As the La Liga season draws to a close, one saying does come to the mind, “The start may be the toughest phase of the journey, but the end is usually the longest”. It will be a test of nerves for the top 3. With Barcelona faltering at the crucial and critical stage will it be a two way fight between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.
It has been an exciting season so far. The usual suspects Real Madrid and Barcelona are in the running for the La Liga title. But the usually subdued side of Madrid, Atletico Madrid has shaken things up this season with their impressive run of form and results. Diego Costa has been almost matching Ronaldo and Messi goal for goal and keeping his team in the title race with the best chance of claiming the crown. It was shaping up to be a three way scrap for the title but with Barcelona faltering at a critical juncture; it is believed that the trophy will be heading to Madrid. The only question remains, which Madrid club.
Let us take a look at some aspects of the La Liga title race and the 3 contenders.
Barcelona – The Last Chance Saloon
Barcelona usually doesn’t slip up at crucial junctures in the season. If they are in the title race which is more often than not then they have a habit of going on to win trophies once the last stretch of the season is in sight. However this stage of the ongoing season has been a sort of an anti-climax for them. First, they lost to Atletico Madrid and as a result were knocked out of the UEFA Champions League. Then they lost to unfancied Granada which made a major dent in their La Liga title challenging hopes. If this were not enough they lost the Copa del Rey final to Real Madrid, virtually ending their chances of winning any silverware this season.
These losses not only hurt their title challenge and chances of winning silverware but could prove to be big psychological blows as the La Liga season draws to a close. Their fate is not in their hands now and that is not a good thing especially in the last part of the season. More or less it seems to be a case of going back to the drawing board and preparing for the next season. They could still have a say in the season’s title race with the last match of the season against Atletico, but it is virtually their last chance saloon.
Atletico Madrid – Emerging from the Shadows
Their rivalry with Real Madrid is quite popular among the football fans and they will hope that the will finally emerge from the shadows of their more illustrious neighbors, similar to the Manchester rivalry. Atletico Madrid has had a history of producing great players and great teams but they have largely been unsuccessful when it comes to performances in big matches and title races. Primarily, players being prised away by other clubs have hurt them the most. And it doesn’t seem that it will stop anytime soon.
We have to give it to them this season for standing toe to toe with the two giants of Spanish and European football. Diego Simeone has built a brilliant team and the performances have been there to see all season. Diego Costa has had terrific goal scoring season. Their midfield and defense have stood up to their respective tasks. Thibaut Courtois has had another superb season with some spectacular saves to his name. They have a chance to do the double by winning the La Liga crown as well as the UEFA Champions League. A possible final against their Madrid rivals is definitely a mouth watering prospect.
Real Madrid – The Treble Looms Large
The Copa del Rey is in the trophy cabinet already. A UEFA Champions League semi-final with the European champions beckons this week along with a chance to get another 3 points and keep pace with Atletico in the La Liga when Osasuna come visiting. The road towards doing the treble may seem tough for them but then Real Madrid has got the team to deal with any obstacle that comes their way. Ronaldo returning to full fitness will be a major boost for them as they go in search for European glory which has evaded them since 12 years. A fight to finish with their Madrid neighbors for the La Liga crown will give them the push needed go on and put in that few extra percentages of effort.
They have been the team to beat all season and even after the loss in El Classico, they are better poised to fight it out with Atletico for the title. The last match of the season between Barcelona and Atletico could just hand them the title. Any result other than an Atletico victory would probably give the La Liga trophy in their grateful hands.
We all want close finishes and would rather prefer photo finishes. Well, it seems we have got one on our hands.