Jose Mourinho started the season by poking a Barcelona coach in the eye. Nothing new there then, just as he meant to go on. It was a typical pantomime act from the Portuguese genius and one that brought its fair share of opprobrium from all corners, excluding Marca, of course. At the time, it looked like the act of a man who knew he was beaten: after winning the league and the farcical Champions League semi-final between the two sides, Barcelona had overcome Real Madrid in a fractious Super Cup, which ended with Cesc Fabregas in a heap after an assault by Marcelo and a Jose-induced cartoon brawl on the touchline. If you can't beat them, beat them black and blue instead, seemed to be the general approach emanating from the Bernabeu (and then claim a lizard conspiracy in the media afterwards).
But here, look who's top of the league: Mourinho's Madrid. And although it's only by a point, they should extend it to four by beating Osasuna, while Barcelona have a tricky trip to Athletic Bilbao tonight. Generally Mourinho doesn't let go of a lead, his titles with Chelsea characterised by building up insurmountable advantages early in the season and then cruising into the distance, perhaps flicking a few Vs at Liverpool fans and Arsene Wenger along the way.
However it is interesting to note that the situation at the moment is not too dissimilar to this time last year, when Madrid were on top. Which was the way it stayed until El Clasico at the end of November, when Madrid were given what for (or should that be five?) at Camp Nou. The date for the fixture is 11 December and the key for Madrid until then is to keep on winning these matches and avoid the sort of slip-ups they had against Levante in September. Barcelona will only give Mourinho so many chances before they click - and probably beat them in December. Osasuna are unlikely to provide much resistance, even if they did heroically keep the score down to single figures against Barcelona two months ago, only losing 8-0.
Real Madrid: Casillas; Arbeloa, Pepe, Ramos, Coentrao; Khedira, Alonso; Di Maria, Ozil, Ronaldo; Higuain. Subs: Adan, Varane, Raul Albiol, Nuri Sahin, Callejon,
Lass Diarra, Benzema.
Osasuna: Andrés Fernández; Damiá, Lolo, Flaño, Satrústegui; Raúl García, Nekounam, Puñal, Calleja; Nino; Ibrahima. Subs: Riesgo, Rubén, Annunziata, Timor, Marcos, Manu, Lekic.
An email! At this hour! "To this American newbie, Roberto Martinez's comments about Spain are astonishing," says Paul Taylor. "Young players are bought by EPL teams and then don't play? How idiotic! In American football they play four years at university. In ice hockey and baseball each club has a "minor league" team where youngsters play until ready for the big leagues. If it's true that England have no such set-up for football, no wonder they are losers." Yeah, but you can just pay an Italian a gazillion pounds and everything will be all right.
1 min: Before kick-off, the astonishing Cristiano Ronaldo was awarded the European golden boot. Surprisingly it's a full house at a sunny Bernabeu, despite the early kick-off, the reason for which being that Getafe and Atletico Madrid are playing each other in the Spanish capital tonight. Madrid, kicking from right to left, get us going and Ozil instantly looks to spring Ronaldo clear on the left, but his pass is too long.
2 min: I can't remember the last time I saw a sunny Bernabeu, so often do they play in the evening. It's a novel experience then.
3 min: Real Madrid only won this fixture 1-0 this season and Osasuna can be difficult to beat, that 8-0 evisceration at the hands of Barcelona notwithstanding. Madrid have been known to hard work of it against tight defences.
5 min: It's been a bitty start, with plenty of fouls from both sides, though the game is being played exclusively in Osasuna's half. The visitors, you won't be surprised to hear, are here for a 0-0. "An MBM!?" parps Ryan Dunne. "At this hours? Man alive!! Hope you didn't have to like set your alarm especially or anything Obviously Messi's da man, but I agree with all those who are saying Ronaldo needs some more respect for his simply (nearly) peerless goalscoring record. Any chance of getting Sid in Madrid to whip an article? And are this Osasusna any good or is there indeed some credence in the notion that Spanish Diddy Teams are even worse than Scottish ones?" I set my alarm for 8am and chucked it out the window when it went off.
