Whoever said that a week is a long time in football is absolutely spot on and the turn of events over the past few days in La Liga provides a testament to this fact. Many had written off Real Madrid’s chances of claiming the La Liga title following the 2-1 loss at the hands of Barcelona at the Nou Camp a few weeks ago.
However, Madrid have now managed to swiftly keep themselves in contention for the Spanish crown following a weekend round of fixtures which saw Los Blancos claim a fine 3-0 victory over Eibar while Barcelona drop points away to Sevilla.
Now the gap at the top of the table between the two rivals has been reduced to just 2 points and one can be sure that the title race will be going right down to the wire.
Five things we learned from the clash –
1. Madrid get the job done without much fuss
Despite the absence of the likes of Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez due to suspension allied by the raft of changes manager Carlo Ancelotti made to his side, Madrid came through the clash unscathed against a Eibar side which did not offer much resistance.
Goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Javier Hernandez in the first period meant that Madrid were in for a comfortable afternoon and to put the icing on the cake, Jese Rodriguez delighted the Bernabeu faithful with a wonderfully taken solo goal.
The result is seen as a largely expected one for Madrid but it certainly had the potential to be a banana skin and Ancelotti would have been delighted that his side were able to see the job through without any unwarranted setback.
2. Carlo Ancelotti would have been the happiest man in Madrid on Saturday
With the all important Champions League quarter final clash against Atletico Madrid coming up in midweek, Carlo Ancelotti decided to make a massive overhaul to his side and he would certainly have been aware of the fact that the decision could have backfired.
Despite the completely revamped first eleven though, Madrid were very comfortable during the clash and it was a polished performance overall. Fringe players such as Asier Illarramendi, Jese Rodriguez and Javier Hernandez all enjoyed fruitful outings while Madrid did not suffer any injury blow.
In addition, the victory was made all the more sweeter for Ancelotti due to Barcelona slipping up in their respective match and now Los Blancos will surely approach the clash against Atletico as well as the rest of the campaign with an reinvigorated spirit.
3. An important outing for Jese Rodriguez
Jese Rodriguez made his first start in well over a year during the clash and it was clear to see that the young man was keen on impressing.
Due to injuries and fierce competition for places, Rodriguez has spent most of his time on the sidelines and it would certainly have been a frustrating experience for the 22-year old – who has been linked with a move away from the Bernabeu in recent times.
Therefore the clash against Eibar was an opportunity which Rodriguez could not pass up without making an impression and much to the delight of the Madrid faithful, he produced an encouraging display.
While probably because of the fact that he was so keen on impressing, the youngster did make a couple of errors early on but overall, his performance was top notch and the wonderful solo goal that he scored will certainly live long in his memory.
With the likes of Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema ahead of him in the pecking order, Jese is likely to drop to the bench once again but one can be sure that Ancelotti will have no problems in turning to the striker whenever the chips are down.
4. Javier Hernandez proves again that he will deliver if given the opportunity
Javier Hernandez was one of the many players who was handed a rare start during the match and perhaps to the surprise of none, the Mexican star managed to find the back of the net.
Having featured for only 247 minutes of action for Madrid this season, Hernandez’s record of 5 goals has to be considered impressive and it would be fair to point out once again that the striker has been grossly underused by Ancelotti.
Despite his good performance against Eibar, it is widely expected that Hernandez will drop back down to the bench in order to make way for Karim Benzema and as long as the Frenchman impresses, the Manchester United loanee is unlikely to get too many opportunities on the pitch.
Following the game Ancelotti stated that he would look at the option of signing Hernandez permanently from United but neither party look too keen on making the deal happen and the striker will most certainly be better off in a smaller team who will hand him opportunities to start.
5. Title race back on but Madrid still have no margin for error
The victory allied by Barcelona’s slip means that the lead at the top of the table has been reduced to just 2 points and with seven games still left to go; there is every possibility that Madrid can reclaim top spot by the end of the season.
The turn of events over the past week has certainly given the Madrid faithful a lot of encouragement but it should not take away from the fact that Los Blancos are still in second place and cannot afford to make any more mistakes if they want to win the title.
With Madrid perilously close, even Barcelona will be focused on not allowing their rivals another boost and there is a lot of work to be done before the capital side go on to complete what would be a tremendous comeback.