Unbeaten in their last 24 games, Carlo Ancelotti's side have closed the gap at the top of La Liga. Barça, Madrid and Atletico, who surprisingly lost at Almeria at the weekend, are all on 57 points from 23 games in the best title race since the big two became so powerful it weakened the rest. They're all still to play each other in the league again too.
Madrid also beat cup holders Atletico Madrid, their neighbours who were above them in the league, 3-0 and 2-0 in the Copa del Rey in the last week. Ronaldo got both goals (both penalties) in Tuesday's win at the Calderon, though he's currently banned for three league games after his recent red card in Bilbao.
Madrid will play in the final, probably against Barcelona who lead Real Sociedad 2-0 from the first leg of their semi-final ahead of tonight's second leg in San Sebastian.
The BBC of Bale, Benzema and Cristiano are winning the plaudits and Ancelotti complimented for bringing his team to the boil at exactly the right time in the season ahead of their last-16 tie against Schalke 04. It's a happy time at the Bernabeu after a bumpy start to the season though Ronaldo claimed that his side are not "obsessed" by winning a record 10th European Cup - La decima, while admitting it's the club's priority.
Madrid's players get the plaudits, but there are other cool heads at the club including Ancelotti's English assistant Paul Clement.
The son of former Queens Park Rangers and England defender Dave, Clement is one of the few English coaches working abroad at the highest level. The 41-year-old Londoner works alongside Zinedine Zidane, leading training for some of the best footballers on the planet. Ancelotti didn’t appoint Clement out of benevolence, but describes him as “one of the most dynamic and intelligent” coaches with whom he has worked.
After playing non-league near his native Sutton in London, he switched attentions to becoming a coach, first, aged 23, at Chelsea's centre of excellence as Glenn Hoddle changed the playing style at the club, while also holding down a full-time job as a physical education instructor.
“Teaching gave me a foundation: organisation, planning, understanding different learning styles and needs, the importance of good communication. I've taken that into my coaching,” he said.
Clement obtained his UEFA ‘A’ coaching licence in 1999 alongside Liverpool coach Brendan Rodgers and became a full-time football coach a year later when he was appointed at Fulham's academy, where he worked with Jean Tigana. He also helped train the Republic of Ireland U-21s for three years.
In 2007, Chelsea made an offer for him to return, where he started as Under-16 coach before graduating to the youth team, then the reserves and then graduating to the first team during Guus Hiddink’s spell as caretaker boss. He found the transition between four teams and age groups in three years difficult, but he’d excelled to earn those promotions.
Hiddink impressed the young coach with his charisma, people skills and linguistic ability as Chelsea won the FA Cup and reached the 2009 Champions League semi-finals, losing out to Barcelona and a dramatic late Andres Iniesta goal.
He stayed at Chelsea when Ancelotti replaced Hiddink and helped them win the domestic double in 2010. When Ancelotti left Chelsea, Clement moved to Blackburn Rovers as an assistant to Steve Kean during an inglorious reign. It wasn’t long before Ancelotti found a new job and asked Clement to join him in Paris St Germain.
Clement crossed the English Channel, took three hours of French classes each day and was part of the team which won the Ligue 1 in 2013. David Beckham, with whom Clement worked closely, was the most famous Englishman at PSG, but the assistant coach was the rising star behind the scenes. Nor were they the only English or former members of Chelsea's backroom staff there.
Jack Naylor and Nick Broad revamped PSG’s Sports Science department, until tragedy befell the club when Broad’s car broke down on the motorway hard shoulder on the way to training. Broad called Clement to say he was waiting to be picked up. A car ploughed into Broad’s static Mini. Broad was killed, aged 38.
Ancelotti moved to Madrid and Clement, a father of two, was happy to follow in July 2013. Clement has ambitions to go into management himself and said: “I’d like to think there's a chairman out there who will look at me and think ‘he’s had a good apprenticeship’.
“Some chairmen still like the traditional style of manager but others prefer a more innovative coach with fresh ideas; somebody with a thirst for learning what’s out there, who's travelled the world looking at different methods. I certainly hope more clubs will give opportunities to younger coaches like Brendan (Rogers).”
Clement is happy at Madrid, where he coaches some of the best players in the world.
How does he do it?
"You reduce the time and space so they think quicker and have to act quicker," he said of players like Bale.
As his stock continues to rise, don't be surprised if he gets an even bigger opportunity there or elsewhere in the future.
Andy Mitten - on Twitter @AndyMitten
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