Borja Mayoral, Theo Hernandez repay Zinedine Zidane's faith for Real Madrid
This was a classic "trap" game. Real Madrid traveled to San Sebastian to face high-flying Real Sociedad without Marcelo, Toni Kroos, Karim Benzema, Mateo Kovacic and Cristiano Ronaldo. Spotting your opponents four starters and your most reliable reserve midfielder is not fun. Many expected Zinedine Zidane to conjure up some formation with Gareth Bale or Marco Asensio playing through the middle; instead, he put his faith in a 20-year-old, Borja Mayoral, who had seen just 14 minutes on the pitch before Saturday.
But Mayoral is something the others aren't. He's a genuine center-forward who makes a center-forward's movements on the pitch. And, while comparisons to Alvaro Morata may be premature, he had a Morata-type game. He opened the scoring and then, after Kevin Rodrigues' stunning equalizer, forced the own goal that gave Madrid the lead before a brilliant Bale run made it 3-1.
It was a bold show of faith from Zidane and one that was vindicated -- just as his trust in Theo Hernandez as an understudy to Marcelo has been amply rewarded. The teenage left-back's running battle with the outstanding Alvaro Odriozola was one of the game's more intriguing sub-texts. The usual suspects -- Luka Modric, Isco and Asensio -- were their usual selves in what was a pulsating game against a quality side brilliantly coached by Eusebio. The fact that Bale, after being booed last week, turned in a high-energy performance that took him all over the pitch is an added bonus.
Barcelona are still four points clear but Madrid are lying in wait. That game, incidentally, marked the 73rd match in a row in which they've scored at least a goal, matching a world record set by Pele's Santos in the early 1960s. (Nope, I had no idea such a record existed either...).
And, perhaps best of all, the cavalry is on its way: Ronaldo's suspension is over.
Click here to read more of Marcotti's thoughts on what occurred in European football over the previous week.