The La Liga title race this season is proving to be one of the closest in recent years, with Real Madrid leapfrogging the Catalan giants back into the top spot. Real Madrid recorded a massive three points in the El Clasico as goals from Vinicius Junior, and Mariano Diaz saw off Barcelona. Madrid’s victory means they lead the standings on 56 points after 26 games with their arch-rival Barcelona slipping to the second spot on 55 points.
Are Madrid favorites to win La Liga?
Real Madrid ended their long wait for an El Clasico victory against Barcelona to move a point above them. A loss against Levante in the La Liga and Manchester City in their Champions League last 16 first leg tie in the past week heaped a lot of pressure on them, but Zidane did well to motivate his boys to win against Barcelona at the Estadio Santiago de Bernabeu, their first win over their bitter rivals since 2017. Real Madrid last won the league title in 2016/17 season under their current manager Zidane. His first managerial spell with the club saw him win three Champions League trophies and a League title in 3 seasons.
The previous successes have given the Bernabeu faithful some sense of optimism in his second tenure. Real Madrid has only won the La Liga trophy twice in the last decade. As a result, the league remains their biggest priority this season. Zidane and his boys are firm and focused on the league title. Real Madrid possesses quality and depth in the squad. Despite struggling with injuries to key players, the team looks efficient. The experience will be crucial in the latter part of the season, and there are a lot of leaders in the ranks who have seen it all before. What Madrid needs to do is keep on winning game after game. In terms of consistency, Madrid has been prolific so far this season, with the team conceding fewer goals and keeping clean sheets.
Is the season over for Barca?
Barcelona has bagged eight league titles in the past 11 years. They have a core of players used to winning league titles as they perform consistently and relentlessly week in week out. They are second on the league table with a point behind Madrid. The big question is, can Barcelona recover to win this year’s La Liga? There is a certain Lionel Messi who is an x-factor for the team. When he is fit, nothing is impossible. Barcelona could have moved five points clear of the La Liga with another victory at the Santiago Bernabeu but instead got knocked off the top by Real Madrid, but the title race is not over yet with 12 games left to play. Real Madrid now has the advantage after the El Clasico. Barcelona still has some tough and tricky games left to play. This season has been a struggle for the Catalan giants, parting ways with former coach Ernesto Valverde and appointing Quique Setien as the new coach. Injuries have also contributed to the rough season Barcelona has had so far, and the head coach has to contend with the injury crisis with Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele both likely to miss the rest of the season. A few weeks ago, the director of football Eric Abidal questioned the team’s effort under former head coach Valverde, which led to a lot of criticism from star man Lionel Messi.
What next for Real Madrid and Barca?
Looking at the season so far and how Barcelona and Real Madrid have both played, you would expect both teams to drop more points between now and the end of the season. Real Madrid will face Real Betis while Barcelona will play Real Sociedad. These games are very tricky, and any slip for either Madrid or Barca will be an advantage for one. Moving forward, Real Madrid will be looking to win La Liga for the first time since 2017 with a serial winner in head coach Zidane who has won the league before and also has a better bench than Barcelona.
For Barcelona, the over-reliance on Messi is starting to take a toll on both the club and player. He is now 32, and age is not on his side. There are a lot of games left from now to the end of the season. An injury to Messi could change the whole complexion of the title race. It will be intriguing to see how the Catalan club recovers from their recent setback.