For the first time since 2006/2007 season, La Liga has turned into a three horse race. That season is remembered for Junade Ramos’s Seville side throwing direct punches to Spanish powerhouses Real Madrid & Barcelona for the title race. However, Seville side lost momentum after 32nd Matchday and Real Madrid eventually claimed the Liga title on head-to-head against Barcelona. As a Blaugrana fan, it was a complete nightmare to see your club give away title on the same points; as a Spanish League fan, it was an unforgettable experience to witness the most exciting title race in Spanish history.
Seven years later, it seems the repeat of 06/07, but this time it’s more neck to neck & tougher to predict. Spanish powerhouses Real Madrid & Barcelona remain in the title hunt as always; however, this time Seville has been replaced Diego Simeone’s aggressive Atletico Madrid. Let’s evaluate summer activities of this Spanish trinity & how brave have the clubs been battling on the Liga road.
Barcelona announced Tata Martino as their new coach, replacing cancer relapsed Tito Vilanova – this move officially marking the end of Guardiola era at the club. Catalan club snapped Brazilian prodigy Neymar; whereas, Real Madrid replaced Jose Mourinho with Italian wizard Carlo Ancelloti and gifted him the world’s most expensive player Gareth Bale, along with Spanish prodigies Isco, Illaramendi & Carvajal. The new Madrid project announced that club legend Zinedine Zidane will be Carlo’s assistant. The other half of Madrid sanctioned sale of their star player, Radamel Falaco for €60 million. Diego Simeone quickly signed five players including David Villa and other lesser known Baptistao, Alderweireld & Guilavogui.
Later in January Diego Ribas & Jose Sosa were added – all signing just for €29 million. The previous season, Atletico ended on 3rd place, finishing 9 points behind runner-ups Real Madrid. With both Real Madrid & Barcelona going through managerial changes and squad overhauls, perhaps destiny was calling Atletico to strike firm ..and so far they are doing it pretty well!
With just seven fixtures to go, this year’s La Liga race is turning out to be spicier than ever. With each Matchday’s end, no one can predict who will be leading the pack. Atletico Madrid has found a new hero: Diego Costa, infamously known for bullying defenders. Costa has netted 25 league goals from a total scored 67 scored by Atleti this season; David Villa has been supporting this cause with his contribution of 13 league goals.
Former Madrid boss, Jose Mourinho recently quoted that: “I am a little surprised. I expected Real Madrid to be higher up, with a greater advantage, because Barcelona has lost a lot more points than they have in the past three seasons”. Well, Ronaldo, Benzema & Bale trio has been clicking extremely well together as CR has netted 28 league goals (currently La Liga’s top scrorer), Benzema has 17 league goals & Bale has so far provided 12 assists the season. Despite all those amazing scoring stats, Real Madrid has failed to beat Atletico Madrid & Barcelona this season in the league, earning just a 1 point from a possible 12. Has Jose Mourinho taken his “rough tough” mentality away with him?
Barcelona were placed first on the league table for a cumulative 23 Matchdays out of the possible 31 played. Neymar’s first season at Catalan club has been a good one, statistically better than compared to Ronaldinho’s & Robinho’s debut seasons in La Liga. It will take time for him to fully adapt at the club, just as Alexis Sanchez took. Sanchez has been sensational this term while Messi was out. Lately, Barcelona’s recent dip in form enabled Atletico to capitalize over both powerhouses.
Indeed this has been a “merry-go-round” this term. With Messi finally returning to his 100% – this race will turn edgier. Barcelona squad has finally adjusted with Tata Martino’s tactics. Messi has now scored 23 league goals, just five behind Ronaldo – whereas, Messi missed out 2 months due to injury, it seems the Argentine is hitting the top form just at the right moment. Since Argentine’s return, he has played a total of 20 games (all competitions) in 2014, amazingly scoring 22 goals & providing 9 assists.
Real Madrid were unbeaten in 31 games in all competitions but eventually have suffered two consecutive defeats to Barcelona & Seville. Within four days, Madrid snapped from 1st to 3rd, well this has been the fluctuating story of La Liga this term. Reports from Madrid dugouts are claiming that Ronaldo is having discomfort in a tendon in his left knee, since that Schalke victory on March 18. Is Madrid repeating the same mistake by playing injured CR as what Barcelona did last year with an injured Messi vs PSG? Only time will tell, until then Atletico fans and football neutrals can celebrate the amazing run on top of La Liga.
The final seven fixtures are tabled above; Barcelona vs Atletico at the final day will be a crucial fixture, before that encounter – Catalan and Rojiblancos meet in a two-legged Champion Leauge’s quarterfinals. These two games will be vital; a victory over Catalans will consolidate Atletico’s mentality whereas a defeat would surely devastate them. Nevertheless, if this time Liga ever ends on equaling points, it’s Barcelona – who will laugh last & the loudest.