Relentless Real Madrid head to Club World Cup on high after 20th win

COMMENT: Carlo Ancelotti's side were uncomfortable until wrapping up the win at Almeria late on and now head to Morocco on the best-ever streak in the team's history
By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer

It was more difficult than the scoreline suggests. Real Madrid beat Almeria 4-1 away from home to stay on top of La Liga and make it 20 wins in a row in all competitions. Perfect preparation for the Club World Cup, but a tougher test than they would have wanted.

Madrid fly out to Morocco on Sunday looking to add a world championship to the Champions League crown claimed last May in Lisbon. And in their last Liga match of 2014, Carlo Ancelotti's men were forced to dig deep.

In the end, two late goals from Cristiano Ronaldo made it look a lot easier than it was, but Almeria missed a penalty (Iker Casillas' first spot-kick save in La Liga since 2011) at 2-1. The game was wide open until the Portuguese slotted home the third following a fine move involving both Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema.

With Almeria squeezing spaces in the midfield and pressing persistently, Madrid missed the quality, touch and passing of injured pair James Rodriguez and Luka Modric.

Ancelotti finally withdrew Benzema five minutes before the end, after Madrid's third goal, but the Italian was unable to rest any more of his players prior to that because the result was still in doubt.

"At half-time we spoke about how we weren't at our level," Casillas said after the match. "But we reacted well after the penalty."

And Ancelotti added: "We controlled the game. Almeria pressured, but we deserved the win and quality decided it in the end. We are in a good moment."

That is unquestionable. Since losing back-to-back Liga fixtures against Real Sociedad and Atletico early in the season, Madrid have now won 20 consecutive fixtures to set a new club record (the previous best was 15). They have also overtaken the Spanish mark of 18 registered by Frank Rijkaard's Barcelona in 2005-06.

The run started with a 5-1 success versus Basel in the Champions League on September 16 and has continued with wins against Deportivo La Coruna, Villarreal, Elche, Ludogorets (twice), Athletic Bilbao, Levante, Liverpool (twice), Barcelona, Cornella (twice), Granada, Rayo Vallecano, Eibar, Basel again, Malaga, Celta Vigo and now Almeria.

And Friday's match was perhaps one of the toughest tests of that entire streak, giving Madrid food for thought as they prepare to add another trophy to their illustrious collection.

"We are only thinking about winning it," Ancelotti said. "Just like any other competition. But the atmosphere and the moment are good. We will go there full of confidence. I think the Club World Cup comes at a good time for us."

It certainly does come at a good time and Madrid's fine form is surely ominous news for the likes of Cruz Azul and San Lorenzo. Because, however they play, Real are simply unstoppable at the moment.