David F. Sanchidrián
So far in 2013, Real Madrid are in championship form. The slip-ups of the first half of the season have left 'Los Blancos' well behind Barcelona in the title race, but recent results quash any suggestions that Real have let their thoughts drift away from their league commitments. Indeed, after Sunday's win over Celta Vigo (and Atlético Madrid's home defeat to Real Sociedad), they have now moved into second place in La Liga.
At the end of 2012, the pace set by Barça and Atlético at the top of the table - and Real's own inconsistency - led coach José Mourinho to the decision to concentrate on the Copa del Rey and the Champions League. It is a plan that remains on course: Madrid are in May's Copa final and beat Manchester United to progress to the quarter-finals of Europe's premier club competition. However, their league performances have not suffered from this realignment of priorities; indeed, the 25 points they have won in 2013 are more than the 22 earned by leaders Barcelona. Real have won 8 out of 10 league fixtures (against Real Sociedad, Valencia, Getafe, Sevilla, Rayo Vallecano, Deportivo la Coruña, Barcelona and Celta Vigo), drawing one (Osasuna) and losing another (Granada).
The Spanish champions' upturn in fortunes has been accompanied by an improvement in relations with their home support. The boos and whistles heard in the Santiago Bernabéu in late 2012 are a thing of the past, and the team have responded to this with a 100% home record in 2013, scoring 16 goals in five matches (an average of 3.2 goals per game).
Madrid's improvement is also down in no small measure to their two-goal hero in Vigo: Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese forward continues to add to his goal tally at breakneck speed. Although his double against Celta ended his longest goal drought in La Liga (3 games), CR7's goal haul in the league - with braces against Real Sociedad and Valencia and hat-tricks against Getafe and Sevilla - have been responsible for various victories. In total, Cristiano boasts 12 goals in nine appearances in 2013.