A late Sergio Ramos header ensured that Real Madrid enjoyed the perfect preparation for their forthcoming crunch Champions League tie against Manchester United after they overcame arch rivals Barcelona 2-1at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday to claim their second El Classico victory in under a week.
With one eye evidently on his side’s visit to Old Trafford on Tuesday night, Madrid boss Jose Mourinho decided to shuffle his pack for a clash which had little title consequence riding over it considering that the Catalans were 16 points clear of Los Merengues prior to kick-off.
Nevertheless, despite ringing the changes and leaving the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Sami Khedira on the bench, Mourinho saw his men power out of the blocks and their fast start was rewarded on eight minutes when Karim Benzema tapped in from close range after a surging run down the right flank from Alvaro Morata.
Their lead was cancelled out just nine minutes later however by the ever outstanding Lionel Messi who drew level with Real legend Alberto Di Stefano as the joint top scorer in El Classico history.
That served as a mere consolation for Messi and co nonetheless as Madrid bagged the winner eight minutes from time – Ramos bundling home a corner from the impressive Luka Modric to consolidate Los Merengues position in the top four and leave them brimming with confidence ahead of their trip to Manchester in midweek.
Barca keeper Victor Valdes was dismissed upon the final whistle for dissent completing a rather lousy afternoon for Tito Vilanova’s men – and the Barcelona boss will be conceivably worried about his side’s indifferent form of late going into the final weeks of the campaign.
Barcelona still, however, hold a healthy eleven point buffer at the head of affairs in La Liga after second placed Atletico Madrid failed to capitalise in their fixture against fourth placed Malaga at La Rosaleda.
Many would have expected a bit of a goal fest between the two sides that have helped light up La Liga this season with their attacking flair and ambition.
But it wasn’t to be and a 0-0 stalemate was the final result to leave both teams still well on course to finish in the Champions League qualifying places.
Elsewhere, Friday night’s fixture between Getafe and strugglers Real Zaragoza at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez went the way of the home side courtesy of goals from Adrian Colunga and Sergio Escudero.
The 2-0 win was the third on the bounce for the in-form El Geta – and manager Luis Garcia Plaza may well now have his sights set on an unlikely European spot after his side moved up to eighth in the table.
Getafe are now hot on the heels of Real Sociedad and Real Betis who played out a 3-3 thriller on Sunday, as well as fifth placed Valencia who had to make do with a point against Levante at the Mestalla.
The rest of the weekend’s action saw Mallorca and Athletic Bilbao record narrow successes over Granada and Osasuna respectively, as Deportivo and Espanyol failed to force a breakthrough in goalless draws at home to Rayo Vallecano and Valladolid.
Sevilla and Celta Vigo will complete the latest round of La Liga fixtures on Monday evening at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan with the away side desperately looking for a three pint haul which would lift them out of the relegation zone.