Following the draw between Atletico Madrid and Barcelona on Saturday night it became clear Real Madrid could end the weekend the happiest of the three title contenders should they beat Espanyol 24 hours later – and they certainly did.
It was not a vintage performance – far from it. Rather, it was a nervous, tight-fought contest decided by a single goal. But, Madrid will not care how they got it done – getting it done was important.
And that is because in La Liga these days any points dropped can prove decisive in the race for the title. As Carlo Ancelotti said after the game: “It’s not normal but this is the Spanish League where there are three very strong teams.
“We’ve said it before. 100 points is what it will take and we need to get them. It will not be easy but we have excitement and enthusiasm”.
It certainly is not normal but 100 points is exactly what it has taken Real Madrid and then Barcelona to win the last two League titles. And it seems that this year will be no different.
Atletico and Barca, at the half way stage, are already on 50 points. Provided that neither side suffer a dramatic loss of form, one of them is likely to make it to a century by the end of the season. But, Real Madrid, who are now close behind on 47 points, could also do it.
But there is a long way to go. There are 57 points up for grabs still and between now and May anything could happen.
March will be decisive. During this month Real Madrid will face Atletico and Barcelona. Given the few points these three sides will likely drop, the results in meetings between them will go a long a way to deciding who comes out on top in the end.
Few however will be encouraged by the Merengues’ performance at La Cornella. In the opening stages it was Espanyol who controlled the game. The visitors did wrestle back possession and went on to dominate proceedings. Yet, they still looked a little incoherent, particularly in the final third.
Perhaps this was due to Ancelotti’s decision to revert back to a 4-3-3, which never seems to be able to get the best out of Cristiano Ronaldo or Gareth Bale. It was actually Karim Benzema who looked more certain of his role but his shooting, like that of Ronaldo, was off on the night. Bale barely got a shot off all game.
Compared to their rivals, Madrid are the team that still seem a little underdeveloped, still a little unsure of itself. This is perhaps normal given that Ancelotti has tried to build the team in his own light following three years of Jose Mourinho.
But, perhaps it does not really matter anyhow. No matter whether they are having a good day or a bad day, Real Madrid continue collecting maximum points. And this is all that really matters.