Real Madrid celebrated pulling two points clear at the top of the La Liga standings last night, after a moment of magic from Karim Benzema decided a close encounter away against Espanyol.
On Sunday evening, Madrid were given the opportunity to move two points clear of Barcelona at the top of the La Liga standings, after the Catalans drew against Celta Vigo on Saturday, and they made tidy work of it at the RCD Stadium in a routine 1-0 win. The victory makes it five from five for Zinedine Zidane’s men ever since football returned after the coronavirus-enforced blackout.
With Luka Modric and Ferland Mendy both suspended for the game, Madrid brought Fede Valverde and Marcelo into the starting line-up, with Zinedine Zidane opting for a 4-4-2 and Isco preferred to Gareth Bale, who dropped to the bench. In a tightly contested game, Real Madrid were never entirely in control, despite having the lions share of possession, with Espanyol threatening when they did have control of the ball.
Both defences were on good form, with Eden Hazard, in particular, having a relatively anonymous evening. However, just before half-time Karim Benzema pulled off a no-look back heel pass to assist Casemiro for the opening goal that was a throwback to legendary Real Madrid midfielder, Guti‘s taconzo pass to Benzema against Deportivo in 2009.
It was a moment of magic that may well have decided the title race in Spain, with just six games to go until the 2019/20 season comes to an end. And, although Los Blancos didn’t set the pitch alight like they have in earlier games, the three points will be celebrated all the same.
Zidane’s men will be preparing to host Getafe on Thursday with the knowledge that, regardless of the result, they will still be at the top of the table come the end of the week, as a result of their effective three point lead over Barcelona. And it’s game deciding moments like that which will lead many to believe that Benzema may well be the most in-form attacker in Europe at the moment.
Elsewhere in Europe, Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City all made it through to the semi-finals of this year’s FA Cup with wins over Norwich, Sheffield United, Leicester and Newcastle, respectively.
In Italy, Juventus retained their 4 point lead at the top of Serie A, having beaten Lecce 4-0 on Friday night, while Inter Milan and Lazio won their respective games against Parma and Fiorentina. In Germany, Bayern Munich concluded their title winning Bundesliga season with a 4-0 win over Wolfsburg.