It's impossible to beat Real Madrid if you let them play to their strengths. José Mourinho's Madrid are a team that are uncomfortable when faced with order, tranquility and reflection. They do not like taking the initiative and they do not like facing teams that hide away. Valencia, as if unaware of this, went onto the pitch in a frenzy. It made for a crazy, end to end game that was on the verge of the absurd.
Ernesto Valverde's men began the game as if Madrid were any other team, a team they could intimidate by going on the attack. Perhaps it was the wrong approach, perhaps they misjudged Madrid's spirit, or maybe it was the result of the tension from the 2-0 defeat during the week in the Copa del Rey. Or perhaps it was the combination of every possible disaster. Whatever it was, Madrid grew and grew as the game went on and with every goal they scored, five in the first half. They recuperated their joy for playing, their faith and their killer instinct. Once again, they felt like a lion, a cheetah, a carnivore.
While Valencia were the victim of a succession of catastrophic decisions, everything fell into place for Madrid. For starters, Ángel Di María returned to the team and to form. The Argentine was fortunate to return on the day when Mesut Özil was at his best, and the architect of Madrid. Cristiano Ronaldo also enjoyed himself out on the pitch, and ran Ricardo Costa ragged.
The game did not take long to get going, with Gonzalo Higuaín scoring after just eight minutes. Just moments earlier 'El Pipita' had missed a superb chance after a perfect pass from Álvaro Arbeloa, but he made no mistake at the second time of asking, burying a cut back from Di María, who had been released by Özil.
It is easy to say now, but Valencia should have sought to protect themselves there and then. They should have been wary of the danger and made it their objective to get a draw. But they did not. In fact, they did the opposite. They took more steps forward, and condemned themselves even further. They were overexcited and imprecise, and every time they lost the ball, Madrid made them pay.
Sami Khedira should have made it 2-0, but Di María doubled the lead soon enough, after Cristiano Ronaldo's skill and precision pass made it impossible to miss.
Madrid smelt blood, and barely a minute later, Ronaldo made it 3-0, making a darting run with the ball and then firing his shot past Vicente Guaita at the near post. He got his second goal five minutes later, with Di María creating the danger down the right hand side and Özil setting him up with a delicious flick of the heel. And before the break, Di María got the fifth to complete the 'manita'.
Valencia tried to save face in the second half. The only positive was that they did not concede another goal, as Madrid took no risks. Perhaps they are saving their goals for the Copa del Rey match on Wednesday. Valencia hit the bar twice, and Ronaldo was denied a penalty when he was felled in the area by Adil Rami, which showed that even referees have hearts.
With three days till the two sides meet again in the Copa, it seems inconceivable that Madrid will not score, and even harder to imagine that Valencia will be able to score two goals or more. Even with football's capacity to throw up surprises, it will take a miracle for 'Los Ché' to progress to the semi-finals.