Real Madrid vs. Osasuna: 5 Things We Learned from Road Win
Real Madrid were sensational on Saturday night, thrashing sixth place Osasuna 5-1 in a difficult away fixture.
José Mourinho's men were anticipating a tough fixture away from home, as Barcelona suffered defeat in Pamplona earlier this season.
However, Los Blancos ended a tough month of March with a world-class away performance. A wonderstrike from Karim Benzema and two goals from both Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuaín sealed the three points for the La Liga leaders.
With Saturday's win over Osasuna, Madrid retained their six-point lead over Barcelona heading into the final weeks of the season.
Here are five things we learned from Los Blancos' impressive victory.
Real Madrid Are Struggling to Keep Clean Sheets
David Ramos/Getty Images
Real Madrid were dominant against Osasuna on Saturday night. However, Mourinho's men were unable to keep a clean sheet once again.
During the month of March, Los Blancos conceded at least one goal in six out of eight matches. Although Madrid were impressive in Pamplona, the home side managed to score a consolation goal.
Los Blancos were unable to deal with a flighted cross into the area, as Spanish right-back Álvaro Arbeloa was beaten by Osasuna's Nino at the far post.
Madrid will be happy with the three points, but there will be concerns regarding the team's poor defensive record during March. Mourinho will be frustrated with the amount of goals conceded from flighted balls into the box and set pieces.
As Los Blancos enter the final stretch of the season, the Portuguese tactician will be looking for better defensive displays and more clean sheets.
Stu Forster/Getty Images
In his first start of 2012, Raúl Albiol put on a vintage display at the back alongside Sergio Ramos.
The Spanish central defender has fallen down Mourinho's defensive pecking order as of late, with talented youngster Raphaël Varane emerging as the first-choice replacement for starting centre-backs Ramos and Pepe.
Despite his significant lack of playing time this season, Albiol was solid at the back against Osasuna. The Spaniard showed the quality and composure that made him a star at former club Valencia.
Albiol was exceptional in the air, challenging well and winning defensive headers. His touch and distribution out of the back was suspect at times, but Mourinho does not expect him to launch quick counterattacks like Ramos.
The former Valencia defender may not be a regular first-team player for Los Blancos, but he performed well on Saturday night.
Esteban Granero's Work-Rate Compensates for Lack of Natural Defensive Abilities
Denis Doyle/Getty Images
With Lassana Diarra and Sami Khedira unavailable for the Osasuna match through injury and illness, respectively, Mourinho turned to Esteban Granero to play alongside Xabi Alonso in midfield.
The Real Madrid youth product has predominantly started in home fixtures, but he was effective in Saturday night's away match as well.
Granero provides great work-rate and energy to the midfield, getting forward in support of the attacking quartet and tracking back defensively. Although he lacks the defensive qualities of Lass and Khedira, the Spaniard works hard in the middle of the pitch and closes down opponents well.
Mourinho could have played the versatile Fábio Coentrão in midfield, but he opted for the more technical and balanced player in Granero. The Spaniard may not be a natural defensive midfielder, but his work-rate and determination made him effective alongside Alonso.
Cristiano Ronaldo Will, and Should, Continue Shooting from Distance
Denis Doyle/Getty Images
Cristiano Ronaldo scored another fantastic goal from distance against Osasuna. The Portuguese superstar found the back of the net with a venomous strike from 31 meters out.
Although he has produced some breathtaking moments, there are a significant number of attempts that completely miss the target. When he clears the crossbar by 20 feet or fails to test the keeper, Ronaldo gets criticized for being a poor decision-maker and selfish player.
However, when a player of Ronaldo's calibre has the shooting technique to create problems for opposing keepers and hit the back of the net from 25-30 meters out, he should be encouraged to try his luck. The Portuguese star will not hit the target 100 percent of the time, but the potential to force spills from the keeper and score justifies the decision to shoot from distance a few times per match.
There may be other options available, but there is always a chance that Ronaldo catches it right and fires a dipping, swerving shot past the keeper.
It may come across as selfish, but the Madrid superstar will, and should, continue shooting from distance.
Karim Benzema Can Produce Ronaldo-Esque Spectacular Goals
Denis Doyle/Getty Images
Karim Benzema's opening strike on Saturday night was nothing short of sensational.
Ronaldo beat his man and provided an excellent cross from the left wing, but it was all left to Benzema at the far post. The French striker drifted away from his marker and fired home a wonder goal on the full volley.
Benzema struck the volley with exceptional precision and technique, kissing the ball off the keeper's right post before the ball nestled into the back of the net. As Mourinho said in the postgame conference, "Benzema's goal is from out of this world."
Ronaldo has been the player providing breathtaking strikes this season, but Benzema showed that he can produce spectacular goals as well.
The Frenchman has already netted an impressive 27 goals in all competitions this season. Now fit and back in goalscoring form, Real Madrid will be expecting more clinical finishing from Benzema as the club chases Spanish and European glory.