Real show signs of improvement, but can Barca be caught?
Has new Real Madrid coach Juande Ramos picked up where he left off at struggling Tottenham Hotspur?
You might very well think so after a glance at the 2-0 scoreline from Saturday’s “Clasico” at the Nou Camp.
But the battling display by a much-depleted Real, in which they held their arch rivals at bay until the 83rd minute and created one or two chances to steal the three points, provided Ramos with several positives.
Not least was the performance of the defensive line, with Iker Casillas playing like one of the world’s best goalkeepers again while Fabio Cannavaro and even Christoph Metzelder flung themselves into impeccably-timed, last-ditch challenges.
The desire and fight that was not always evident under Bernd Schuster appears to have returned.
As Ramos pointed out on Monday, things will surely improve for the champions once key players like Pepe, Gabriel Heinze and Wesley Sneijder are fit again. A couple of new signings in January should also provide impetus while Klaas Jan Huntelaar will be eager to get going.
Real host second-placed Valencia on Saturday and Villarreal, currently in third, the following weekend.
Six points from those two matches would set them up for a decent run in the New Year once the squad is back to something resembling full strength.
But if Barcelona maintain anything like their current form – 46 goals in 15 matches with only nine conceded – it will surely be impossible to catch them.
PHOTO: Real Madrid’s Gonzalo Higuain reacts after failing to score past Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes during their match at Nou Camp, Dec. 13, 2008 REUTERS/Gustau Nacarino