Sitting on the top of the La Liga table after the first half of the 2014-2015 season, Real Madrid leads the race as arch rivals Barcelona and Atletico Madrid play catch-up. So lets rewind and recapitulate how the season has shaped up as La Liga kicks off after the Winter Break.
Having won the Champions League and the Copa del Rey, expectations ran high at Real Madrid as Carlo Ancelotti and his men looked to repeat their heroics in the current season. The arrival of World Cup heroes Toni Kroos, James Rodriguez and Keylor Navas was matched by the gloomy departure of talents such as Angel Di Maria, Xabi Alonso and Diego Lopez. And as with most teams, Real Madrid took time to adjust to their new players. And though Ronaldo and co eased past Cordoba in their opening fixture, Real Madrid succumbed to two embarrassing defeats against Real Sociedad and arch rivals Atletico Madrid which sent the alarm bells ringing.
As early as August 2014. There were rumours regarding Carlo Ancelottia s dismissal with many suggesting that Zidane could be pushed to lead the club for their rest of the season. But Ancelotti stayed put and worked away quietly with his men and boy did he turn the season around for Real Madrid!
Following their two successive defeats in August, Real Madrid are yet to drop points in a game and have managed to win 22 games in a row, establishing them right on the top of the table. Carlo Ancelotti has turned his counter-attacking unit into a highly adaptable team that is able to win games irrespective of the style of the opposition.
Real Madrid also managed to win the first El Clasico of the season, a game that saw a plethora of stars take the stage at Santiago Bernabeu. Apart from the usual suspects Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, all eyes were on Luis Suarez who was set to make his debut for the Catalan club. Brazilian Neymar opened the scoring after a wonderful solo goal. However Pique gave away a penalty soon after which was duly converted by Golden Boy Cristiano Ronaldo. Madrid dominated the second half completely with Pepe giving the lead to Madrid before Benzema sealed off the game, making it 3-1 in Carlo Ancelotti’s favour.
Score Card- 10/10
Arch rivals Barcelona on the other hand have had rough going in comparison to Real Madrid. The arrival of a new manager along with several new players such as Luis Suarez and Rakitic ensured that Barcelona had a blistering start to the new season. They dominated the La Liga and managed to keep 8 consecutive clean sheets in their opening fixtures until the visited Santiago Bernabeu where Ronaldo and co put three past a helpless Claudio Bravo. The loss at El Clasico was followed by a shock home defeat against Celta Vigo where Luis Enrique men lost the game 1-0 at Camp Nou. Coupled with these two defeats, Barcelona failed to break down Getafe and Malaga and hence have dropped a total of 10 points in the league this season.
Though Barcelona have had a decent first half, they need to improve if they expect to stall off Real Madrid’s challenge for the Spanish La Liga. The Catalan defence has stood tall against most opponents but it is the midfield and the attack that sometimes finds it difficult to break down resolute oppositions. However Luis Enrique will take satisfaction from the fact that Suarez has returned from his ban and is teaming up well with Neymar and Lionel Messi. Though the three South-American forwards have failed to light up Camp Nou so far this season, there are positive signs that show that Barcelona could possess the most fearsome attacking trio in Europe in the months to come.
Following their spectacular exploits in the previous season, Atletico Madrid started the season on a slow note and succumbed to a draw in their opening fixture against Rayo. Atletico Madrid missed the presence of Diego Costa, Thibaut Courtois and Filipe Luis but new arrivals Mandzukic from Bayern Munich and Antoine Griezmann from Sociedad however have settled well under Diego Simeone.
Currently sitting on the 3rd place, Atletico Madrid are very well a part of the title race and have shown that they are still capable of beating the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona. Their most memorable win came against Real Madrid where they triumphed 2-1 at Santiago Bernabeu itself. However Atletico have failed to be consistent this season and draws against Celta Vigo and Rayo along with three defeats against Valencia Real Sociedad and Villarreal have cost Diego Simeonea s campaign this season. Atletico Madrid led a successful campaign last season on the foundation of a solid defence. However their defence has been far from consistent this season which means that Atletico have conceded the maximum number of goals (14) amongst the three title contenders in the first 16 games of the season. Atletico Madrid also need to pull up their socks in terms of scoring goals as they have managed to find the net only on 31 occasions this season.
Koke has been Atletico Madrid’s most inspiring figure and the young Spaniard has risen to the challenge after deciding to stay put at Madrid. He has made the most assists in the league (8) this season along with Ronaldo and Denis Cheryshev (Villarreal). New arrivals Mario Mandzukic and Griezmann lead the goal-scoring charts having scored 6 goals each
Atletico Madrid enter January knowing well that the league is far from over and that a consistent run through the crucial period of January and February could turn their fortunes around.
The arrival of childhood hero Fernando Torres has brought smiles at Vicente Calderon and it will indeed lend a fairy tale element to the story if Torres can lead Atletico Madrida s resurrection in the second half of the season.
Player Of The Season So Far
No recapitulation of the 2014-15 La Liga will be complete without mentioning Cristiano Ronaldo and his exploits that has led Real Madrid to a heroic 22 game winning streak. In his 15 La Liga appearances this season, the Portuguese superstar has scored a total of 4 hattricks and has managed to find the net on 25 occasions. He also leads the charts in terms of assists, having provided Real Madrid with a total of 8 assists. In pole position to win the Ballon Da Or for the second consecutive year, Ronaldo is definitely on course to a record-breaking season if he can keep up his exploits.
Match of the Season So Far
Real Madrid 3-1 Barcelona: A Star Studded El Clasico