La Liga Title Race: Five Things We Have Learnt So Far

The title race continues to heat up in Spanish top flight as Barcelona narrowly defeated Athletic Club 1-0 and Real Madrid claiming all three points at home against Mallorca.

1) Barcelona needs to overhaul their midfield and defence ahead of next season
It has been a long time coming but it is more than obvious at the moment that Barcelona are in dire need of a squad overhaul if they are to sustain their domestic dominance, talk more of rising to the pinnacle of football once again.
The midfield which has been the heartbeat of the club in the past cannot even be compared to a shadow of its former self.

Before his injury woes, we have seen enough of De Jong to be convinced that he is not Iniesta and Arthur is no Xavi.

In defence, Gerard Pique is not the same player and Lenglet is not Carles Puyol despite keeping four consecutive clean sheets since the return of the La Liga.

Barcelona need genuine quality again and must spend in the summer to avoid a catastrophe from happening soon.

2) The Barcelona attack is not any better

Barcelona also have a lot to think about in attack. On paper, they have a very solid attack that should dominate the Spanish top flight but football barely thrives on paper these days.
Messi continues to carry the weight of the team on his shoulders and he is showing signs that age is getting the better of him.
Suarez has also been on the wane for a while and Barcelona needs serious competition for places in his position if they are to take the bulk of the goalscoring responsibilities off Messi’s shoulders. The presence of a firing centre foward would have made a profound difference in the fortunes of the Catalans.

The Blaugrana’s reliance on Ansu Fati is also a testament to the the growing need for reinforcements in attack even if the teenager has performed incredibly anytime he has been called upon. Griezmann is not the same player. These days it’s difficult to understand if he fitting into Barcelona is the problem or the inability of the team to conform to his style of player on the pitch. Many would argue that it should ideally be the former but then Barcelona may have to make a decision over his future soon. Dembele has spent more time on the treatment table than he has on the pitch in his Barcelona career and it’s highly unlikely that he will have any impact on the title race.

3) Vinicius is on fire.
When big hitters like Bale and Hazard are expected to lead the title charge for the Los Blancos, it is Vinicius Jr that has been making the headlines for the Capital City side. For the second game in a row, he has got the man of the match award and got on the scorers sheet twice. He probably wouldn’t have picked his form at a better time. Seeing Hazard brought off while he remained on the pitch for 90 minutes was the highlight of it all.

4) Vamos Ramos
Ramos always makes the headlines for the right and wrong reasons and this season has proven to be his most productive career yet. His delightful free kick on the night is evidence that he’s not just a gritty defender but also a fine footballer. He is one of the best defenders in the world if not the best at the moment.

5) Title Race may drag into the final day.

This season looks like one of those seasons in which the contenders have to wait until the final day to decide who claims the crown. Like Athleti and Barcelona in 2014 and Real Madrid versus Barcelona in 2016, the battle is primed to drag until the last minute of the season. You cannot look away from the possibility of this happening because both teams are level on point with only head to head statistics being the difference between both teams.

The title race is a very interesting one this season and it promises to get better in the coming fixtures. Barcelona have to be on their toes and must win games in their next matches against Celta Vigo, Athletico Madrid, Villarreal and Espanyol. Madrid on the other hand have to ensure they do not slip up against Espanyol, Getafe, Athletic Club and Alaves.

Let us know your thoughts and comments below.

Messi Leads Barcelona To Winning Return Against Marlloca

Lionel Messi scored one and assisted two as Barcelona made a winning return to the La Liga campaign.

Arturo Vidal, Martin Braithwaite and Jordi Alba were also on target as Barcelona ran out 4-0 against Real Mallorca.

Having not played football for three months due to the forced coronavirus break, Barcelona needed a little less than two minutes to take the lead through Vidal’s header.

Lionel Messi then assisted Braithwaite as he scored his first goal for the club just eight minutes to the end of the first half.

Luis Suarez also featured in the game as Barcelona looked sharp all through the game.

Real Madrid loanee Takefusa Kubo was cleverly dispossessed by Frenkie de Jong in midfied who lay the ball of off to Alba to create Vidal’s header.

Kubo looked like he would atone for his mistakes as he forced a save off Marc-Andre Ter Stegen from the edge of the box before being denied again from behind a dead ball.

Prior to this, Messi and Braithwaite had combined to put pressure on the Marlloca defence and their efforts finally yielded results just before the interval in a combative build-up which involved flick ons from De Jong and Messi.

Suarez was brought on in the second half after being out since January due to a knee injury. He proved to be a menace to the Marlloca defence as he created chances that were begging to be converted for Braithwaite and Ronald Araujo.

Messi then set up Jordi Alba with an ingenious flick that ended with an emphatic finish at the near post.

There was enough time for Messi to join the scoring spree for the seventh straight game against Marlloca. He kept his balance and composure to put a right-footed finish at the back of the net.

Antoine Griezmann was almost anonymous all through the game but Barcelona will be happy to stay top of the log.

