FC Barcelona's coach rolled into Barajas Terminal Three last night to find the lights off, the doors to the departure lounge locked and no one around. Their plane was there somewhere, out beyond the security arch, standing silently on the runway, but there was no one to let them in or let them on. Boarding cards were one thing, boarding another. An entire team, pressed up against the glass like a bunch of Benjamin Braddocks, peering though powerlessly. Stuck. This was one catenaccio they couldn't unlock. They'd need a Policía Nacional to do it and there wasn't one in sight. They must have had something better to do. And then the peseta dropped: they did have something better to do: watch the Madrid derby.
That, at least, was the excuse, the joke that went round as the wait went on – first, 15 minutes, then 30, then 40, and finally an hour. It was just a pity it wasn't true. The truth was that the travel agents had got it wrong again. The same company that had the Barcelona president Sandro Rosell throwing a tantrum by booking them a flight on Sporting Braga's plane – and it is pretty embarrassing to be flying in a huge white vessel with 'Sporting Knickers' splashed across the side, for that, boys and girls, is what 'Braga' means in Spanish – had got the times all wrong. The plane that was supposed to take off at 10.30pm had been booked for 11.30pm.
Besides, the Madrid derby was already all over – even if there were still 20 minutes to go. It was all over with 20 minutes gone. It was all over before Barcelona had even left the Alfonso Pérez Coliseum, 25km south, where they had beaten Getafe 3-1 thanks to a devastating first half in which the home side had only 26% of possession because Jordi Codina took his time over the goal-kicks. Barcelona had kicked off at 7pm and finished at 8.50pm, Leo Messi and David Villa getting gorgeous goals, Pedro adding the other. By 9.20pm, while Dani Alves was warning against treating this as a two-game season even though it's looking like being exactly that, before Barcelona had even boarded the bus let alone their plane, Madrid were 2-0 up. Although the scorers Ricardo Carvalho and Mesut Ozil are new faces, a familiar story was unfolding.
In fact, sod 9.20pm. It's tempting to declare the Madrid derby over before it had even begun. After all, there was only ever going to be one result. Atlético have now gone 4,024 days without beating Real Madrid. More than 60 teams have defeated Madrid since 1999 but Atlético are not one of them, despite having 18 goes at it. The last time they won was last century and it was also irrelevant: they were relegated anyway. "Atlético are like a branch of Real Madrid's bank – a cashpoint where they turn up a couple of times a year and withdraw six points," shrugged Roberto Palomar.
"The song," complained Led Zep-loving FJ Díaz in AS, "remains the same. I knew it: two goals in five minutes, lots of chances, a penalty denied, Casillas saving Madrid, a shot against the post … just like all the other times." It was, said El Mundo, "the derby we've been watching all our lives". Even the Atlético Madrid coach, Quique Sánchez Flores, said: "It was the game we expected."
Only it wasn't. In a way it was worse. Much worse. In the past, Atlético invented a million different ways of losing, each more absurd and implausible than the last, each layered with greater pathos and darker comedy. Not any more. Not now. Not last night. It is true that Atléti should have had a penalty (and possibly even a red) for a handball by Xabi Alonso, that Diego Forlán hit a post, and that Iker Casillas made more saves than in any game this season. It was true that, as José Mourinho put it, "Atlético caused us more problems than anyone else." And you could maybe even half agree with Sánchez-Flores when he said the "real difference was the effectiveness in front of goal", when he claimed, "I didn't see Cristiano Ronaldo out there tonight", and when he said Madrid's two had come from specific, isolated moments: a breakaway and a free-kick.
You could even understand why the Atléti coach seemed so satisfied. Except that for all Atléti's chances – and they were isolated rather than constant; for all Casillas's saves – and they were largely saves he should make; for all that Madrid didn't create a huge amount – but Gonzalo Higuaín did hit a post and Madrid should have had a penalty themselves – in the pine-panelled press room of the Bernabéu, Mourinho kept repeating the same word: "control".
Rarely did his side look uncomfortable. The derby lasted 20 minutes – Carvalho scored on 12, after José Antonio Reyes was tackled by a particularly vicious-looking tuft of grass, Ozil got the other after 18 with a clever curling free-kick, and that was pretty much it. Yes, it was good in patches. But as a contest, as a derby, as an event, it was all a bit meh. In the past, at least there was drama, even if you did know how it would end.
"Mourinho," moaned TV's David Gistau, "is a bit of a knicker-teaser: he gets them all warmed up and them turns his back." As Santi Segurola put it: "A single round was enough to win the fight. Madrid didn't need more."
