The league championship, while not quite sown up yet, is slowly wending its way to the trophy cabinet in the Bernabéu museum. Real Madrid took full advantage of Barcelona's late draw in Sevilla on Saturday night to stretch their lead to an impressive eight points. For the seven goals, these are seven keys to last night's "festivities":
- Valladolid's defence: brave? foolhardy? suicidal? They played right into Real's hands with a defensive line pushed so far forward that the local midfielders, especially Guti, picked them off at will. Not one of the Valladolid back four picked up a booking all night. 'Nuff said.
- The mercurial midfielder himself, Guti, had a dream of a game (though he was allowed to play, rather than hindered, by the opposition), finding the perfect pass time and again, scoring two exquisite goals (OK, one was a bit of a fluke) and provising three assists.
- Raul's nose for goal is till there. Forced to play further up front due to Van Nistelrooy's injury, the captain scored a signature goal to open up his tally, and picked up his second by converting a penalty. Valladolid is now the league club he has scored most goals against: his 2 on Sunday night contributing to a grand total of 14.
- Robben's speed and versatility have not been adversely affected by all his injuries. He started off on the left wing, but looked equally comfortable on the right when Robinho had to go off injured and Drenthe was brought on. His goal will have given him some confidence.
- The Bernabéu is proving to be an invincible fortress; this game was Real's eighteenth consecutive league win (11 of them this season). The fans are not the most vociferous or passionate, but the players seem to be very comfortable. Contrast this with the situation just over a year ago with just four wins in eight games at home.
- Baptista's strength, playing just behind Raúl (in Raúl's usual position), showed once again why he's a player that has a place in this Real Madrid squad. He harried and fought, was brought down for a penalty and his enthusiasm when given an opportunity should be an inspiration to those who are struggling to get into the side.
- Bernd' Schuster's team choice, with seven players injured, produced a balanced side that made the most of its virtues (interestingly, Valladolid had a comparable number of shots on goal tto Real's, but look at the difference in effectiveness). In a curious piece of trivia, Schuster himself was on the scoring sheet for Real Madrid in a 7-0 demolition of Castellón back in 1990.