It's been just a few nights since the biggest club fixture in world football took centre stage, as all eyes were on the Camp Nou, where Barcelona hosted Real Madrid in El ClÃ¡sico.
The atmosphere was electric right up until the 35th minute, when a brilliantly worked goal finished beautifully by the Beast, Julio Baptista, sent the home fans into stunned silence.
Real played a near-perfect away performance of defiant counterattacking to which the blaugrana had no answer as it finished 1-0.
Going into the game the message was clear: no matter the result, Real Madrid would enter the break on top, and Barcelona simply could not afford to lose.
They did, however, and now the future of stars such as Ronaldinho and Deco are in contention, as well as manager Frank Rijkaard.
Real's eccentric President Ramon Calderon had guaranteed a 10-point lead by the winter break many weeks ago and, not for the first time in his tenure, his words were laughed off.
However, his estimate is a lot closer to the truth than most had probably envisioned at the time, with Madrid now having played 17 of the 38 league fixtures, being seven points clear at the top of the table.
Though less convincing in the Champions League and Copa del Rey, Real remain in strong positions to progress in both, as Bernd Schuster's first season at the helm is going as well as he could have hoped.
Smells like Team Spirit
It was the unity, determination and belief that saw los Blancos' exceptional end of season run last year lead them to the title, and despite new management and many new players, that same togetherness is continuing to make the difference this time around.
Much of that can be put down to club captain RaÃºl. Along with his admirable return to goal-scoring form, his ability to galvanise and inspire the team through all sorts of adversity in recent times has been evidenced by the fact that he receives unrivalled praise for his ability and his attitude from team-mates and opponents alike.
Real's exuberance is not something often associated with top sides on the continent, thus one feels if they can keep that hunger alive along with the flair football to be expected from the nine-time European Cup winners, they could become a truly dominant force in world football once again.
Putting on a Spectacle
Removing the spectacled manager Fabio Capello from the bench was done firmly with the intention of returning the spectacle of â€˜attractive football' to the pitch. Don Fabio was sacked at the end of last season despite leading los Merengues to a priceless league championship, allegedly because his style of football wasn't satisfactory for the Madrid fans.
In truth, little has changed. Many myths about Capello considered, the football was never as poor as has been made out; the Italian tactician's success merely came at a price of defamation from usually inferior and less successful counterparts. That's not to say there wasn't a defensive style to Capello's double-pivot football, but it was not bad football by any means; Capello wasn't given the time recreate his great footballing sides of Milan and Juventus at Madrid.
Schuster is now suffering from the same problem purely because, like Capello, he is inheriting a disjointed team and still in the process of building. Neither good nor flair football can transpire by means of pure ability â€“ familiarity and confidence are required amongst the team in order to play with that level of understanding and fluency, and such a thing can only come with time; suffices to say nobody should be given more time than they are worth, but the German tactician has barely put a foot wrong thus far.
Yesterday was the near-perfect execution of counterattacking football. It was â€˜good' football; it was â€˜Capello' football at its best. Madrid fans were overjoyed, impressed and thoroughly entertained by the skill on show, despite the game being low on goalmouth action. The Madrid board â€“ along with much of the general media â€“ have managed to misconceive the public as simpletons who need hundreds of shots and step-overs to be entertained, when in truth, good football is all they ask for.
Campeon Half-Way There
Real Madrid are half way through the season, but shouldn't be thinking in terms of this season's titles: the cups are far too unpredictable and recent seasons in La Liga have shown that no points advantage guarantees the title.
Instead, los Merengues should be thinking in terms of being half way through their development. Barcelona were powerless against their defense, Valencia were thrashed by their offensive line and Mallorca witnessed their unstoppable resolve â€“ their problem has been bringing these elements together.
The key is keeping their feet on the ground which, to their credit, they have done well so far, but must continue to do. Also, they must play together over an extended period, as past great sides such as Milan, Bayern Munich and Manchester United have done, before they can reach such dizzy heights again.
Should the board stick with Bernd Schuster, as they have vowed, it is his job to continue his good work with some finishing touches to the starting line-up â€“ particularly in midfield â€“ to improve the cohesion and all-round strength in possession. From there, all this young, talented squad will need is time to play together and great success is sure to lie ahead.