Barcelona host Leganes at the Camp Nou on Tuesday before travelling to the Ramon Sanchez Pijuan to face Sevilla three days later. Mallorca will clash with Leganes next Friday and face Villarreal next.

Real Madrid suffer consequences of selling Ronaldo

Juventus are reaping the benefits of having a five-time Ballon d’Or winner in his prime while the club he left behind struggle for goals and points

Whether it was arrogance, misplaced faith or just outright stupidity, Real Madrid’s decision to let Cristiano Ronaldo leave for Juventus last summer must surely rank as one of football’s worst decisions in history.

It is clear now, more than halfway through the season, that Madrid have nothing like the firepower required to carry them through this, a season of transition, while Ronaldo continues to rack up the goals in Italy.

Madrid might well have banked €100m for Ronaldo, no small fee for a 33-year-old, but no money could possibly replace what has been taken away. Last season they finished 17 points adrift of Barcelona, by the end of this one they will be begging to be that close.

 

Had they got an adequate replacement then this debate might well be moot. But the fact is that there isn’t a football player alive capable of delivering what Ronaldo delivered for Real. And in a year when they also lost their talismanic coach Zinedine Zidane, the sanctioning of his sale is proving to be catastrophic.

Without a Galactico arrival like Neymar or Kylian Mbappe, they got Mariano Diaz from Lyon instead. He chose the No. 7 shirt to demonstrate that he would be leading a new era at the Santiago Bernabeu. He will do well to score that number of league goals this season.

But all looked rosy in the garden at the start of the season when a more democratic-looking Madrid attack was scoring from all angles and giving Julen Lopetegui the positive start he needed as Madrid coach.

His methods were working well; Karim Benzema’s goal scoring pace picked up. Gareth Bale, finally liberated from the shadow of Ronaldo, became a key component in the line-up and thrived as the main man.

But Madrid’s downturn in form eventually accounted for Lopetegui. Without Ronaldo’s goals they had nowhere to turn once Benzema’s form evaporated and Bale again became injured.

 

Often derided as a flat-track bully, Ronaldo’s prodigious scoring feats were missed in matches Madrid should have been winning handsomely. It’s one thing complaining that Ronaldo only scores in the easy matches, it’s another thing altogether when those so-called easy matches roll around and there is nobody to put the ball in the net with any sort of consistency.

In the Champions League as well as La Liga, Madrid have come up well short. They have scored only 26 goals in their 18 league matches to date. Barcelona, top of the division, have scored almost twice that number on 50.

Unbelievably they are right now sitting outside the Champions League places. There is the very real possibility that unless they win a fourth title in a row, they won’t even be back in the Champions League next season.

What a calamity that would be and a self-imposed one at that.

No one is denying that Madrid were due an overhaul. The president Florentino Perez and general director Jose Angel Sanchez have long since recognised that need. That is why there has been a drastic reduction in the average age of transfer targets with young starlets like Marco Asensio, Theo Hernandez, Dani Ceballos, Alvaro Odriozola, Vinicius Jr and most recently Brahim Diaz coming in.

Madrid’s Champions League core one day will have to be broken up and that is understandable. A result of that will be the elimination from the first team of players like Sergio Ramos, Luka Modric and more of the senior corps. But Ronaldo should have been the last of that group to go and not the first.

They have shown that they can survive the loss of Ramos or Modric. Indeed both have been horrifically out of form this season and should take time to analyse their own contributions. Meanwhile, Ronaldo is still going strong. He has demonstrated that it doesn’t matter who is managing him, who his team-mates are or what league he’s playing in, he will get the goals. He is currently top scorer of Serie A with 14 goals and has also provided an impressive five assists.

His form would have been crucial for Madrid to navigate their way through the pain of this transition season. While they replenished the team elsewhere, the one thing they could have counted on was Ronaldo’s ability to find the net and buy them some wiggle room no matter what was going on elsewhere in the club.

 

Sure, it was not a pretty sale in the end. Sure, there were complications.

Ronaldo was patently unhappy the year before with Madrid’s role – or lack thereof – in his conviction for tax fraud. He wanted a bigger pay cheque, understandable given his status as totem and all-time top scorer. It’s been reported that Perez held out and held out and held out until Ronaldo’s bluff was called and he actually did take his leave from the Bernabeu.

He is right to feel aggrieved that his salary was not high enough. Given the sums involved in the Neymar contract at Paris Saint-Germain, a player who does not have half of the pedigree of Ronaldo, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner was of course entitled to ask for more.

He didn’t get it because Perez didn’t believe it was value for money.

How costly an error. How foolish an error.

Juventus are riding the crest of a wave; they are breaking records left, right and centre in Serie A and so is Ronaldo.

No Madrid player has managed more than seven league goals this season and that is pitiful. Ronaldo has double that amount.

This could well go down as the most catastrophic season in the modern history of the club. It didn’t have to be like this. They should have believed, should have trusted and should have paid Ronaldo. The biggest mistake in all of this is that they underestimated him. And for a club that for so long put out the idea that he was the best player in the world, that is unforgivable.

Now they know the cost.