Before the coronavirus pandemic struck, before the world changed and football ground to a halt across Europe and around the globe, Real Madrid provided a microcosm of their season in two back-to-back games. By beating Barcelona in El Clasico on March 1st, Zinedine Zidane’s side took a big step towards the Spanish title. The very next match saw them stumble. Again.
Indeed, it was typical of Real Madrid’s season that after beating Barca in what was their most important match of whole campaign, they suffered a damage defeat to Real Betis just days later, conceding top spot in La Liga to their Catalan rivals. Every time Los Blancos have looked set to stretch their legs in the title race, they fall.
This is why Sunday’s match away to Real Sociedad is so important. Real Madrid, who turned in one of their best performances of the season against Valencia on Thursday, have the chance to leapfrog Barcelona on the basis of their superior head-to-head record with a win at the Anoeta.
Zidane surely took great encouragement from how his side played against Valencia, with their second half performance especially impressive. Things simply clicked for Los Blancos. Karim Benzema and Eden Hazard showed signs of a burgeoning partnership. Marco Asensio scored with his first touch in over a year, also assisting in his first game back following a long term injury layoff.
Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Ernesto Valverde proved that they could play together as a midfield trio while Ferland Mendy showcased, not for the first time this season, why he has now surpassed Marcelo in the pecking order for the left back position at the Santiago Bernabeu.
But this performance will be for nothing if Real Madrid fail to take advantage of the situation it helped create. Sunday presents Los Blancos with an opportunity to take a grip of the title race and put it on their own terms with just eight fixtures of the 2019/20 season left to play. They failed to do so against Real Betis and Real Madrid must prove they have learned lessons since then.
Sociedad won’t be an easy side to better. While they have suffered a run of poor form since the return of La Liga, drawing against Osasuna and losing to Alaves, they are a team full of quality, still in the hunt for Champions League qualification. These are the sort of matches Real Madrid need to win to become champions, though. This game will prove whether or not they are ready.
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