The best Benzema we've seen
Cornellà on Sunday night saw a meeting between two teams, one, Real Madrid enthusiastic and on the way up, the other depressed and struggling, Espanyol. Meaning we couldn't expect anything other than a victory for Real Madrid. One which took shape rapidly, with the visitors soon leading 0-2. Pressing with a collective spirit and moving the ball around well (Modric's running was spectacular) the impression was they'd run up a cricket score. That didn't happen because despite their woes, Espanyol found a reserve of fight, and because in the second half Madrid lost first Sergio Ramos and then Varane (send off), which weakened them at the back. Espanyol at least preserved their dignity.
Above all this was Benzema's game. The best he's ever played I'd go so far as to say, topped off by two goals - one an opportunistic strike at the edge of the six-yard box, the other a perfectly placed shot that crossed the area to go just inside the post. But where he was at his best was the continued excellence in his football, full of intention, hard-work and support for his teammates, and all adorned with beautiful touches. They've always been there, but in isolation. Sometimes that's all he offers. But tonight there were so many, so many that at times we didn't know if we were watching Benzema or Zidane. It was a great performance, full of class, two goals, consistency and leadership.
To this good news for Real Madrid was added the return of Bale, who scored after a fine piece of skill, moving the ball from foot to foot in the twinkling of an eye, to turn and shoot. The bad news was the injury to Sergio Ramos, who went off with a knock to his knee. The extent of the damage is yet to be known. And maybe one more unsettling thing for Real Madrid: Marcelo. His slide continued against Espanyol, with Reguilón starting. But he had to come on when Varane was sent off (Reguilón went in the middle) and he was lost for Espanyol's second goal, letting Rosales in, who was called onside by the VAR. Another fatal lapse from Marcelo. Real Madrid are still 10 points behind, but they've got a different look about them, and there's still the Copa del Rey and the Champions League.