8 min: A sprightly atmosphere in the Bernabeu so far, not that anything;s happened yet as we wait for Madrid to fashion an opening. "Vamos Osasuna!" says Cecilia Marjakangas. "Too bad to see that the promising Finnish left-back Jukka Raitala is not playing against RM and is not even on the subs' bench. Still hope Osasuna do well, especially after the way Levante have fallen. Even as a Culé, I always support the underdog. I wonder if the Osasuna fans are chanting "Messi! Messi! Messi!" at Cristiano, as fans all around Spain and elsewhere also tend to do. Hope so. Re: the Barcelona vs. RM rivalry... it's more than possible that Madrid will win the league but that still leaves the Champions League, and there I'd say it's a case of ABM. My bet is on the dark horse Chelsea." Mine's not. Villash-Boash is doing a good job, but he doesn't quite have the tools yet. The defence is currently a joke.
10 min: The twinkle-toed Di Maria brilliantly diddles his way past Satrustegui on the right and wins a corner after his cross is headed behind. From it, a half-chance for Khedira. Di Maria sent it high to the far post where it was headed up in the air by Ramos. The ball stayed alive though and Ramos headed it back across the area, the ball falling to Pepe, who came out on top in a scramble with his marker and scuffed a shot into the six-yard box where Khedira, onside and unmarked, was unable to react quickly enough as he tried to swivel and turn the ball past Fernandez.
12 min: Everything's coming through Di Maria on the right at the moment. From a deep position, he swings a high cross into the area where Higuain manages to get above his marker, but directs a weak header straight at Fernandez. A bit more on that and he might have been able to loop it over the goalkeeper, who was slightly off his line.
14 min: Possibly the worst cross of all time from Raul Garcia, trying to volley into the area first-time and instead only succeeding in shanking it out for a goal-kick, the ball pranging off his shin and skewing away. Dear me.
15 min: "But if Chelsea make a good signing in January, a new centre-back, Essien returns, fully fit, and Fernando Torres gets his groove back, too... you never know," says Cecilia Marjakangas. "It's not likely, but stranger things have happened. The same team has never won the CL twice in a row. Chelsea have their bad run now; they can only get better. Plus if the Manc teams run away in the Premiership, AVB can concentrate on the CL 100%. And they are still very entertaining to watch. Especially for a neutral. And I would love to see AVB teach Mou a lesson." All true, but this does seem like a season for Villas-Boas to settle in; hopefully we'll see him imprint his style more on the side next year. There's still a few squad members he'll be looking to replace, I'll be sure.
18 min: Calleja sends in Osasuna's first corner from the right, but Nekounam is penalised for a foul on Pepe. Up the other end, Coentrao's fine pass from the left skitters through to Higuain, completely clear in the middle, but he's on his heels, allowing Damia to recover and hustle him out of it.
19 min: Di Maria and Ronaldo switch sides for the first time, and between them create a chance to give Madrid the lead. Ronaldo torments Sartrustegui on the right and then stands up a cross to Di Maria at the far post, but he doesn't catch his volley with his right foot from 15 yards out properly and it bounces harmlessly to Fernandez.
21 min: It's coming. A high ball from left to right finds Ronaldo in the area. A couple of stepovers earn him a sight of goal, but his low left-footer is deflected just past the near post by Sartrustegui. Ozil's corner is punched away by Fernandez, the goalkeeper charging through the bodies to clear.
GOAL! Real Madrid 1-0 Osasuna (Ronaldo, 23 min): Guess what, Ronaldo's scored, his 15th of the season. On the right flank, Di Maria is allowed to come inside on to his left foot and curl an inswinging cross into the area, where Ronaldo rises highest to use the pace of the delivery and just guide his header into the left corner, Fernandez utterly helpless. He was awarded the golden boot before the game and here's why.
24 min: It should have been 2-0 straight away. The hapless Satrustegui gifts possession to Di Maria, who sprints past the creaking Osasuna defence, only to drag a dreadful shot wide of the right post with his left foot from the edge of the area. A poor miss.
27 min: Emails please! It's grey outside, it's not as if you're doing anything else.
28 min: Blimey. Nekounam takes aim from fully 35 yards out but his shot screams inches past the left post. Casillas flew through the air but may well have been beaten by that if it was on target. "Man, that's a stylish kit Madrid are playing in - and great to see a "Real" side with some regal gold stripes (they should really still have that purple third kit too)," says Ryan Dunne. "More teams should have literal strips, e.g: "Racing" ones with Go-Faster Stripes, CSKA Moscow with Army Fatigue, "Athletico" teams with, er, spandex and so on.... Suppose West Ham could get a kit with lots of wee hammers on it, like a novelty tie!"
