Competition
  • Europa League

Madrid go on a goal spree, Barça suffer defeat

Energy-conscious Cristiano

It turned out to be a happy return for Cristiano. He opened the scoring after just five minutes, then accompanied the team during the rest of their goal spree against Osasuna and - hold the front page - was taken off before the final whistle sounded... This time he didn’t force the game, like he has previously tended to, in order to rack up a clutch of goals on an afternoon which seemed made to measure for it. It’s as though he has realized that saving a little energy here and there every week will allow him to get to the end of the season at full throttle. Another striking aspect of the game was that Osasuna, from midfield to attack played well, while the opposite was true from midfield backwards. The team moved well, but after that, they were a bottomless pit, a void; and if you give Real Madrid half an inch...

Once again Modric was the star performer. Morata looked a tad uncomfortable, over-anxious to score. He doesn’t interweave with Bale and Cristiano quite as well as Benzema, whose link-up play he lacks. The advantage he does have is that he can play on either wing. So when Cristiano went off, he occupied the left flank. He’ll settle down eventually and the goals will follow. This time Danilo was a pleasure to watch, and he even got himself on the scoresheet. He didn’t put any crosses in – an area where he has struggled, but he lent support to the attack with his constant presence and resilience. As a team, Madrid looked a little insipid in the first half and convinced a bit more after the break. The 5-2 final score was some recompense for those who suffered in the draining afternoon heat.

From Madrid’s delight, we moved on to Camp Nou, when an orderly and efficient Alavés beat Barça. Luis Enrique decided to reserve Iniesta, Messi and Luis Suárez, and without those three, Barça just aren’t the same. He brought all three of them on in the second half but to no avail. You have to tip your to Alavés, a newly-constructed side with a new coach. They played very deep, with a lot of players behind the ball, but they moved forward with style and scored two well-worked and well finished goals. Luis Enrique veered from his usual line-up and the night turned out to be a disappointment. It was a body blow of the first order.