What a start from Madrid! Three goals in twelve minutes against an anodyne Sporting. Playing a high line, Zidane’s men claimed the midfield as their own and moved the ball about sharply and precisely, the entire eleven lucid, agile, switched on, engaged and involved. That, fused with the physical prowess of the front three caused an avalanche of attractive football that confirmed that perfection does exist. The intensity dropped as half-time approached, five goals to the good, with Sporting fearing the worst. They needn’t have, as Madrid went from fiesta to siesta and powered down.
They switched off partly because Sporting came out with a different attitude, renewed aggression and different intentions. Partly due also to the injuries to Bale and Benzema. Nothing serious, but Zidane was a little disquieted, shouting more to his players. When the difficult games come in the spring, however, it won’t be so easy to toggle through the modes and have a nap. Teams coming up will not allow them to score five so easily in the first half, and will respond much more effectively to lapses than Sporting. At this stage of the season, Madrid should try and address their bad habits, among them these collective power cuts.
Atlético weren’t daunted by this new madridista appetite for destruction: they proved goal-hungry themselves with a 3-0 victory in Las Palmas, founded, like almost all of their victories, on the inaccessibility to their goal and the capacity of Antoine Griezmann to grant access to the opposing target. Game after game, they stay in the race. Barça, for their part, saw their match-up resolved in the second minute with a penalty and the expulsion of Iraizoz in the Athletic goal, 1-0 and one man less to play against. From then on it was carnaval-esque from Neymar and the counting beads came out as it becomes clearer by the week that this year’s Pichichi isn’t a foot-race between Cristiano and Messi as it has been for what seems like an age, but a much wider field of as many as six contenders.