So far this has been a typically exciting season in La Liga, with highlights including the appointment of Gary Neville to manage struggling Valencia and the 0-4 shock defeat of Real Madrid by Barcelona in the Clasico back in November – with Real manager Rafa Benitez losing his job not long afterwards. We are entering the ‘business end’ of the season now, but which sides are still in the running for La Liga glory?
That result in November definitely marked the low point of the season for Madrid, but things have picked up for them considerably since that time – until their setback last weekend. The decision to appoint club legend Zinedine Zidane as the replacement for Benitez was a popular one among fans. Zidane has certainly had a positive impact on the team’s fortunes, with four wins and two draws from his first six matches. This leaves Real in third place in the table, 12 points of league leaders Barcelona, but the fact that the bookies have them as second favourites for the title – at 16/1 – shows how much of an early impact Zidane has had on them. They need Barca to slip up, but stranger things have happened in football than that. They also need top players like Cristiano Ronaldo – ageing but still capable of bursts of devastating effectiveness – a re-energised Gareth Bale and playmaker Luka Modric to maintain the form they have shown since Zidane took the helm at the Bernabeu. Modric in particular has been thriving alongside Isco and Kroos in midfield, and his creativity is essential to Madrid’s chances of capturing the La Liga title this season.
Barcelona look in formidable form just now, having won their last seven – but there remains the possibility that they could be distracted by the Champions League as the season nears its critical point. Having claimed a win in the last 16 first leg against away to Arsenal, they seem likely to reach the quarter finals, but it is questionable whether they can maintain their form in both competitions. Much could depend on which tournament manager Luis Enrique prioritises – and whether star players Luis Suarez, Messi and Neymar retain form and fitness in the run in.
Second placed Atletico Madrid have been enjoying a great season overall, but had stuttered a little until their trip to the Bernabeu. Real are four points behind them now,– but the lack of goals in the team (just 35 scored compared with 71 for Real) shows where their problems lie. Of course, one way of predicting who might win La Liga is to play out a football tournament at home with your friends using a games console or simply from your mobile via casino sites like casinoonline.co.nz – and this will certainly be a fun option.
In summary, although they must come from behind if they want to claim La Liga this season, Real manager Zidane is not ruling it out and neither should the rest of us.