The more things change, the more they stay the same.
An old adage it may be but it is one that can certainly be reasonably used in relation to Saturday's El Derbi as Real Madrid sauntered to a 2-0 triumph over rivals Atletico.
If a week is a long time in politics then it must feel like an eternity in football and certainly the events of the past seven days have markedly changed the outlook for Zinedine Zidane and his Real Madrid Galacticos.
Only 11 days have passed since a lifeless 2-0 defeat at Shakhtar Donetsk left Madrid's chances of qualifying from the Champions League group stages hanging as precariously as the last leaf on an autumnal tree.
That setback had followed the insipid 2-1 home loss to Deportivo Alaves - the latest deafening alarm bell in a LaLiga title defence that has also witnessed Los Blancos beaten on their own patch by Cadiz and dismantled 4-1 at Valencia.
Conversely, the situation across the capital could scarcely have been more rosy for Atletico.
Ten LaLiga games played, zero defeats, eight wins, only two goals conceded, not once trailing in any league game and comfortably into the Champions League 16 - even if a record of two wins, three draws and a defeat appears miserly compared to the 16 points accrued by pool winners Bayern Munich.
So, what to do in such a pickle of situation. For Zidane, the solution has been rather simple; stick to what you know.
1 - Atlético de Madrid have lost a LaLiga game for the first time since February 2020, also against Real Madrid (1-0), ending with a run of 26 league games without a defeat, their longest unbeaten run in the competition’s history (GP26 W17 D9). Brake#RealMadridAtleti #ElDerbi pic.twitter.com/aXBSR0TWOc— OptaJose (@OptaJose) December 12, 2020
Tried and tested help Madrid out the malaise
As with everything in football, indeed life, there is context behind Madrid's mixed fortunes thus far in 2020-21.
Injuries to key men have combined with a lethargy so completely at odds with their relentless drive to the title in the strangest of 2019-20 seasons.
Sergio Ramos, Karim Benzema, Eden Hazard, Dani Carvajal, Nacho Fernandez, Eder Militao, Casemiro and Luka Jovic have all missed various amounts of game time, meaning it has been difficult for Madrid to go with a settled XI.
The issue is in the circus-like world of Real Madrid, context doesn't tend to buy you much time. Nor too does sentiment. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that had this week played out differently, Zidane's plethora of honours over two spells as coach would have done little to assuage a ruthless boardroom.
But a 1-0 win at Sevilla preceded a 2-0 triumph over Borussia Monchengladbach - a performance Zidane described as Madrid's most complete of the campaign - to secure a Champions League last-16 berth and keep the wolves at bay.
And then this. The juiciest of cherries atop the cake, a derby win in the most comfortable fashion.
In each game, Zidane has gone with his most trusted midfield lieutenants in Casemiro, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos - a combination that has played together just three times in total in LaLiga this season.
One of those games was the aforementioned Alaves setback, a loss that perhaps led some credence to the school of thought that an aging Madrid squad is in need of a reshape.
But the terrific trio remain crucial to Madrid and so it proved here. The centre of the park was dominated by Los Blancos, goalscorer Casemiro completed 45 of 48 passes (93.8 per cent success rate) and Modric 69 of 77 for 89.6 per cent. Incredibly, Kroos was successful with 87 of his 90 passes (96.7 per cent) - finishing with an assist and two key passes.
Even beyond the trusted triumvirate, the return of talismanic captain Ramos - absent against Alaves and Shakhtar - has again been so crucial for Zidane. He too barely put a foot wrong - making 63 of 67 passes and commanding a Madrid defence to a third straight clean sheet since returning.
Perhaps most notable for Zidane is the fact he has finally been able to get some fluency to his line-up. The only alteration from the prior two wins was the return of Carvajal - whose well controlled volley helped double Madrid's lead, albeit with a hint of fortune from the post and the back of Jan Oblak - at full-back, which pushed Lucas Vazquez onto the wing in place of Rodrygo Goes.
Madrid have now won two of the three games in LaLiga when Casemiro, Kroos and Modric have started. A deeper delve sees five wins from five when Thibaut Courtois, Ramos, Casemiro and Benzema are all in the same line-up.
0 - @realmadriden didn’t allow the opposition a single first half shot against @atletienglish in @LaLigaEN for the first time since at least 2003/04. Sobriety.#RealMadridAtleti #ElDerbi pic.twitter.com/8uXKEQMoPu— OptaJose (@OptaJose) December 12, 2020
Simeone's El Derbi hoodoo
You probably don't need to be a fly on the wall to imagine Simeone will have exchanged a few cross words at half-time as the most stoic of defences surrendered the lead to a goal so basic it could have been seen in park football.
A Kroos cross into the box and a planted Casemiro header - a simple set-piece the undoing of a defence usually as watertight as a window on the side of a cruise ship.
Even after that 15th-minute set-back, it was disappointing to see an Atleti attack of Luis Suarez and Joao Felix barely lay a glove on their opponents.
Joao Felix has been a forward reborn in LaLiga after a difficult debut campaign, aided by the arrival of his veteran strike partner from Barcelona, but on this occasion the Portuguese flopped.
He failed to muster a single shot at goal and completed just 68.8 per cent of passes in the opposition half before he was hooked on the hour. In fairness, Suarez - now without a goal in his past three LaLiga matches against Madrid - fared little better registering just a single blocked shot.
In total there was just one Atleti effort on target, although Thomas Lemar's wastefulness 10 minutes into the second half when he side-footed wide with the goal gaping may have altered the course of the game.
Simeone has now seen his side fail to beat Madrid in nine straight LaLiga outings. The situation is still extremely optimistic, with Atleti top of LaLiga and three points clear of their third-place rivals having played a game fewer.
But any idea of a changing of the guard in Madrid can be parked for the time being.