Real put Galatasaray to the sword.
Wednesday evening's 4-1 win over Galatasaray meant more than just qualification into the last 16 of the Champions League.
Sergio Ramos’ pre-match display of camaraderie toward his team-mates in the tunnel suggested all is well in the Spanish capital, and after this result there can be few complaints.
The second hammering of a Galatasaray side containing star names such as Didier Drogba, Wesley Sneijder and Felipe Melo is a testament to that, but it does not do the feat justice.
Los Blancos were forced to play for over an hour with 10 men following Ramos' dismissal, and therefore, the comfortable nature of the win was somewhat an eye-opener.
No Ronaldo, no Modric and mostly no Ramos—three key Bernabeu figures absent.
With this in mind, Madridistas should be confident that Real's future is bright for the following five reasons.
Isco's action areas against Galatasaray.
Carlo Ancelotti gave youth a chance with seven of the starting XI being no older than 25 years of age.
In particular, Asier Illarramendi, Casemiro and Isco all started in midfield, whilst 20-year-old Jese spearheaded the Los Blancos’ attack.
Against the Turks, Isco rediscovered his blistering form from earlier in the season, with the above heat map displaying how he was a menace. An 85 percent passing completion rate plus one goal ensured the 21-year-old was back amongst the press officers' notepads.
As for Illarramendi and Casemiro, there were glimpses of a potential future partnership. That said, Casemiro appeared beleaguered, on occasions, due to Galatasaray's high tempo pressing, but the Brazilian will be no doubt be buoyed following his first Champions League appearance.
Whilst patience may be required with Casimero's Los Blancos development, €30m summer signing Illarramendi cannot afford that unique luxury. However once Xabi Alonso entered the fray on 58 minutes, the former Real Sociedad midfielder was able to comfortably find his rhythm amongst the Bernabeu's surroundings.
Alonso dictated the pace of the game in the second half.
Xabi Alonso's return from injury has been a timely one.
Wednesday night's inclusion into the action during the second half underlined his key quality—composure on the ball.
Once he was on the pitch, he dictated the play. In fact, it is hardly a surprise that the Spanish international's return to fitness has coincided with Real's superb recent domestic run.
The younger players within the squad can only benefit from training and playing with such a great central midfielder.
Real's priority must be to ensure Alonso signs a new contract because, at 32, he still has plenty to offer—as per Andrea Pirlo who left Milan as a free agent in 2011 (and ended up winning successive Scudetto's with Juventus while still winning caps with the Azzurri).
Cometh the hour, cometh the man.
Gareth Bale missed an early chance when he was one-on-one with the goalkeeper. That could be attributed to karma since he was clearly offside in the build-up, but he made no mistake with his set-piece though.
It was an effort typical of last season at White Hart Lane—taking his tally to six goals in 12 games this season.
Not a bad return for a player with no pre-season, several accompanying injuries and the considerable, unyielding weight of the Spanish media constantly on his shoulders.
With each game that passes, Bale's assured performances make his £85m price tag justifiable.
Ancelotti press conference
With Galatasaray applying early pressure at the Bernabeu, something had to give, and it was Sergio Ramos—correctly dismissed for a professional foul for the 17th time in his career.
No doubt Carlo Ancelotti had a few choice words for Ramos, but he remained coolness personified.
Whilst it looked like the Italian's well-laid plans to incorporate the youngsters would backfire, Ancelotti made a straightforward change, replacing youngster with youngster.
The unlucky Jese made way in order to reassemble the defence in Ramos' absence, with 23-year-old defender Nacho making his first Real Madrid appearance in two months—and his first in the Champions League.
Rather than panic, the players kept their nerve, particularly since Galatasaray were allowing them no time on the ball.
Los Blancos continued in accordance with their game plan, despite being down to 10 men, eventually running out 4-1 winners.
Ancelotti's influence on this team should not be underestimated.
His absence from the 4-1 demolition of Galatasaray can only serve to strike fear into the sides reaching the last 16.
With 30 goals in 21 games this season, the 2013 Ballon d'Or winner-elect makes Real absolutely lethal.
Whilst holders Bayern Munich may be favourites for the Champions League, nobody will wish to face Real, and only a brave man would bet against Los Blancos achieving La Decima.