Real Madrid grinded out three points against another difficult opponent on the road.
There is no such thing as an easy game in La Liga, but Real Madrid have been tested frequently since Spanish football’s return. And yet they have remained perfect across seven games, opening up a four-point gap between themselves and rivals FC Barcelona at the top of the table.
Their latest win came at San Mames against Athletic Bilbao, and that’s one of the most difficult venues to pick up a victory. Compounding the difficult of the matchup was the heat of an early kick-off and the absence of star players Raphael Varane and Eden Hazard.
Real Madrid started the game with sloppy passing and looked out of sorts tactically, but they weathered the storm. Young center back Eder Militao stepped up with a Man of the Match performance, recovering well and keeping Inaki Williams away from the goal on breakaways. And in the end, Sergio Ramos converted his 22nd out of a perfect 22 career penalties, from a foul drawn in the box by Marcelo.
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So for the second straight game, Real beat one of the stingiest defenses and most physical teams in La Liga via a penalty drawn by a fullback, highlighting the way everyone contributes to try and will the team to victory. Games like this can easily end in dropped points and a 0-0 draw, but Real found a way through.
They have dominated opponents with their attack at times, such as in the 3-1 win over Eibar and their 3-0 win over Valencia. But in La Liga, other teams are well-aware of the threat Real’s attack brings, and so the best defensive teams often defend even more aggressively, making it dangerous for Los Blancos to put too much into the attack for fear of a counter.
Real Madrid handled that threat against Bilbao and found the resolve to get on the scoresheet.
Ramos’ cool head from the spot and picture-perfect technique, once again, won the day. And it’s having a captain like that which can mean everything in a title race as tight as this one. Barcelona never go down easily.
Furthermore, Real’s depth and ability to get everyone on the squad to be a part of the fight, playing with intensity no matter the opponent or conditions, is massive. It gives them an advantage nobody else has, and it’s an advantage that is magnified by the condensed La Liga schedule.
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Champions get results no matter what. Champions don’t have off days. Based on the way Real Madrid have looked in the seven games since the restart, they are the rightful champions. Of course, the players themselves will not think this way. They know they still have much to prove over the next four games, which includes a tough matchup against Villarreal.