Real Madrid breezed into the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey, dispatching Real Zaragoza 4-0 on their own patch.
The visitors made their statement of intent clear early on in the match, with Raphael Varane reacting quickest to a low center by Toni Kroos, and 26 minutes later, it was 2-0 after Lucas Vasquez got on the scoresheet from yet another Kroos assist.
From then on, there was always going to be one winner and Vinicius Jr grabbed his first goal of the year when he finished a neat one-two with the fit-again James Rodriguez, before substitute Karim Benzema wrapped up the rout with a routine finish 11 minutes from time.
Real Madrid would now wait to know their opponents in the next round, and this was a fine tuneup for their crunch La Liga clash with against rivals Atletico Madrid this weekend.
In this piece, we shall be highlighting three reasons why Real Madrid won the Copa del Rey fixture at the Estadio La Romareda.
#3 Sheer difference in quality
Real Madrid are one of the biggest clubs in the world, with several bonafide world-class players found in every department of the team.
By contrast, their opponents are rather more modest, and even though Real Zaragoza once strutted their stuff in the top-flight of Spanish football in the not-too-distant past, they are currently plying their trade in the second division.
With the exception of former Manchester United man Shinji Kagawa, there are not many other top quality players within the ranks of the hosts, and even though they are currently flying high in the Segunda Division - winning their last three matches on the bounce - the difference in quality between them and Real Madrid was still as clear as daylight.
Barring two brief moments when Kagawa found space but was wasteful, goalkeeper Alphonse Areola was rarely threatened in the Real Madrid goal and Los Blancos were largely in cruise control for most of the match.
#2 Shambolic defending from the hosts
With defenders like Julian Delmas, Javier Atienza, Simone Grippo, and Enrique Clemente protecting Alvaro Raton in goal, it would have been foolhardy to expect world-class defending when they came up against an attack as refined as Real Madrid's.
Head coach Victor Fernandez would have spent a considerable amount of time drilling his defenders on the onslaught that was to come and how best to shape up to absorb it but it took less than six minutes for his side's defence to come crumbling down.
They failed to contain a low square ball by Kroos in the sixth minute, while striker Miguel Linares' decision to dilly dally in front of his box in the buildup to the second goal was foolish to say the least.
While Real Zaragoza might get away with poor defending like this in matches against inferior opposition, against a team like Real Madrid, mistakes like these are always punished and they were first-hand witnesses of this.
#1 Toni Kroos was in inspired form
While he might not get as much praise as the more established 'galactico' members of the Real Madrid squad, Kroos is very much a superstar in every right of the word and has been one of the most important components to all the successes enjoyed by the Spanish giants in the last few years.
After a rather poor showing last season, the German international is back to his best this term and has regularly shown signs of the form that made Real Madrid sign him from Bayern Munich in the summer of 2014.
The 30-year-old was at his sublime best against Real Zaragoza and even though they might not be the most illustrious of opponents, it takes nothing away from what was a fine performance from Kroos.
He grabbed the assist for the opening two goals, while he was also as precise as ever in his ball distribution and retention, playing a key role in ensuring that the hosts never gained a foothold in the match.
With tougher tests coming up in LaLiga and the Champions League, Zinedine Zidane would hope his midfield maestro keeps up his impressive displays in the middle to help his side achieve their season objectives.
Published 30 Jan 2020, 08:21 IST