GOAL! Real Madrid 1-1 Osasuna (Ibrahima, 30 min): Real Madrid are furious, once again feeling they've been done over by the officials. As this attack unfolded, Pepe was off the pitch after getting treatment for an injury. As Osasuna went forward, Pepe was trying to get back on to the pitch, only to be ignored by the referee, who then gave the visitors a free-kick as Ramos bumped into Nino on the edge of the area. With Madrid arguing about both the award of the free-kick and Pepe not being allowed back on, Osasuna took the free-kick quickly, the quick-witted Nekounam slipping a pass through to Ibrahima, who slotted it confidently past Casillas from 16 yards out. Boos ring around the stadium, but they've got little to complain about, not that that's ever meant anything in these parts.
GOAL! Real Madrid 2-1 Osasuna (Pepe, 34 min): Well that didn't last long. It's come from another cross from Di Maria's left foot from the right, Sartrustegui making it far too easy for him. The Argentinian hung the ball up high to the far post, where Pepe directed it back across goal and agonisingly into the far corner. Ronaldo tried to get a touch on the ball on the line, but wasn't fast enough. Marca will probably give that one to him though.
37 min: It seems I've missed a couple of bookings for Osasuna players, Puñal and Satrustegui going into the referee's notebook. "Re all the goals scored by Ronaldo and Messi, I don't want to come over all Jonathan Wilson, but there's more to their games than that isn't there?" says Gary Naylor. "Like Robin van Persie when fully fit, they are both scorers and playmakers - two players in one. After all, Marco Negri scored 32 goals in 30 games for Rangers."
GOAL! Real Madrid 3-1 Osasuna (Higuain, 40 min): What a goal. An unerring message is being sent to Barcelona here. Again Di Maria provides the assist, poking a pass through to Higuain on the left side of the area. Faced by Lolo, he brilliantly dupes the Osasuna defender, jinking inside him and curling a delightful finish into the top-right corner from 10 yards out. All that Osasuna equaliser did was wind Real Madrid up. But still. They scored at the Bernabeu!
42 min: When England played Germany at Euro 96, I remember Ruud Gullit saying at half time that England shouldn't have scored so early because it riled the Germans so much. Strange logic, but you could see his point, and it's easily applied to this match.
43 min: This could be anything. Another Di Maria cross from the right somehow goes all the way to the far post, where Ozil tries to place the ball past Fernandez at his near post from a tight angle. The goalkeeper reads his intentions though and sticks out a foot to deflect the ball on to the post and behind for a corner. It's taken short and Ronaldo cuts inside, before walloping one miles over from the corner of the area.
Peep! Peep! The half time whistle blows to bring an end to an entertaining first half. Real Madrid are well worth that lead, although their hot funk after that Osasuna equaliser was probably the moment of the match so far.
Half time: Real Madrid 3-1 Osasuna.
46 min: Here we go again. Say, this is a bit better than Wolves v Wigan, isn't it? This La Liga business could catch on.
47 min: Di Maria's down, clutching his thigh. It came from when he sprinted to keep the ball from going out for a throw-in and incredibly backheeled it on the run to Arbeloa, but in doing so, he's managed to injure his hamstring. His afternoon's over, then, a real shame given his wonderful first half, all three Real Madrid goals made by him.
49 min: Di Maria is taken off on a stretcher and Karim Benzema comes on in his place. Di Maria is quite distressed on the stretcher, grimacing and holding his hands to his face. A rare outing for Benzema and Higuain alongside each other then.
51 min: Ibrahima does well to turn away from Ramos and squeeze a cross towards the near post, where Nino gets across Pepe and rams a fierce effort high into the side netting. For a moment, as the net rippled, it looked like that was in.
53 min: PENALTY TO REAL MADRID! AND A RED CARD FOR THE HAPLESS SARTRUSTEGUI! It's a second yellow card for the youngster, who's endured a horrendous La Liga debut. He lunged across to try to tackle Ozil as he raced to reach a pass through the middle, but got his timing all wrong, and sent the German soaring through the air with a wild challenge.
GOAL! Real Madrid 4-1 Osasuna (Ronaldo pen, 54 min): Did you expect anything else? Ronaldo, bristling with confidence, sends Fernandez the wrong way and the ball into the bottom-right corner, before lapping up the acclaim of the Bernabeu.
GOAL! Real Madrid 5-1 Osasuna (Ronaldo, 58 min): Can Real Madrid beat the eight goals Barcelona past Osasuna in September? It's starting to look that way. It's so easy for Real Madrid now. Just before this goal, Benzema should have scored but missed the ball completely from Coentrao's cross into the six-yard box. No matter, they stayed on the attack, Ozil finding Arbeloa on the overlap. He hung the ball up into the six-yard box again and there was Ronaldo to loop a header beyond the helpless Fernandez. That's his 12th hat-trick for Real Madrid. He joined them just over two years ago. He is a remarkable force of nature. Perez replaces Nino for Osasuna.
