Real Madrid enjoyed the perfect preparation for Paris Saint-Germain by thrashing Real Sociedad 4-1 on Saturday to move eight points clear at the top of La Liga.
Madrid had to come from behind at the Santiago Bernabeu as two scintillating long-range strikes from Eduardo Camavinga and Luka Modric turned the game on its head, before a Karim Benzema penalty and a tap-in for Marco Asensio completed am emphatic victory.
Camavinga’s strike, his second goal for Madrid, was timely given the 19-year-old may have to start against PSG on Wednesday, with Toni Kroos, absent here, struggling with a hamstring strain.
“Camavinga is definitely an option,” said Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti.
Madrid are tasked with overturning a 1-0 deficit from the first leg in Paris if they are to reach the quarter-finals.
At the end of the game and with the stadium mostly empty, Madrid’s players came back out onto the pitch to salute the ultras behind the goal.
“The thanks to the fans was an idea that came from the players,” said Ancelotti. “After this game they believe more in what we can do on Wednesday.”
Everything seems easier with the 36-year-old Modric, whose own wonder-goal was the highlight of another mesmeric display, for which he earned a standing ovation from the home crowd in the second half.
Kylian Mbappe, Lionel Messi and Neymar will provide a sterner test for Madrid’s back four in midweek but this was a particularly encouraging performance from Ancelotti’s attack, which was far more dynamic after struggling for goals in recent weeks.
Benzema looks sharp again after recovering from his own hamstring injury last month. Benzema has three goals in his last three games, and had two disallowed against La Real before finally scoring from the spot.
Victory extends Madrid’s advantage at the top of La Liga after second-placed Sevilla were held to a goalless draw by Alaves on Friday night.
Real Sociedad could have gone third with a win but they stay sixth, with qualification for the Europa League looking more realistic now than the Champions League.
Real Madrid started sloppily and paid for it after David Silva’s touch and shift was too quick for Dani Carvajal, who caught the midfielder’s trailing right foot.
– Impressive Modric –
Thibaut Courtois dived the right way but Mikel Oyarzabal’s penalty had too much power and whip, the ball nestling into the bottom right-hand corner.
It took until the 29th minute for Madrid to register a shot on goal and the crowd were getting agitated when Camavinga’s rocket released the tension. Modric flicked the ball in-field to the midfielder, who controlled and unleashed a shot from 30 yards that sizzled straight, hard and into the net.
The floodgates opened, with Madrid finding the net twice more before half-time. The first was ruled out for offside, Benzema a whisker too quick to latch onto Modric’s pass after Camavinga robbed Asier Illarramendi.
But there was no stopping the second, a quick corner allowing Modric to collect on the edge of the area, with Silva shuffling out to meet him. Modric took Silva left, right and then left again, working enough space to unleash with his left foot, the ball soaring high into the net.
The Madrid storm eased a little in the second half but not much. Benzema and Rodrygo both went close while Real Sociedad were struggling to escape their own half for the opening 20 minutes.
Benzema banged in a third but Rodrygo’s right foot was offside in the build-up and then with 16 minutes left, Vinicius Junior won a penalty after a meandering run down the left.
Vinicius nipped past Igor Zubeldia, stayed on his feet and then beat Aritz Elustondo, toppling over the defender’s planted left leg and relying on VAR to spot that it was inside the area. Benzema skipped up to the penalty and guided it in.
Three minutes later, Asensio made it four, finishing off Carvajal’s cut-back to round off a commanding win.