La Liga : Down To The Wire

Following Barcelona’s dramatic 3-2 win over Real Madrid in ‘El Clasico’ on Sunday night, the race to be Spanish La Liga champions is set to go down to the wire.
Barca’s victory put them into first place on the log, level on points with Real. While the Catalans have the advantage in head-to-head results between the teams this season (which is used as a tie-breaker, rather than goal difference), ‘Los Blancos’ have a game in hand. This means Zinedine Zidane’s side have their fate in their own hands: win all of their six remaining matches, and they will finish at least three points clear of their hated rivals.
However, the psychological damage sustained in Sunday’s loss, and the fact that Real will also face a tough two-legged semifinal tie against cross-town rivals Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Champions League, plays very much into the hands of Luis Enrique and his side. Barcelona will also play in the final of the Copa del Rey this season, but that only arrives after La Liga is finished. For now, they can put 100 percent focus into their domestic championship, a luxury not afforded to Real Madrid.
In terms of the teams’ run-in, Real will have a busier schedule (one extra league game, plus their Champions League commitments) but arguably an easier run in terms of opponents: of their remaining six opponents, only two (Sevilla and Celta Vigo) are currently in the top half of the table. In contrast, Barca will face three top-half teams in their last five matches, including a tough derby away to Espanyol. Yet with Lionel Messi in sublime form, Neymar set to return from suspension and a schedule which has far more room for rest and recovery, it is the Catalans who must be considered the favourites to retain their title.
Stats and remaining fixtures
Stats: 1st place, 75 points, 33 matches
Fixtures: Osasuna (H), Espanyol (A), Villarreal (H), Las Palmas (A), Eibar (H)
Real Madrid
Stats: 2nd place, 75 points, 32 matches
Fixtures: Deportivo La Coruna (A), Valencia (H), Granada (A), Sevilla (H), Celta Vigo (A), Malaga (A)

Published: 04/26/2017