Barcelona on the other hand are in the midst of their worst run of form in years. Already out of the Copa del Rey and with a mountain to climb to stay in the Champions League, even a La Liga title will not be enough to rescue a disappointing season.
To rub salt into Barca wounds, they lost to Real Madrid’s B side today. Jose Mourinho had more than one eye on the game with Man United as he made seven changes to the side that started the 3-1 win over Barça in the Copa del Rey semi-final second leg in midweek with Ronaldo’s absence being the most striking.
However, even without their star stiker Madrid made the perfect start as Barca’s defensive woes of late continued when Morata swung in a delightful cross from the left and Benzema was on hand to prod the ball home from close range.
That is now 13 straight games that Barcelona have conceded a goal, as the team’s defense frailities continue to be exposed by the teams lack of pressing when they lose the ball.
But when you have Messi in your side you are never out the game and Messi scored with his only real chance in the game. A terrific through ball from Dani Alves put Messi in behind the Madrid defence and he turned onto his favourite left foot to score for the 16th consecutive league game.
The game then settled down into a familiar pattern with Barça happy to pass the ball around without overly threatening, although Madrid did have the best chance to score when a lovely cross by Luka Modric to the back post found Morata in acres of space but he could only head into the side-netting.
Barcelona were the better side to start the second half and Mourinho went to his bench and brought on Ronaldo and Sami Khedira.
Buoyed by the substiuions Real Madrid looked the a lot more threating going forward and Ronaldo came close when he fired into the side-netting at the end of a solo run past three Barca players. Then Morata had an excellent chance to win the game 15 minutes from time as he controlled a wonderful ball over the top from Pepe but couldn’t beat Valdes.
But then with 8 minutes left in the game, Ramos outjumped Gerard Pique from a Modric corner to leave Valdes helpless. And the score could have been even more flattering to the home side when a Ronaldo free-kick came back of the off the angle of post and bar with Valdes beaten.
But it wouldn’t be an El Clasico without controversy and it came in stoppage time when Ramos appeared to trip Adriano in the penalty box but referee Miguel Perez Lasa didn’t give it. At first glance I thought that Adriano had dived, but replays clearly showed their was contact. Barca goalkeeper Victor Valdes, who was Barca captain on the night, was sent-off after the final whistle for protesting and he is set to miss the next couple of matches.