Words from the Boss
"We did not play with much intensity or quality," said Carlo Ancelotti after the match. Ancelotti is nothing if not honest to a fault. Is this admission something to be concerned about as the calendar turns to May with season-defining fixtures beckoning over the next seven days? Or much ado about nothing. It has to be hard to get geared up mentally for a visit by a side languishing in 17th place, but an admitted lack of intensity exhibited by a team still in contention for a huge league/European double is at least a tiny bit eye-opening. But as always there are nuances to consider, as the cold-hard facts state that Real have won six straight league matches with a +20 goal differential during that span. Many of those 24 goals have of course come from sources outside the usual BBC suspects, reflecting a level of depth and resilience in the squad that hasn't always been apparent. This is cause for optimism because at times the lineup has seemed dangerously top-heavy. Barcelona may be running away with the style points title, but as the old American football cliche goes: "They don't ask how." Ancelotti remains publicly resolute, vowing that the team will win out. That is all that remains in their control. Such an outcome can still yield an elusive league crown with a little help.
The clock flashed back to 2010 (much to a certain galactico's chagrin) when Arbeloa neatly tucked home Real's third goal in the 84th minute. The strike was his first in over five years. It was the exclamation point on an incredibly assured performance by the veteran Spanish international. Called upon more frequently in the past month by Ancelotti, Arbeloa has responded with what is unquestionably his best football in years. The right-back has been solid in defense, with a few expertly timed step-ins yesterday evening, while offering a surprisingly effective degree of offensive support. In fact, Arbeloa has recorded four assists this season within his limited minutes. This type of performance speaks to the aforementioned squad depth and resilience is an encouraging sign for this frantic stretch run to the roses.
We won't call it a comeback--but after a slight dip in form, the solid, metronomic German is nearing his imperious best once again. Kroos was a tremendous force at both ends of the pitch yesterday, recording three tackles and spraying his always precise passes all over the park. He was the instigator behind Real's all-important second, a goal which gave Los Blancos license to cruise listlessly through the remainder of the contest. Kroos has carried the extra midfield burden in the absence of Luka Modric with style and he may be the most vital element of Madrid's run-in.
- Lucas Silva recorded an impressive four tackles in just over 25 minutes after being introduced as a substitute.
- It could be chalked up to quality of opposition, but Real controlled the center of the pitch yesterday, using possession to repeatedly set up dangerous through balls. This is another encouraging sign that speaks to Kroos's influence, but also a level of tactical adaptability in the absence dangerous wide players like Marcelo, Dani Carvajal and Gareth Bale. Whether this was a mirage or a sea change remains to be seen.