Real Madrid moved above Barcelona in La Liga and are now level on points with Atletico de Madrid after they saw off Almeria with ease at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Goal from Angel di Maria, Gareth Bale, Isco and Alvaro sealed the three points that ensured Los Blancos warmed up for the Copa del Rey final in the best manner possible.
With seven players out injured, including 45-goal man Cristiano Ronaldo, Real boss Carlo Ancelotti called up several youngsters to his match day squad, including Nacho, Lorente and Jose.
Just before the match kicked off, the Bernabeu erupted in loud cheers with the news of Barcelona’s shock defeat at lowly Granada. And Los Merengues could have had the perfect start as Angel di Maria rattled the bar with a 30-yard effort. The hosts dominated the opening 45 minutes, enjoying 68% possession, but struggled to convert their dominance into goals. Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema both went close a number of times.
It was di Maria who eventually broke the deadlock on the half hour mark though, the former Benfica man arrowing his shot beyond the keeper from a tight angle inside the area.
There were always more goals in it for the hosts, and they eventually came after the break. The nine-time European Cup winners settled the game as a contest with two goals in three minutes shortly after the interval. First, Gareth Bale played a clever one-two on the edge of the Almeria area before taking the ball and slotting it low past the keeper.
It was then Isco’s turn, whose strong effort found the back of the net after good work by French international Karim Benzema.
With the final of the Copa del Rey in mind, Ancelotti took the opportunity to give some of his stars some rest, taking off di Maria and Bale and introducing Casemiro and Morata. Benzema was guilty of missing some guilt-edged chances as Madrid threatened to extend their lead.
With five minutes remaining Morata did just that. His excellent finish past the Almeria keeper ensured Los Blancos took full advantage of Barcelona’s slip up earlier. Next up, the Catalans themselves, and the chance for Madrid to win the first trophy of the campaign.