Sunday, Real Madrid defeated Elche 2-0 in an away win that seemed to make the statement that they were not to be discounted on the domestic front because of a short-spanned loss of form. The Madrid side was all business today as their approach clearly indicated they knew the value of these three points. This win, coupled with their unblemished Champions League record, and the dropped points by their closest La Liga rival, keeps Coach Carlo Ancelotti’s Merengues in advantageous positions in both contests. These are the big trophies for them, the ones with the most meaning this season.
The game was not an easy one as Elche put ten men to play defense and rarely countered. In the end it was a Karim Benzema tap in off a Cristiano Ronaldo cross that opened the scoring. The cross ricocheted off a defender and the goalkeeper, and then fell spinning to the Frenchman about six inches from the goal line for the tap-in. The second goal, a wonderful Isco cross, was met fully on the run by Ronaldo who placed a bullet header into the upper left ninety for the final score.
Completing a three-week rollercoaster, Spanish Football settled pretty much where it was at the end of 2014. Granted Real Madrid is now out of the running for the Copa del Rey trophy, but they have opened a four point lead over Barcelona FC in La Liga and are on their way to the quarterfinals of the Champions League after a 2-0 away win over Bundesliga stalwart Schalke 04.
Barcelona, who had cut the gap to a single point earlier, dropped three points to lowly Malaga yesterday in an embarrassing 0-1 loss at home. The Catalans, a sure bet to lift the Copa del Rey trophy later this spring, will meet Manchester City away, on Tuesday, in a game whose result should be a harbinger of Luis Enrique’s Champions League potential.
Atletico Madrid play Bayer Leverkusen away on Wednesday, in the first leg of their Champions League Round of 16 tie and seem primed to use the match as a yardstick of their European potential. Atleti had an easy time beating visiting Almeria 3-0 in La Liga yesterday, to remain within striking distance of the table’s top dwellers, their city rivals. With Antoine Griezmann at 17 goals since his summer signing from Real Sociedad, and Coach Diego Simeone negotiating a new contract on the heels of the Colchoneros’ recent influx of capital, Atletico is living a life of plenty this season.
The next week should show whether this pendulum swing back augurs a return to the pre-holiday status quo or is simply one more swing in a variable 2015.