Last Sunday evening, Real Madrid kicked off the season with a 2-1 win over Real Betis at the Santiago Bernabeu thanks to a last gasp winner by summer signing Isco.
Odd as it sounds, that 86th minute goal saved Real’s season and kept the La Liga hopes alive before it was even 90 minutes old. A couple of hours before, Barcelona had demolished Levante 7-0 – sending out a statement of intent for things to come this season.
In amidst the jubilation of a debut goal for Isco, a first win under the Carlo Ancelotti era, and with the prospect of Gareth Bale to add to the team, the players spoke after the game of the importance of getting the three points on the board. Indeed, match winner Isco described the goal and three points as ‘fundamental’.
And he was right. You see, in the race for La Liga, there is very little room for manoeuvre. Much less so compared to other top European leagues. In the last four years, the winner of La Liga has achieved between 96 and 100 points out of a possible 114. In other words, the maximum amount of points dropped was 18 in a title-winning campaign.
Compare that to England in the same time, where the winner of the past four Premier League titles has achieved 89, 86,80,and 86 point respectively.
Last year under Jose Mourinho, Los Blancos were defending champions, but within a month of the season starting, had already blown their hopes of winning the title again thanks to costly draws against the lower La Liga sides.
Realistically, just Barcelona and Real Madrid have a hope of winning the league. Perhaps Atletico de Madrid and Valencia if they have extraordinary campaigns. Critics suggest the annual two-horse race means La Liga isn’t as attractive or competitive as it could be.
But situation for the players at Real and Barcelona means they have the pressure to win every single weekend. Dropping points too soon could be curtains for the title effort. Dealing with that pressure to win every match is what makes La Liga so exciting.
Attention now turns to the game with Granada this weekend – another vital match if Madrid have hope of reclaiming their crown.