Luka Modric had just won his MVP trophy after the Spanish Super Cup final when Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti started yelling at him from afar.
“You missed a pass,” complained Ancelotti, waving his arms as Modric approached. “You sent the ball over the touchline.”
Modric started to smile. The two kissed quickly.
The missed pass seems to be the only thing that has gone wrong for Madrid this season.
Behind another solid performance from Modric and his teammates on Sunday, Madrid comfortably beat Athletic Bilbao 2-0 in the Super Cup final in Saudi Arabia to cement their status as Spain’s hottest side.
“It’s always important to win the first title of the season,” said Modric. “But there is still a lot to play for in the Copa del Rey, the Spanish league and the Champions League. We have to keep this momentum going. We played well, with a lot of confidence. This title will motivate us even more in the future. .
After failing to lift a trophy last season for the first time in over a decade, things have changed for the better for the Spanish powerhouse with Ancelotti having replaced Zinedine Zidane.
The veteran coach quickly got the team back on track, blending experience and youth to make it more competitive than a year ago.
Karim Benzema has the perfect partnership with Vinícius Júnior in attack, while Eduardo Camavinga has added freshness to an experienced midfielder who has relied on Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro.
Veteran keeper Thibaut Courtois leads a defense that lost Sergio Ramos but performed well with Éder Militão and David Alaba.
Ancelotti’s Madrid often didn’t pay too much attention to possession and thrived on counter-attacks, which is how they did the most damage. That was the case both times he beat Barcelona this season – in the Spanish league at Camp Nou and last week in the Super Cup semi-finals.
Madrid also picked up league wins over Atlético Madrid and Sevilla, who are their closest challengers, five points adrift with one game less. Atlético and Barcelona are more than 15 points behind Madrid at the half-term.
Ancelotti’s side have the best attack in the league with 45 goals in 21 matches, 12 more than any other side. He also has one of the best defenses with 18 goals conceded, showing a balance that wasn’t always there at the end of Zidane’s stint.
Ancelotti changed formation often and said he was proud of how the players were able to adapt to different circumstances.
“We can play in many different ways. That’s the strength of this team,” Ancelotti said. “I love watching the team play. We are strong enough to fight for all the competitions we still have left.
Madrid are in the Copa del Rey round of 16 and the Champions League round of 16, the competition he won with Madrid during his first stint with the club in 2014.
The team’s next game is Thursday at Elche in the Copa del Rey. He plays Elche again in the league on Sunday.
Madrid will face Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League Round of 16 in February.
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