The LALIGA title race could be all done and dusted with 14 games still to be played after Real Madrid crushed their closest rivals, Girona, at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu on Saturday evening.
The home side ran out 4-0 winners in the biggest win recorded by any league leader against the second-ranked team in the competition on home turf since Barcelona beat Real Madrid 5-0 way back in 1945.
Girona had been LALIGA’s surprise package this season, coming into this game only two points behind Real Madrid and having only been beaten once all season, against their rivals at Estadi Montilivi in a 3-0 defeat in September.
The visitors had the odds stacked against them for their latest encounter, with coach Míchel given a touchline ban after being sent off for his protests against a refereeing decision against Real Sociedad last weekend. In addition, influential midfielder Yangel Herrera and experienced defender Daley Blind were both absent through suspensions of their own after collecting five yellow cards.
That wasn’t to say that Carlo Ancelotti didn’t face his own headaches in the Real Madrid camp. Antonio Rüdiger was forced out through injury meaning that the Italian had no fit central defenders for this game.
In the end, there were few defensive concerns for Real Madrid as Girona failed to register a single shot on target at the Bernabéu. Instead, it was Vinícius Júnior who opened the scoring on only six minutes with a fine curling effort from the edge of the box.
Once the treasure chest was opened, Real Madrid found their space and allowed Jude Bellingham to exploit it with the England international scoring a further two goals to give the league leaders a convincing advantage over their closest rivals.
In another moment of individual brilliance, Rodrygo Goes made it four as he ran through the Girona defence and then curled the ball past Paulo Gazzaniga in the Girona goal, with Joselu then missing the chance to make it five as he hit a penalty kick against the post on the stroke of full-time.
In mathematic terms, Girona are very much still in the fight. This was only their second defeat of the season and they have only drawn five from 24. That means that they are keeping pace with Real Madrid and are only five points behind Los Blancos.
“A win will just give an advantage, but the title will be decided further down the line,” Ancelotti insisted in his pre-match press conference on Friday, but even the Italian must now be feeling quietly optimistic.
Not only is the gap between the two teams now five points, but Real Madrid have also secured a convincing margin in the head-to-head comparison. The aggregate score over the home and away games means that Real Madrid beat Girona 7-0, equivalent to another point in the table.
With several months left of the season, and Real Madrid facing their own issues with a defensive injury crisis, there is plenty to compete for, but it would take a real collapse from Real Madrid to surrender their lead. They are unbeaten in LALIGA since a loss to Atlético Madrid in September, have now drawn level with Girona for goals scored with 52, and have conceded six goals fewer than the next best defensive record in the competition.