new deal - Paper Round