Barcelona fall eight points behind Real Madrid

Recently Real Madrid’s performances have given far more delight to the Madrid haters than their supporters. They’ve been winning few games and in the ones they did it seemed VAR could always be blamed for giving them a helping hand, all of which meant the anti-Madridistas, as they’re called here in Spain, were enjoying themselves no end. Yesterday, finally, it was the Real Madrid fans who got to enjoy themselves, not just for the good result (4-1 against Huesca) but also because Hazard showed signs of being on the road to recovery and committed to the cause. The Belgian has been one of the weak links in the new project at the club, because he arrived on the heavy side and when he started slimming down he got injured. His continued absences left the Real Madrid attack on a diet of bread and water.

The bread and water were Vinicius and Benzema, who produced few goals and where there’s little flour, sadness prevails, no matter what. Vinicius was left out and when he came on he produced a fine run and pass to Benzema, whose shot was off target. But, with Hazard back, and after what’s happened I think Vinicius has his work cut out. Benzema doesn’t like his frenetic football; and the Frenchman yesterday scored two to show what he can do leading the forward line. He’s far happier playing alongside Hazard, with his style of combination football, than chasing Vinicius as he sprints off on another adventure to the by-line, a tiring task for a thirty-year old, and one which sits badly with his understanding of the game.

And to even greater delight of the Real Madrid fans, Barcelona drew in Vitoría, where they played wearing Betis’ socks, black shorts and a bubblegum shirt - an outfit I can't imagine the Kubala of my childhood ever being forced to wear. Even dressed like that though they played pretty well, but in the first half they wasted their chances and gifted their rivals a goal. They levelled in the second half, and then playing 11 against 10, had Alavés penned in, with the home side relying on Pacheco as their saviour. Koeman, who had the truly terrible idea of changing Ansu Fati for Braithwaite just when they were playing their best football, watched the final efforts of his men slumped on the bench, with an intriguing air apathy. All very, very, very strange.