Suddenly, and in less than one week, Real Madrid’s comfortable 10 point lead has shrunk into a mere 6 point advantage with Barcelona in hot pursuit of the top spot in La Liga. Barca’s star Lionel Messi has been in top form in recent weeks as confirmed by his scoring exploits in both the Champions League and in Spain.
As for Real, the 11 match winning streak came to an end over the weekend after a disappointing home draw against Malaga. This was followed by another draw away to struggling Villarreal.
Below are some of the reasons why the league title will still end up in Madrid despite those two disappointing draws:
1) Six Point Lead: Real remain on top with 10 matches left. Even if Los Blancos lose at the Camp Nou, Barca will only be able to cut the lead to three points. Real could win their remaining fixtures or Barca might drop a few points in the last 10 games.
2) Cristiano Ronaldo: The Portuguese star has been scoring on a regular basis and he already has scored 32 times this season in La Liga. It is difficult seeing opposing teams being able to stop Ronaldo from scoring.
3) Away Record: Los Blancos have won an impressive 11 matches out of the 14 fixtures played away from Madrid. That is by far the best away record in La Liga.
4) Goals Scored: The Madrid side has the best attack in Spain with 90 goals with Barca’s attack coming in second place with 82 goals. Jose Mourinho has capable scorers in Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema who have scored 17 and 14 goals respectively in La Liga. On the other hand, Barca’s attack seems to be much more dependent on Messi who has managed 34 goals while Xavi is the club’s second top scorer with just 10 league goals.
Below are some reasons as to why the league title will remain in Barcelona for another season:
1) Messi: The attacking wizard has been unstoppable in recent weeks with records continuing to fall as a result of Messi’s scoring exploits. Lionel is already Barca’s all-time leading scorer while his 5 goals in the return leg of the Champions League against Bayer Leverkusen proved once again the young genius can achieve almost anything on the pitch when he is at his best. Supporters and pundits as well as opposing fans have run out words to describe the great Argentine star.
2) Home Game vs. Real: Barca will host Los Blancos at the Camp Nou on April 22nd. This is perhaps the biggest opportunity to inflict a morale damaging defeat upon bitter rivals Real. If the point difference stays the same ahead of this clash, then a home win for Barca can slash the gap to just three points with four matches to go before the end of the season. The reason this is a crucial match is because the Catalans have had the advantage in league play since Mourinho took over in Madrid.
3) Real’s Lack of Discipline: The clashes in El Clasico have shown that players from both clubs tend to face difficulty controlling their temper when playing against each other. However, Real’s players seem to be more prone to making mistakes while displaying erratic behavior. Real’s Pepe infamous stamp on Messi’s hand is one obvious example of the reckless approach of certain players under Mourinho’s charge.
Losing your temper in a top clash might make sense, but to lose two players against Villarreal and in the last 5 minutes is unacceptable. Both Sergio Ramos, a volatile defender who has often been involved in controversial incidents, and Mesut Ozil were sent-off towards the end of the 1-1 draw in Villarreal.
4) Ease of Schedule: The Catalans have an easier schedule with their most important clash, the one against Real of course, being at home. On the other hand, Los Blancos must still host third place Valencia as well as play away against city rivals Atletico Madrid. A trip to face ninth-place Athletic Bilbao might prove tricky too for Mourinho’s squad.
The next few weeks should prove to be interesting in Spain following Real’s unexpected struggles against Malaga and Villarreal. Both Real and the Catalans are still in Europe so fatigue might not be a factor at this stage. Barca’s Copa del Rey final fixture will not take place before the end of the league season which means it will not alter the weekly preparations for the Catalans or force them to rest players in advance of the Spanish Cup final.