The week in five words
BBC bodies could be collapsing.
What went well
After all the hullabaloo from the previous weekend, when Barcelona lost for the third match in a row in La Liga to allow Real Madrid to move to within a single point of the league leaders, the following week was all about tough motivational buzzwords such as 'grounding', 'grinding' and being all with the gritty.
Barça had sportingly played their role in blowing the title race wide open, so Madrid had to avoid fluffing their lines in two league matches within four days.
Villarreal were dispatched with some aplomb in a 3-0 win on Wednesday, but once again Rayo Vallecano proved to be prickly opposition by taking the lead against Madrid on Saturday in Vallecas, as they did in the Bernabeu earlier this season.
That particular match ended up in a 10-2 victory, although the follow-up this weekend was a more modest 3-2 – a reminder that Zinedine Zidane may need to channel Diego Simeone's one-game-at-a-time mantra.
Although the results went all fine and dandy, the BBC of Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo is breaking.
Welshman Bale missed the Villarreal win with a back strain, Ronaldo limped off in the final seconds of the same match with a hamstring twang, while Benzema came a cropper in the first half of the Rayo game with a leg strain.
At the time of writing, injury now throws the Frenchman's availability into doubt for Tuesday’s clash with Manchester City in the Champions League.
Despite Ronaldo’s remarkable, seemingly bionic physique, Madrid could be starting a Champions League semi-final with just one-and-half of their ideal trident, that one being a Bale whose apparently strapping body is known to be a touch fragile.
As ever, there is a balance in the football universe. Madrid have been given the chance of a Double to crown what was turning out to be a fairly disastrous season, but there is a penalty to be paid.
Quote of the week
A whole page could have been filled with some zingers from an entertainingly open Sergio Ramos this week, in an interview with Spanish radio station COPE. But perhaps the most illuminating small piece of truth in an industry beset with rumours and nonsense was the revelation that the summer flirtation with Manchester United was very real indeed.
"For a moment, I thought about a change of scenery," admitted the Madrid centre-back, "but in the end my priority was always Real Madrid and I thought about that for other reasons."
The need-to-know facts
- Although Atletico Madrid have a reputation for bombing the ball in the air, it is Real Madrid that are one of the most effective headers in Europe, with 21 league goals scored.
- Bale has been using that rugby line-out practice of his youth with eight headers scored in La Liga, almost half of his 18 goals in the current campaign.
- The Welshman has now scored nine goals against Rayo – more than any other side.
- Los Blancos have won nine La Liga games in a row now, the club's best run since December 2014 when Carlo Ancelotti was still coach.
Video of the week
A reminder that the Primera path is still littered with opportunities to fall flat on one's face.
Winner of the week
The week started off in rather unfortunate circumstances for Gareth Bale, with three rounds of golf being blamed as the root cause of a back injury that had the forward missing the Villarreal clash.
But Bale bounced back against Rayo without Benzema and Ronaldo on the pitch alongside him for much of the game, and led the way with two goals. It had AS proudly boasting the title of “The Prince of Wales”.
For the record, Bale said that a long walk which involved sporadically hitting some balls with a stick over the weekend had nothing to do with his back twinge, claiming the problem occurred during last Monday’s training.
Loser of the week
There may have been kitchen implements being thrown in the Cristiano Ronaldo household on Saturday, after the sidelined striker saw Luis Suarez scoring his eighth goal in two games, compared to Ronaldo’s one in one match. That sudden burst of goalscoring activity sent the Uruguayan to the top of the goalscoring tree with a lead of three and only as many matches to go.
But the week was another very dispiriting one for James Rodríguez, who did not start either of the week’s games in La Primera. Even Mateo Kovacic was in the starting XI for Rayo. If Zidane is to remain as Real Madrid manager for next season, then the Colombian might want to consider a move before he becomes an immensely expensive bench-warmer.
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