It may already be over. The 2011/12 Spanish La Liga may well be declared done, dusted and tied-up, following Real Madrid's almost leisurely stroll to a 4-0 win at the Spanish capital on Saturday night.
The 31-time former champions were without (for this week) the mid-week distraction of a Champions League game and were free to name their strongest 11 possible. Coach Jose Mourinho did just that, with Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Mesut Ozil and Kaka starting, supported by the omnipresent Xabi Alonso and Esteban Granero (a rare start for the young Spaniard, who was linked with a move to Liverpool in the January transfer window). In defense, Mourinho named Pepe alongside the young but impressive Raphael Varane, with Marcelo and Sergio Ramos manning the flanks.
Their victims for the night, Racing Santander would have been looking to the likes of Khouma Babacar and Lautaro Acosta to provide offensive firpower, while relying on former Espanyol man Marc Torrejon, Bernardo Zuniga, Domingo and Alvaro to try and limit the goals conceded.
As it turned out, Santander really didn't have a chance. Madrid pressed from early on, with two corners inside the first five minutes and Cristiano Ronaldo hitting the post in the sixth. It really didn't matter... the Portuguese forward got his radar right a few seconds later - it was Madrid 1 - Santander 0. It was game over.
Santander tried desperately to find a way back but they couldn't even keep the ball for sustained periods, much less threaten Iker Casillas in Madrid's goal. It wasn't until the 35th minute that Acosta and Papa Diop took a couple of pot-shots... but to no avail.
Ten minutes and four chances for Madrid later, Benzema showed his visitors just how to do it, clinically slotting home from a difficult angle to make it
2-0 for Madrid going into the break. Oh... and by the way... the first half also had a sending off - Domingo did enough in the space of 20 minutes to convince the referee he had to go and was therefore summarily dismissed; but it really didn't matter by that time. Although Madrid then were only 1-0 up, Santander were never every going to trouble them.
The second half started with a flurry of chances for the hosts, Ramos, Ronaldo, Xabi Alonso and Kaka all had shots before Argentinean winger, Angel di Maria, being eased back into first team action after injury, smashed home a beauty from outside the box. 3-0 Madrid... sandwiches anyone?
Benzema completed the rout in the dying minutes for his second of the night.
Real Madrid now have 61 points from 23 games and lead Barcelona (who play 3rd place Valencia in a mouthwatering tie, at the Nou Camp, tomorrow) by a whopping 13 points! Madrid will next travel to Russia, to play CSKA Moscow in the leg of their Champions League game, before returning to visit city rivals Rayo Vallecano in the league.
Check out the photos from Saturday's game...