‘This is where league titles are won’, was the headline on yesterday’s front cover of AS, accompanied by a photograph of Ipurua – a stadium with a reputation. Last season, Real Madrid lost 3-0 there – a defeat which nudged the team into a slow decline. This time though, they won 0-4, after a sensational first half in which they outclassed Eibar in everything - even in intensity. They managed to ride out the early pressure for sheer quality on the ball, they attacked with purpose and intelligence; beat the offside trap which Eibar’s back four played extremely well and had several brilliant individual performances. Hazard is getting better, Benzema has found himself in a seemingly eternal state of grace and Mendy linked up well with both of them.
In-form Rodrygo, an unused sub at Ipurua
It’s also worth noting that Zidane’s starting line-up didn’t exactly set pulses racing – for instance there was no Rodrygo, his place went to Lucas Vázquez. It was a natural precaution at a ground which demands hard graft and toughness (it was bitterly cold and raining incessantly), yet nevertheless it was still a bit of a let-down not to see Rodrygo handed a run-out there. Another change to the XI was the return of Modric, who came in to give Kroos a rest. There’s no ground in the world that unnerves Modric. He played an absolute blinder and his performance served to underline that he still has something to contribute. All of that plus a couple of stonewall penalties which only further complicate things for the hosts meant that the scoreboard read 0-3 at the break. The rout was completed in the second half with Fede Valverde opening his account.
Bale and James in their own little worlds
All it all Madrid came away from Ipurua strengthened. And so did Zidane, who wasn’t in the best of moods on the eve of the game with the persistent questions about Bale and James, the gruesome twosome are always playing hide-and-seek with him and that's not fair. They shouldn’t be leaving him to handle it all on his own. The situation has reached a point where it really demands some kind of explanation from the club - to save Zidane the hassle. But in a way, they’re probably better off out of the team. Two players who don’t want to collaborate – all they are doing is complicating things - even their own team mates no longer complain in private about their attitude. The atmosphere within the squad is better when they’re off doing their own thing, living their lives. You could see that quite clearly in Ipurua.