The Real Madrid resurgence continued with a relatively comfortable, if not controversial, 3-1 win at the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano, extending their winning run in La Liga to five games, something that hasn’t happened in 18 months.
But just what is behind this up turn in form from Los Blancos, a side who looked totally devoid of an identity – since Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure – direction and who’s season that seemed a complete write off prior to the mid-season break?
Remember, this was the same side who lost twice to CSKA Moscow in the group stage of the Champions league and got demolished 5-1 by a Messi-less Barcelona in the October Clasico.
To put this week into perspective, an away trip to Camp Nou in the Copa del Rey when on another night they would take a lead back to the Santiago Bernabeu, swiftly followed by one of the most intense Madrid derbies in recent memory, show that Santiago Solari’s men are made of something a little more sturdy and resilient that performances prior to Christmas may have suggested.
One of the main reasons for the more impressive performances would be the introduction of wonderkid Vinicius Junior on the left hand side of the attack, starting his 11th game in a row against Los Rojiblancos, and causing absolute carnage to every defence in sight.
Lightning pace and a no fear attitude have won many plaudits around not just La Liga but European football.
The young Brazilian, again keeping Gareth Bale out of the side, was instrumental yet again in most of Real’s attacking threat, winning a penalty at 1-1 that Sergio Ramos duly converted for his 11th goal of the season.
Boss Solari deserves massive credit for sticking to his guns and putting his neck on the line with such team selections. Knowing that he wont be at the club long term has made some decisions easier but out went golden boy Isco for a more athletic looking balanced side.
Gareth Bale, back recently from injury, but not exactly in the form of his life is struggling to get a start too, although the Welshman did put the icing on the cake to seal victory getting his sides third and his 100th in the famous all white strip.
Young left back Sergio Reguilon, who has been at the club since the age of ten, has looked more than assured at this level and is a real threat to Marcelo’s starting berth as the business end of the season commences.
Tough in the tackle and seemingly more defensively sound than his Brazilian counterpart is yet another feather in the cap of Solari who’s side seem to be hitting a hot streak at the right time of the season yet again, just like they seemed to do under Zinedine Zidane.
The return to form of both Toni Kroos and Luka Modric, coupled with Karim Benzema finding the net more regularly will of course help any side, but Los Blancos now sit just the five points behind Barcelona, albeit playing a game more, it would be silly to write them out of the title race completely, as unlikely as it seems.
An away goal to take home to the Spanish Capital in the Copa del Rey semi final and a less than convincing Ajax side on the horizon in their favourite competition to come, the dark grey skies of a season wasted or wrote off by many, have now cleared.
The sun is beaming down and the it’s full steam ahead on all fronts as the Argentinian’s side look razor sharp in attack, focused as a group on the jobs at hand – both individually and collectively – and committed to the cause spells bad news to their rivals as we approach what will be an exhilarating finish to the season.