61 min: "It'll hardly be one in the eye for Barcelona if Real romp to a big victory today," says Justin Kavanagh. "But I notice Ronaldo has made most critics' Team of the Ferguson Era this weekend. And yet there's a real lack of any warmth or regard for him in these retrospectives, a very British begrudgery about his brilliance. That's what endless self-regard and a lack of any sense of humour buys you, I suppose. So is he the most hated big-name player ever?" What about Maradona?
62 min: "Paul Taylor is right, young players not playing is daft," says Alexander Wilson. "But there is an English equivalent to the 'Minor Leagues'. Its called the Championship. I swear, half the second tier is made up of on-loan Manchester United players or alumni. Indeed, loaning someone from a big club is the only way to get a decent young striker at this level. Alex Wilson, Hull City supporter (Joe Dudgeon, James Chester, Corry Evans, Cameron Stewart all currently in or near the first team)." Commiserations for yesterday, Alex, I thought you were unlucky.
GOAL! Real Madrid 6-1 Osasuna (Benzema, 63 min): They only need two more. The excellent Coentrao embarrasses Damia on the left and his cross is deflected to Benzema at the far post. With all the time in the world, he takes the ball down and then easily slots it past Fernandez. It's men against pygmies.
66 min: "Jose Mourinho!" rings around the Bernabeu.
67 min: Sami Khedira is replaced by Nuri Sahin, making his Real Madrid debut at last after his move from Borussia Dortmund in the summer. His last game was 16 April following a nasty knee ligament injury. Callejon also comes on for Ozil, who rarely completes a 90 minutes.
69 min: Callejon turns and finds Benzema, who shuffles past Lolo and then makes a mess of the finish, poking it well wide of the left post from 12 yards out.
71 min: We haven't had a goal for eight minutes. This is rubbish.
73 min: Real Madrid are currently suffering a 10-minute goal drought.
74 min: Osasuna bring on Ruben for Punal.
75 min: "Ronaldo the most hated big name player ever?" says Gary Naylor. "Maybe - but only as a result of the internet's almost limitless ability to spread hate. How about Bernd Schuster, Georghi Hagi and Effen Steffenberg, who seemed to be disliked by plenty. And we're betting without El Haji Diouf I take it?" Plus John Terry.
76 min: The first glimpse of Sahin, who curls a free-kick from 25 yards out over the wall with his left foot, the ball drifting a yard wide and clipping the side netting on its way behind. Right, that's the last time he'll be allowed a free-kick by Ronaldo again.
78 min: I hate it when big teams get to five or six after an hour and then declare. Forget about professional decency, I want my entertainment.
80 min: Ronaldo pierces the Osasuna defence with a glorious pass through to Callejon, but the flag is up for offside. That was tight.
GOAL! Real Madrid 7-1 Osasuna (Benzema, 81 min): Real Madrid wake up again and look what happens. Arbeloa is the unlikely creator of the goal, winning the ball 30 yards from goal and slipping it straight through for the middle for Benzema, who didn't bother with any fancy tricks and just rifled it emphatically into the top-right corner from 16 yards out. A blink-and-you'd-miss it finish.
85 min: "If England is the competitive league and Man City have won 10 of their first 11 and drawn the other game that they were leading 2-0 I believe at one stage and beat the 2nd place team 6-1 on their home ground, what exactly does that say for Spain?" says David. "They have scored 39 goals in 11 games btw and Madrid have 39 in 11 as it stands." I think it says that money talks.
86 min: Calleja is replaced by Timor.
87 min: Ronaldo hits the bar with a miscued cross. Even when he's bad, he's good. He raced behind Lolo on the left and then tried to find Benzema in the middle, only to slice the ball miles off target with his left foot, over Fernandez and on to the face of the bar.
89 min: A long clearance from Osasuna goes all the way through to Casillas. In the context of this match, that counts as a shot on target for them.
Peep! Peep! Peep! The referee plays four seconds of stoppage time and promptly decides Osasuna have had enough. Real Madrid go four points clear ahead of Barcelona, who play Athletic Bilbao tonight. Madrid were brilliant, before and after the red card, with Ronaldo (yet another hat-trick) and Di Maria the stand-out players. Poor Osasuna. At least they got a souvenir goal. Thanks for reading. Bye.