BARCELONA, Dec 17 (Reuters) - Villarreal ended a three month spell without an away win in all competitions by coasting to a 3-1 victory at Sporting Gijon on Saturday to tighten their grip on fourth spot in La Liga.
The visiting side went ahead in the 11th minute through Jonathan Dos Santos's thumping drive and Nicola Sansone doubled the advantage in the 19th by stabbing in Alexandre Pato's goalbound shot from close range.
Sansone returned the favour for Pato in the second half by laying on the pass for the Brazilian to round off Villarreal's first win on the road since beating Malaga on Sept. 10.
Sporting got a late consolation goal through Carlos Carmona.
Villarreal are fourth on 29 points and are guaranteed to finish the year in the Champions League places. Real Sociedad can join them on 29 points when they visit struggling Granada later on Saturday but will remain fifth on goal difference.
Sixth-placed Atletico Madrid host Las Palmas on Saturday searching for a first win in four games in all competitions while Sevilla can provisionally go second when they host Malaga.
Champions Barcelona host Espanyol on Sunday hoping to eat into Real Madrid's six-point lead at the top, with Zinedine Zidane's side absent from league action this week due to playing in Sunday's Club World Cup final against Kashima Antlers. (Editing by Ed Osmond)