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Immediate Reaction: Real Madrid 3-0 Villarreal

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Madrid dominate a fourth place Villarreal to stay in contention for La Liga title.

Denis Doyle/Getty Images

1. Purposeful possession.

Aside from a few starting jitters on the right side of the pitch, Real Madrid were pretty focused in their passing, and their build up was incisive and direct...with the exception of the final pass. Even though the Yellow Submarine were fairly lax in their midfield pressing, and pretty content to sit back in banks of four, Real Madrid as a whole orchestrated things really well with a variety of build up strategies. The problem is that the final pass from pretty much everyone was lacking for big portions of the match - particularly the first hour. We are also still too dependent on crosses from the wings.

2. Real Madrid's defense had Villarreal's number.

Real Madrid's defense either rehearsed really well, or just had the drop on Villarreal tonight. The back four in particular seemed to be in the right place at the right time with very little apparent effort. Try as they might to string any passes together to advance into our final third, Villarreal was stymied again and again in their attempts to find open passing lanes. This was evidenced by the fact that their first real chance didn't come until the 43rd minute.

3. The Casemiro effect

I'd like to talk about Casemiro without actually talking about how he played. I will admit I've been a dark-horse fan even when he was super-rough around the edges two seasons ago, but I love what his presence in this midfield brings. Individual qualities aside, having him in the lineup means that Modric and Kroos are able to execute their exceptional skills with the relatively unbridled freedom to play further forward. Magic.

4. Solid team focus to maintain pressure on league leaders

It could be collective focus and confidence. It could be the "Zidane Effect." Or it just be could be a great run of form. But Real Madrid came out tonight with purpose and style. They may not have executed as flawlessly as they could have/should have, particularly in the final third, but it's refreshing to see the side on a mission. I for one am thrilled to see the "personality" of this side seeming to take shape under Zidane.

Bonus - That Vazquez kid tho'

Love the confidence with which he plays. His execution consistency will continue to grow, but for a "utility" player, it's been really great to watch him develop.