El Clásico’s impact on La Liga title race
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In the 246th competitive fixture between Real Madrid and Barcelona on Saturday, it was Los Blancos who came out on top at the final whistle.
First-half goals from Karim Benzema and Toni Kroos were enough to claim three points at the Estadio Alfredo di Stefano despite a second-half consolation for the visitors by Óscar Mingueza.
With little over a month left of the season, we look at just how their 2-1 victory has impacted the La Liga title race.
Which teams are battling it out?
There are three teams left fighting for the title at this stage – Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atlético Madrid.
Since Valencia in 2003/2004, these three are the only teams to have won a La Liga title. Atlético have done so on one occasion in that time frame, pipping Barcelona on the final day of the 2013/14 campaign. The other 15 titles are shared between Barça and Madrid.
The latter two juggernauts of Spanish football actually account for more than 67% (60 out of 89) of all top-flight titles. If you exclude Barcelona, Madrid have more of them than the rest of the clubs in this season’s competition combined.
How does the top of La Liga look now?
After last night’s El Clásico victory, Zinedine Zidane’s side are top of the league on 66 points from 30 games.
They are now level on points with city rivals Atlético who are second and only behind Madrid due to their head-to-head record. The two sides drew in March, but Madrid came out on top 2-0 in their first meeting back in December.
It’s worth noting that Atlético have a game in hand which will be played this evening.
Simeone’s team head to Real Betis, themselves vying for Europa League qualification. Anything but defeat against Manuel Pellegrini’s side would take Atlético back to the top of the league.
Barcelona are third with 65 points, so they could be four points off top spot if Atlético win.
The La Liga run-in
In football, no games are won on paper and that’s why the game is loved by so many – there are no guarantees.
However, looking at your remaining fixtures and seeing that you don’t have to play either of your two title challengers has got to be seen as a bonus, and that falls to Madrid now.
After last night, they’re done with both Barça and Atlético but do have to come up against Betis and Sevilla in quick succession. Both teams are looking to qualify for Europe along with Villareal, who Madrid face on the last day of the season.
Added to this, Los Blancos are still in the Champions League and take a 3-1 advantage to Anfield this week against Liverpool.
If they do progress, they’re into the semi-finals and this could prove to be a distraction away from La Liga. Zidane’s team are the only Spanish club left in the competition.
As for Atlético, it must be said that they are in the driving seat in terms of the La Liga title. Now out of all other competitions, their ‘biggest’ task for the remainder of the campaign is a grudge match at the Nou Camp against Barcelona.
This will come May 9, before a home game against Real Sociedad three days later. These two games could play a big part in where El Atléti finish this season.
Barcelona are the outsiders for the title but probably have the easiest run-in as they don’t face any of the league’s current top seven.
That said, there are many issues off the pitch that are still in the process of being resolved. These have caused some disillusion between the players and the club’s officials.
Even if they don’t win the title, Barcelona could still end a disappointing campaign with a trophy. Their next match is the Copa Del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao.
Last night’s fixture hasn’t actually impacted the title race that much. It moved Madrid to top spot, for now at least, but all three teams are still in with a chance of winning the league.
The 2-1 defeat will have undoubtedly hurt Barcelona, and it has put a dent into their La Liga title chase, but it’s certainly not over. If anything, Ronald Koeman’s side losing against rivals Madrid has only made their game against Atlético next month even bigger.
A win last night would have taken them top, but Madrid’s victory has potentially made the three-horse race more interesting for neutral fans.
Atlético probably edge being favourites to win the title, but they cannot afford to be complacent as their challengers will take advantage of any mistakes.
All to play for in La Liga? Certainly.