Football News

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Real Madrid or Barcelona for La Liga glory?

editors make their predictions

It had looked decided. Just over three weeks ago, Real Madrid led Barcelona by 10 points in La Liga. But after Jose Mourinho's men drew their third fixture in five on Sunday when they were held to a goalless draw at the Santiago Bernabeu by Valencia, they saw their advantage reduced to just four points.

Madrid and Barca now have seven remaining games to play in the Primera Division, while the Clasico at Camp Nou in 11 days could prove crucial to the destination of this season's Liga crown.

Both sides also remain in contention for Champions League glory in 2011-12, while the Catalans will end the season with a Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao.

But La Liga is the biggest talking point at the moment in Spain, so decided to assemble a panel of experts and ask them to predict the run-in, and judge who will win the title as a result.

Will Madrid hold their nerve after dropping points in recent weeks? Can Barcelona really come from 10 points behind to claim a fourth straight league title? Our experts have their say below, while you can also give your opinion in the poll at the bottom of this piece.

Round 32Atletico (a)Draw 1-1Getafe (h)Win 5-0
Round 33Sporting (h)Win 6-1Levante (a)Draw 1-1
Round 34Barcelona (a)Lose 2-0Real Madrid (h)Win 2-0
Round 35Sevilla (h)Win 4-0Rayo (a)Win 4-1
Round 36Athletic (a)Draw 1-1Malaga (h)Win 3-1
Round 37Granada (a)Win 4-0Espanyol (h)Win 5-1
Round 38Mallorca (h)Win 3-0Betis (a)Win 3-1
WINNERS: Barcelona (94 points)
RUNNERS-UP: Real Madrid (93)

I think both teams will have their share of hiccups on the way to the title. I don't see either of them winning all their remaining matches, although Barcelona have a far kinder schedule than their arch-rivals, who still have to take full points from the Vicente Calderon and San Mames if they want to end their domestic drought. I don't think that will happen, though. Madrid are too shaky at this point and their neighbours too thirsty for revenge after capitulating as easily as they have done in past years, while Bielsa's boys will provide an even sterner challenge.

As for Barcelona, their toughest match should be next weekend. After watching Madrid lose two points at Atletico, they will rest some starters and drop points of their own at surprise-package Levante, who have proven that they are no one-hit wonders this season. It will all come down to the Clasico at Camp Nou, and I just don't see the Blancos doing anything but losing there. It's true they have managed two draws in the past two years, but on both occasions those were the results Barca needed, not Madrid. I think the trend will be maintained and believe Pep Guardiola's side will again get the result they require to win La Liga for the fourth time in a row.

BEN HAYWARD - International Spain Football Editor
Round 32Atletico (a)Win 4-2Getafe (h)Win 4-0
Round 33Sporting (h)Win 5-1Levante (a)Win 3-1
Round 34Barcelona (a)Lose 3-2Real Madrid (h)Win 3-2
Round 35Sevilla (h)Win 3-1Rayo (a)Win 2-1
Round 36Athletic (a)Draw 2-2Malaga (h)Win 4-1
Round 37Granada (a)Win 3-0Espanyol (h)Win 3-0
Round 38Mallorca (h)Win 4-1Betis (a)Win 4-2
WINNERS: Barcelona (96 points)
RUNNERS-UP: Real Madrid (95)

As someone who predicted Barcelona to win La Liga at the beginning of the season and then tipped Real Madrid a few weeks ago, I am really left in two minds at the moment as to the outcome of the trophy this term.

Barcelona are finding their form and consistency at just the right time, though, while Madrid now appear somewhat on edge after failing to beat Valencia on Sunday. Jose Mourinho's men still lead La Liga, but their commanding 10-point advantage from three weeks ago has been whittled down to just four and with a Clasico clash at Camp Nou still to come, the Catalans now have the edge - especially as the champions' fixtures look easier than those of their biggest rivals.

For Barca to triumph, however, I believe they will need to win all of their remaining games. And for Madrid to prevail, they may have to avoid defeat at Camp Nou. It's a time for heroes, but I'll go for Guardiola's side to nick it by a single point and emulate Johan Cruyff's Dream Team with a fourth successive league title.

RICHARD MORGAN  - International Chief Editor
Round 32Atletico (a)Win 3-2Getafe (h)Win 3-0
Round 33Sporting (h)Win 4-0Levante (a)Win 2-1
Round 34Barcelona (a)Draw 2-2Real Madrid (h)Draw 2-2
Round 35Sevilla (h)Win 2-1Rayo (a)Win 3-1
Round 36Athletic (a)Lose 2-1Malaga (h)Win 2-1
Round 37Granada (a)Win 4-0Espanyol (h)Win 2-0
Round 38Mallorca (h)Win 3-1Betis (a)Draw 2-2
WINNERS: Real Madrid (95 points)
RUNNERS-UP: Barcelona (92)

In American politics it is referred to as ‘The Big Mo’, and right now, that is exactly what Pep Guardiola & Co. have on their side having won nine straight Liga games to cut Madrid’s once insurmountable lead to just four points, with seven games of the season to go. And, apart from the Clasico on April 21, the Catalans ‘appear’ to have the easier run-in, with their only real potential banana skins likely to be their home fixture with high-flying and big-spending Malaga, and their final-day trip to the Estadio Benito Villamarin to take on a Betis side with technically nothing to play for apart from pride.

However, by that point in the season the title race will be all over bar the shouting, as Jose Mourinho’s men will emerge victorious from the Madrid derby on Wednesday night at the Calderon, extending their already imperious record over their bitter city rivals, before all but closing out their first Liga success since 2008 with a thrilling four-goal draw at Camp Nou. And, despite one final slip-up with defeat at San Mames, Real will win their final two league games to take the title. 

PAUL MACDONALD - International Deputy Editor
Round 32Atletico (a)Win 2-1Getafe (h)Win 3-0
Round 33Sporting (h)Win 3-0Levante (a)Win 2-0
Round 34Barcelona (a)Draw 2-2Real Madrid (h)Draw 2-2
Round 35Sevilla (h)Win 4-1Rayo (a)Win 3-1
Round 36Athletic (a)Draw 1-1Malaga (h)Win 4-0
Round 37Granada (a)Win 2-0Espanyol (h)Win 2-1
Round 38Mallorca (h)Win 6-0Betis (a)Win 3-2
WINNERS: Real Madrid (96 points)
RUNNERS-UP: Barcelona (94)

Barcelona's unerring consistency in title run-ins under Guardiola is once again being displayed as their relentless run of wins has eroded the gap at the top. But Real Madrid's advantage will prove to have been too significant by the end of the campaign, with a point at Camp Nou in the season-defining Clasico providing the platform for victory.

Bilbao and Bielsa will leave the destination of the trophy unclear until the final day by earning a point at San Mames, but otherwise Madrid should collect the necessary victories to unseat the Catalan side - just. There will be no capitulation from the master that is Mourinho, and the Portuguese coach will complete the clean sweep of winning league championships in Europe's three major leagues - having already captured the Premier League and Serie A twice each with Chelsea and Inter respectively.

No comments:

Post a Comment