Consistency and Professionalism
It would be easy to conceive of Real losing focus ever so slightly and dropping points in a match against a Granada or an Eibar while looking ahead to their crucial, season-defining European clash with Atletico Madrid. Instead, Carlo Ancelotti's men approached the past week with an intensity and resolve that hasn't always been apparent this season, particularly since January. There have been many discussions in the comments about the psychology and focus of this team and its perceived lack of focus over the past few months. This string of results, albeit achieved against lower/mid-table opposition, are the foundations titles are built upon. Amid the suspensions and squad rotations, some brilliant football was played in the Spanish capital yesterday, a lot of it by bit players hungry for minutes and confidence and that is extremely encouraging for the battles ahead.
Jese and Javier
Two men in desperate need of games and goals to boast sagging confidence levels were handed starts by Ancelotti and both were ultimately able to get on the score sheet. Javier Hernandez scored on a beautifully difficult angled header off of majestic service from Alvaro Arbeloa (talk about a sentence I never envisioned writing!). The Mexican's strike provided Real an important 2-0 lead and afforded them the ability to comfortably dictate the pace of the match. Hernandez displayed effective movement and his world renown poacher's instinct while registering one of his better showings in a Madrid kit. He was unlucky not to have scored at least twice and his smile when scoring his first Bernabeu goal was probably visible from space. It was a great sight. Jese, while still at half-speed and mired in the lengthy recovery from a serious knee injury, also played well. The Spanish winger played the full 90 minutes and was rewarded with a smartly taken finish that made it 3-0. The fact that both of these men were able to reasonably well and restore some measure of confidence that had been damaged by length spells on the bench or training table also bodes very well for the run-in.
Bozz touched on this while referencing Cristiano's free-kick goal yesterday, but that insane knuckleballing strike was CR7's first free-kick since April 29th, 2014 against Bayern and his first in a league match since March 26th, 2014 against Sevilla. It seems hard to believe.
Real lead La Liga with no less than 25 shots that have rung off the post. Having already scored 92 goals domestically, it's rather stunning to think what their tally could be if even half of those shots were true instead of clattering off the woodwork.