Real Madrid vs. Atletico Madrid: A Win to Revive Real's Title Charge?
Real Madrid picked up an important league win in a largely ugly Madrid derby against Atletico on Saturday night.
Even ahead of analysing the win's implications for Real's season moving on from this point, it's worth noting how disappointing the fixture turned out to be.
The form of Atletico and the fact they were eight points ahead of their city rivals warranted and deserved so much more. If not for Atletico's own credentials this season, then at least for Spanish football and the continuation of a build toward another team to seriously rival Real and Barcelona.
But there was nothing glamorous about this tie, one which had the necessary big names to provide the fireworks and positive talking points. Falcao barely had a chance to give the world another exhibition of his qualities in front of goal, while on the whole it might be fair to say Diego Simeone's team gave one of their worst league performances this season.
So shouldn't it be a disappointment that Real Madrid didn't provide much more? The threat of Atletico's key forwards seemed to be quickly killed off, with Pepe, Sergio Ramos and Xabi Alonso doing enough to cut off the supply to Falcao.
The win is important and it closes the temporary and mammoth 14-point gap Barcelona held prior to kickoff. But Real needed an impressive win, and Jose Mourinho needed a notable reaction.
Not to take anything from Real's three points, but would they have been certain of the victory had Atletico shown up? Where were the performances from the big names? Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring with an excellent free kick and rattled the woodwork twice, but there was little from the other attackers.
The Atletico right side was hardly as daunting as it could have been defensively, and like so many players on the pitch, Koke provided very little at either ends of the pitch for Simeone's team. Ronaldo very much had the space to stretch his legs and threaten Juanfran, but did the team on the whole really exploit the opposition weaknesses in the manner in which they can?
It took Karim Benzema almost 30 minutes before he made a notable contribution, while despite his goal, Mesut Ozil is yet to really come to life this season.
From what this performance suggested, Real Madrid are giving Barcelona very little to be concerned about. Perhaps, however, the lack of energy from either side can be attributed to the stop, start nature of the game. The levels of petulance from both sides was disappointingly high.
Real Madrid have shown that they can put together a winning run of games, and this derby win may provide the kick start they needed to bounce back from the loss against Real Betis. But putting a poor Atletico to the sword in emphatic fashion would have done a lot for the uneasy atmosphere at the Bernabeu.
Taking away Barcelona's form and gap at the top of the table, Real Madrid seemingly have too much to do in order to find a way back to their best of last season. They would have been happy to carry on their winning tradition over their city rivals, but it can't be escaped that they played their part in an at-times-awful match.
For the context of the past few weeks, the win was crucial for Real Madrid. But for the overall picture, it may count for very little. The 2-0 derby win acts as another building block rather than something substantial to add to what should have been a much brighter season up until this point.
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