Saturday’s game against Real Sociedad wasn’t just another Liga game for Real Madrid, it was a meeting of Madridismo with itself to see what condition their condition was in before welcoming PSG to the Bernabéu. It was a full-dress rehearsal, and the fans flocked to the stadium full of expectation. It was the biggest gate at the Bernabéu since the derby against Atlético and the spectators were eager to enjoy the excitement of a big European night. It was a far cry from the cold atmosphere when Alavés were the visitors, when Marco Asensio felt obliged to urge the crowd to show some emotion. On Saturday, the fans arrived to warm-up for Wednesday. And they were not disappointed. They were treated to a vibrant comeback of the sort required against PSG.
As it was a dress rehearsal, it needed a goal against on the scoreboard and the fates decreed one. Madrid came out pressing high, as Ancelotti had indicated, without vigour and with a scattered, non-scientific approach. La Real’s defence had no trouble finding routes out of the trap and fed dangerous balls to their forwards, one of which resulted in a penalty that Mikel Oyarzabal converted. For a while it seemed that Madrid’s high press was suicidal, but just before the half-hour mark it started to work and from there it did so to the extent that the home side stunned the visitors. Stunning strikes from Luka Modric and Eduardo Camavinga sent Madrid into the break 2-1 up and Karim Benzema had one ruled out for offside.
What stood out most was the intensity of Madrid’s attack when half time was, as though it was the 90th minute and not the 45th. And it was just as striking that the stranglehold continued in the same vein when the score was 2-1, 3-1 and 4-1. A Madrid side with the bit between their teeth were looking to kill two birds with one stone: putting eight points between themselves and Sevilla and giving themselves a confidence boost ahead of the PSG game. At times, I got the impression that Ancelotti viewed Saturday’s game as the first half of the one to come on Wednesday. The players and the fans certainly approached it that way. And it turned out to be a perfect rehearsal, made even better by PSG’s loss to Nice.