We might well look back in May to this weekend, week 20 in the schedule, when the La Liga title race was over. Playing last, Real Madrid were able to watch title rivals Barcelona draw 1-1 at Real Betis and then saw Sevilla lose 3-1 to Espanyol.
The European and World Champions were able to take advantage of the slip-ups by their rivals to beat Real Sociedad 3-0 at home to extend their lead at the top of the table to four points with a game in hand. Is the title race over?
If Real are to win their first La LIga title in five years they will need Cristiano Ronaldo to return to his best form, and there were signs that was happening on Sunday as Ronaldo created Real’s first goal and scored the second.
Madrid are coping with various injuries, as well as long-term absentee Gareth Bale they were also missing Luka Modric, Marcelo and Dani Carvajal and Pepe, four regular starters.
However these problems didn’t stop the notoriously tetchy Santiago Bernabeu supporters from turning on the team during the first half as they struggled to get on top of their Basque opponents.
After just 23 minutes fans started to grumble, with Ronaldo and Karim Benzema the main targets for whistles.
Eventually Madrid’s breakthrough came in the 38th minute, against the run of play, when Ronaldo slipped through Mateo Kovacic and the Croatian slotted home from just inside the area past the onrushing Geronimo Rulli.
Manchester City have an option to buy on the Argentine stopper and given Claudio Bravo’s form may be thinking about executing it, but he could have done more for the goal, jumping forwards instead of spreading himself as Kovacic shaped to shoot.
It was one of the few goalscoring opportunities created in a first half as drab as the Madrid weather — cold and rainy.
Willian Jose drew a save from Keylor Navas with a free-kick for Sociedad, while beyond the goal and a dangerous cross from Lucas Vazquez, Madrid had little to offer.
They doubled the lead early in the second half. Ronaldo was played in by Toni Kroos in a similar move to the opening goal, with the striker dinking the ball over Rulli in the 51st minute.
It was Ronaldo’s 13th goal in his last 13 games, brilliantly taken, with the forward showing he is as prolific as ever, despite the criticism that has found him recently.
Ronaldo nearly added another assist when he whipped in a free kick which was headed home by Alvaro Morata, but the striker strayed offside before reaching it and the goal was ruled out.
Rulli then gave the ball away to Vazquez with a poor pass — another warning for Manchester City — but he made amends by saving the winger’s effort.
Real Sociedad were collapsing and Inigo Martinez was sent off for receiving his second yellow card, the first after tangling with Ronaldo, the second well deserved as he clumsily crashed into Casemiro.
Morata eventually got his goal at the end of a lethal break, with Ronaldo feeding Danilo, who shuffled it on to Vazquez, who curled in a tasty ball that the striker gobbled up at the back post.
His header should have been kept out by Rulli though, a third big error by the goalkeeper, a shame for him on a big night after a generally impressive season.
Ronaldo thought he added a fourth in the 90th minute but he was correctly ruled offside.
Although the scoreline made this look like a hammering, the truth is Madrid still haven’t found their best form after their 40 match unbeaten run was ended by Sevilla a fortnight ago.
This was a step in the right direction, for both Madrid and Ronaldo, who showed the fans why they should be a little more patient with him and their side.