And while Sánchez-Flores was entitled to feel reasonably satisfied, surely a coach should never be so satisfied, so calm, so unperturbed by defeat in a derby. But then he said it: "The question was whether we would leave here varapaleados". Varapaleados: in pieces, torn to shreds, beaten to a pulp. Real Madrid and Barcelona are starting to change the rules. Getting beaten is no longer bad, even for Atlético. Especially for Atlético. Only getting beaten badly is. Getting beaten is normal. And that changes everything – the very nature of games. Of occasions. This is supposed to be a derby, a battle. But the difference is huge: last season Madrid finished 49 points above Atlético; 10 games into this one they're already 12 points ahead. If it takes two to tango, it takes two to tussle as well.
Tomás Roncero and Manolete can imitate two tramps mashed up on meths and furiously arguing the toss outside a metro at 5am by staging a week-long "debate", but that doesn't make it a derby. Especially not at the Bernabéu. Nor do long previews, five-a-sides or table-football competitions. Or lists of the very important people crowding the directors' box. Or former players saying this used to be Real Madrid's biggest game. Yeah, used to. What does is competition, rivalry, edge, atmosphere, nerves, uncertainty, emotion. And, right now, that's lacking.
"I'm not here to win derbies, I'm here to win titles," Mourinho said before the game; "these are three important points – just like any others," he said after the game.
"Madrid aren't that cocky and even Atlético aren't that depressed", as Palomar put it. They're supposed to be hurting but they have become comfortably numb.
In the Santiago Bernabéu stands this quickly felt like any other game; the goals brought joy but maybe too quickly, too definitively. Soon it was all so very … normal. With five minutes still to go on the Castellana, and Barcelona's players still waiting at Barajas, the result everyone expected all but confirmed, Real Madrid's fans started streaming silently for the exit. It was all over. Including the shouting. It had been from the start.
• Poor Villarreal. In any other season, with any other rivals, everyone would be raving about just how brilliant they are. They hammered Athletic Bilbao 4-1 last night to continue their 100% record at home and stay two points behind Barcelona and three behind Madrid. And before anyone says. 'yes but they got lucky with a total gift from Gorka Iraizoz and red card for Aurtenetxe', they had already missed countless chances before Giuseppe Rossi got the third in the 82nd minute (his seventh of a superb season) and Montero made it 4-1 four minutes from the end. As Rossi put it: "I wanted to kill myself because I had the chances to close the game, but better late than never, right?" Which is a bit extreme, but you know what he means.
• Hang on a minute, is that Espanyol in a Champions League place? Bloody hell, it is you know. Mauricio Pochettino's team are the only side to match Real Madrid and Villarreal in winning all five of their home games so far this season. And while it hasn't always been dazzling – three of them have been 1‑0s, against Almería, Málaga and Osasuna, and their only away win was 1-0 at Osasuna – and while they could be caught by Valencia tonight, they are proving strong, aggressive and hard to break down. Saturday's win came thanks to a rocket from Márquez after 58 seconds against Málaga – who, as of yesterday, are under new management. Manuel Pellegrini is back. And you can imagine how happy Marca is about that. The build-up to Madrid-Málaga should be fun. If a little vile.
• Hang on another minute, is that Real Sociedad in a Europa League place? And with eight youth-teamers in their starting XI? Bloody hell, it is you know.
• This week's greatest charmer is Luis Oliver, the gentleman with slicked-back-hair who bought Manuel Ruiz de Lopera's shares and took over at Real Betis this summer – just as he once took over at Cartagena and Xerez (whose players coincidentally ended up going without pay and who ended up in administration). Only, some think he didn't actually buy the shares from Lopera; one of the administrators is accusing him of being little more than a front for the Prince of Darkness. A local judge has suspended the sale and the club is in administration. Meanwhile, the fans are furious and Oliver is being investigated. With, he says, 50 civil guards trailing him everywhere. "Not even the Nazis did what this mad woman [the judge] is doing to me," Oliver moaned with the kind of perspective and historical awareness normally reserved for the Pope (who was in Barcelona this weekend and got it so wrong on so many levels, you hardly know where to start). But Oliver wasn't finished there, oh no. Sick of all the abuse directed his way, the taunting had got so bad that he complained that: "All that's left is for them to call me black, or Muslim."
Results: Real Sociedad 1-0 Racing, Espanyol 1-0 Málaga, Zaragoza 3-2 Mallorca, Almería 1-1 Sporting, Osasuna 3-0 Hércules, Levante 1-2 Deportivo, Villarreal 4-1 Athletic, Getafe 1-3 Barcelona, Madrid 2-0 Atlético. Tonight: Sevilla v Valencia