Reminder: Real Madrid is still (sometimes) very good

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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/soccer/players/toni-kroos/" data-ylk="slk:Toni Kroos">Toni Kroos</a> and <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/soccer/players/cristiano-ronaldo/" data-ylk="slk:Cristiano Ronaldo">Cristiano Ronaldo</a> celebrate one of <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/soccer/teams/real-madrid/" data-ylk="slk:Real Madrid">Real Madrid</a>’s four goals at Valencia on Saturday. (Getty)
Toni Kroos and Cristiano Ronaldo celebrate one of Real Madrid’s four goals at Valencia on Saturday. (Getty)

Every once in a while, Real Madrid still looks like Real Madrid. More often than not during its relatively disastrous 2017-18, it hasn’t. But Saturday was one of those days.

Had Real’s trip to Valencia fallen in line with the rest of its season, a true top-four fight beckoned. A loss could have left it outside the Champions League places, and as close to 13th place as it was to third. And the Mestalla, home of Spain’s best surprise package, seemed like an unlikely site for Real’s first away win in La Liga since mid-October.

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It turned out to be that and more. It hosted 90 minutes that reminded the world just how dangerous Real Madrid can be. Los Blancos held off Valencia’s second-half charge, and secured three points in style. Two brilliant team goals capped off the 4-1 victory:

That is the Real Madrid that won La Liga last year. That is the Real Madrid that won the Champions League, its third European title in four years. It’s special individuals combining as a special team.

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Madrid had gone in front and then doubled its lead in the first half on two Cristiano Ronaldo penalties. Ronaldo himself won the first, a no-doubter:

The second was harsh on Valencia, as was the 2-0 scoreline. The home side had chances of its own, but struggled to deal with the Real Madrid numbers that flowed forward, and Martin Montoya was both late and clumsy getting to Karim Benzema after a switch of play:

For good portions of the second half, the hosts really put Madrid under pressure. They pulled a goal back on 58 minutes:

They nearly equalized at the end of a beautiful passage of play, only to be turned away by Keylor Navas’ foot:

But in the end, Madrid was too clinical. It had too much quality.

It has too much quality to be as underwhelming as it’s been over the past five months.That’s why it should still finish second in La Liga. That’s why it’s still a Champions League contender. With just a few weeks until that massive round of 16 tie with PSG, Saturday was a timely reminder that Madrid is still Madrid.

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Henry Bushnell covers global soccer, and occasionally other ball games, for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.

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