After an unexpected break due to the coronavirus outbreak, Spain’s top-flight football league is set to return and the competition is prepped to be intense. As is expected, the resumption of the La Liga means the renewal of the historic rivalry for the title between two Spanish giants – FC Barcelona and Real Madrid.
In the current La Liga table, there’s a mere two-point difference between these two at the top and the contest is sure to go down to the wire. Here we shed some light on the chances that these heavyweights have on clinching the title.
Barcelona truly have the advantage in this La Liga race as they lead their arch-rivals by two points. Quique Setiens’ men are aiming to clinch their third consecutive La Liga title and will be eased back to normalcy with matches against Mallorca and Leganes, who stand 18th and 19th respectively. Since the 2010-11 season, only one side has failed to lift the trophy after being at the summit post 27 matches in the league.
Though the start may seem easy, the road does not appear very smooth for the Catalan giants as they have tricky away fixtures against Sevilla and Villareal soon after. The home matches against Athletic Bilbao and Atletico Madrid will also be testing ones for the La Liga leaders. They are also yet to play their neighbours Espanyol in a Catalan derby at Camp Nou, that shall take place next month.
As for the squad in place, there’s a huge injury concern looming over their star player, Lionel Messi, who currently leads both the Top Scorer and Top Assists charts in the La Liga. Messi has won 10 league titles in the past 15 years, that displays the remarkable consistency he brings to the field for his club. Even though he has missed a couple of training sessions due to a thigh injury, coach Seiten has assured everyone that Messi is in ‘perfect shape’ and will be back for their first match after the restart. Barcelona also have their star striker, Luiz Suarez back who was out for five months with a knee injury.
The jury is still out on Seiten who replaced Ernesto Valverde at the helm in January, and if he is to retain his position at the club, guiding Barcelona to lift the La Liga title would be foremost in his plans.
Zinedine Zidane’s men would have thought that they’ll go into the break leading the La Liga table after a 2-0 drubbing of Barcelona in the El Clasico but their woeful performance against Real Betis saw them dropping points and giving the lead to Barcelona.
Real are unbeaten so far at home and also have one home game more compared to Barcelona, but as witnessed in the Bundesliga, when matches are played behind closed doors, home advantage doesn’t count for much. Madrid are also not going to play at the famous Santiago Bernabeu as it’s gone under renovation and will have to be content with the training ground for their home fixtures. If one was to be pessimistic then you’d see that they have failed to win against four of their upcoming oppositions in Valencia, Athletic Bilbao, Villareal and last but not least, Mallorca, who had caused the upset of the season by beating them 1-0 in October last year.
The Galacticos who are renowned for their attacking prowess has actually been the best defending side of the competition. They’ve just conceded 19 goals throughout the season in all competitions which is fewer than any other club in Europe’s top five leagues. Madrid have also lost just three games in the La Liga this season, which is the lowest by any team in the league. Even Thibaut Courtois, who had a shaky start to the season, has emerged as a dependable keeper so far. The problem, however, has cropped up on the other end of the pitch. This season, Madrid have struggled to score the number of goals we are accustomed to witnessing over the past seasons
Added to this, the debut season of their 100 million star singing, Eden Hazard has been quite unsatisfactory. He has been injured for the majority of the season and whenever he’s been on the pitch he has seemed like a fish out of water. Hazard has finally recovered from his ankle surgery and seems to be ready for the restart. Reports have suggested that he has regained his sharpness and if his hat-trick in the training game is anything to build on then this break could have been a blessing in disguise for the Belgian forward.
The league is not done and dusted yet and everything will be on the line when these two giants of football take to the field. It’s difficult to predict the eventual winner now because knowing the mentality of both the units, they wouldn’t want to accept defeat till the last day of the league.
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