It was a title party we pretty much knew was going to happen. Indeed, Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti was so confident that on this occasion he rotated en masse, a move not at all in keeping with a season in which he has relied so heavily (too heavily, many of us have at times felt) on a select group of players. Surprisingly, he didn’t rest Luka Modric, who deserves a ‘Duracell Bunny’ award to go with his Ballon d’Or. Casemiro was also in the team, this time drafted in at centre-back to cover for the lack of available bodies in the position. Thibaut Courtois played, too (because the goalkeeper doesn’t need resting), as did two semi-starters, Rodrygo Goes and Marco Asensio. They generally battle it out for a single berth in the team - if Fede Valverde doesn’t nip in ahead of them, that is.
Real Madrid stroll to win over meek Espanyol side
Given what’s up next, I felt Ancelotti might even have kept more of his regulars out of the firing line, but there were no mishaps. It was a comfortable afternoon against a very limited Espanyol team. They were lacking in both quality and fighting spirit. Rodrygo scored two, Asensio got one, and there was a late fourth for Karim Benzema, who was among those who came on for half an hour to get a work-out in and release a bit of nervous energy. The non-regulars didn’t let anyone down. I particularly liked Eduardo Camavinga and Dani Ceballos. The Spaniard looked in good nick, considering how little he has played this term. After the final whistle, amid well-organised, understated festivities in the stadium, Madrid lifted the trophy, having collected it from RFEF chief Luis Rubiales in the dim light of the royal box. God forbid he leave himself unduly exposed by coming down to the pitch to hand it over. And then it was on to Cibeles.
Ancelotti has done a superb job at the Bernabéu
Real Madrid have won the league because, throughout the team, players have performed - particularly the terrific quartet of Benzema (he’s been better than terrific, actually), Vinícius Júnior, Modric and Courtois. Perhaps the individual we’ll most closely associate with this title, though, is Ancelotti, a coach appointed unexpectedly to manage what we thought would be a year of transition, with an ageing team missing Cristiano Ronaldo, with no marquee signings, and with a gaping hole where the side’s two starting centre-backs used to be. Against all expectations, however, the old guard has kept going at a frenetic clip. Under Ancelotti, Vinícius has exploded into life, the new defensive pairing has slotted seamlessly into place, and Madrid have been happy campers. It’s been a capolavoro from the Italian.