As with most of the other ‘big five’ European leagues, La Liga has seen its fair share of strange results this season.
Although Barcelona are getting it together now, the beginning of their campaign was the worst start they’d had in 33 years. After losing at Cádiz on December 5, they’d acquired just 14 points from their opening 10 matches. Not since the 1987/88 campaign, with 13 points from the first 10 games, had they performed so poorly out of the traps.
Credit to Ronald Koeman then for steadying the ship in what must be said are still very trying times for the Catalans.
If anything, Real Madrid have fared even worse. They didn’t have the excuse of falling apart at the back end of 2020 unlike Barça, nor the furore caused by their best-ever player wanting to leave the club and all that entailed.
Yet here they are, out of the Copa del Rey after losing to part-timers, Alcoyano, a result that Spanish media said was the worst in club history, struggling in the Champions League and behind their eternal rivals in the table for the first time this season thanks to not being able to beat the likes of Levante, Alavés and Cádiz at home.
Zinedine Zidane’s insistence in sticking with his tried and tested generals rather than the youthful revolution that was promised has come back to bite the Frenchman, and it’s sure to be an interesting summer at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Messi v Suárez… Did Barca sell the wrong one?
It’s a loaded question, but certainly worth asking.
Luis Suárez always knew where the goal was at Barcelona, but he had gone off the boil in several matches. A lack of speed against the best defensive exponents began to show, and though the club didn’t handle his departure with anything like the good grace he deserved, owing to his goals and trophy-laden time at the club, there was a valid argument that a new face would freshen the attack up a bit.
Allowing El Pistolero to end up at a direct rival, however, was never going to end well for the blaugranes, particularly a club in Atlético Madrid who suit Suárez’s style down to the ground.
Fourteen goals so far is a brilliant return, and he currently leads former strike partner Messi in the ‘Pichichi’ top scorer standings.
If nothing else, that will give the Argentinian the motivation to keep at it for the remainder of the season.
If his mind is elsewhere, he’s certainly not showing it.
He promised to lead by example after agreeing to stay and has been true to his word. Though it’s not been a vintage season for him by any means, name a striker that wouldn’t take a haul of 13 goals in 21 games at this stage of the campaign.
Frankly, Barça would never sell Messi. He would have to leave. But, that precise scenario could come to bear no matter which president is elected next month.
So... Can Atletico do it?
The short answer is yes, absolutely.
It’s been seven long years since their last league triumph, an epic final day draw at Camp Nou which meant Diego Simeone’s side triumphed and not Barça, who would’ve earned another crown with a victory.
This time around, the Rojiblancos are taking on all comers.
In a season full of inconsistencies elsewhere, they have remained steadfast in their belief in each other and their way of playing.
Sixteen wins from their opening 19 league games tells its own story, and the ‘all for one and one for all’ mentality that Simeone loves to engender amongst his players has served them very well indeed.
Seven points ahead of their nearest rivals (at the time of writing) and with two games in hand… only a fool would bet against Atleti at this stage.