Who are the main candidates to win La Liga?
The Spanish top-flight football competition called La Liga (or The League in Spanish) is seeing its title race hotting up. In normal circumstances, by this time of the year, the champions would have been crowned and even the European commitments of the clubs dealt with, but the Covid-19 pandemic which has spread its tentacles across the world ensured that all sporting activity had to be postponed due to the lockdowns that were enforced by several countries across the world. Gradually, economies opened up and football resumed its operations across all European nations. With the exception of France’s Ligue 1, the top four leagues in Europe (the English Premier League, the German Bundesliga, the Italian Serie A and La Liga) have resumed their operations after the pandemic-induced lockdown.
La Liga, in essence, is a competition which sees only a few clubs aim for glory, among which are the likes of Real Madrid CF, FC Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.
The likes of Villarreal, Valencia, Sevilla and Athletic Club Bilbao have always been on the periphery but never quite managed to get within touching distance of the trophy regularly. Therefore, it is no surprise that the aforementioned ‘Big Three’ clubs share a whopping 69 La Liga titles amongst themselves (Real Madrid CF- 36, FC Barcelona- 23, Atletico Madrid- 10) out of the 88 editions held. The other clubs in the division have only managed to win nineteen titles amongst themselves, that too with Athletic Club Bilbao (eight times) and Valencia (six times) sharing fourteen championships. It would be, therefore, not unwise to comment that La Liga is dominated by the ‘Big Three’ clubs.
In the 2019–20 La Liga season too, the trophy is being chased relentlessly only by FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF. Atletico Madrid were in the race for quite some time early on, but a spate of drawn encounters meant that they had to drop out of it and try to contend themselves with a likely third-place finish and a UEFA Champions League berth for next season (where they have done very well for themselves this season, having just knocked out reigning champions Liverpool before the lockdown put a halt to sporting activities.) They stand in the third spot currently with 59 points in their bag, having won fifteen games, drawn fourteen and lost four. It will be the fourteen drawn encounters where Atletico Madrid dropped points that will haunt their manager Diego Simeone, and he will be itching for the next season to begin so that they can put it all behind themselves and start afresh.
Real Madrid CF and FC Barcelona are playing an interesting game of hide and seek at the top of the table for quite some time now.
The former are placed first with 74 points, having won 22 games, drawn eight and lost just three. FC Barcelona are placed second in the league table with 70 points in their kitty, a dangerous four points off the title chasers, having won 21 games, drawn seven and lost five. They are the reigning champions of La Liga, having also won the competition in 2017–18. If they manage to outdo the men from the capital of Madrid then this would be their third La Liga title in a row and that would be a huge incentive for the Catalan giants, who house in their ranks, among others, the great Lionel Messi. The Argentine attacker will be hoping to outdo Real Madrid and get his hands on a hat-trick of La Liga titles.
It did not help FC Barcelona’s cause when they dropped points at a relatively easy encounter at the Abanca Balaidos Stadium against Celta Vigo. Leading up to the dying stages of the game, they were undone by a brilliant Iago Aspas goal to settle for just one point where, in reality, they could have mustered two more. A Luis Suarez double along with some artistry from Messi could not help prevent them from shaking hands with the hosts after a draw. The Catalans had to deal with an even firmer shock when they were held to another 2–2 draw, this time by Atletico Madrid at home at the Camp Nou Stadium, in which a Saul Niguez penalty sealed the deal for Simeone’s men, who were content to take a point off the fixture. In an earlier fixture, they had shaken hands after a goalless stalemate against Sevilla too, which meant that they have so far won only three of the six games contested post-Lockdown.
Real Madrid CF, who were behind FC Barcelona before the lockdown, however, made a running start to their campaign once football resumed its operations and have won all their games since then.
This has meant that they have taken eighteen points from six games wherein their closest contenders FC Barcelona had to be content with twelve. It is no surprise, therefore, that a strong gap of four points has arisen between the two and the men from the Santiago Bernabeu are being earmarked as potential champions. Real Madrid CF, managed by Zinedine Zidane, last won a La Liga title in 2016–17 (they had broken an FC Barcelona attempt for a hat-trick of titles back then as well) and will be delighted with themselves if they can do so this time around too.
By all means, it is becoming clear as day that the Los Blancos are increasingly favourites to win the Spanish league title this time around. They only have a couple of moderately risky fixtures ahead of them (against Athletic Club Bilbao and Villarreal) but one can expect Zidane’s men to prevail over them. FC Barcelona, managed by Quique Setien, are looking increasingly distant from the title as the weeks progress and although they have just Villarreal to encounter in the coming days, Real Madrid CF are set to win the title, and if we are so bold as to suggest so, it is now only theirs to lose. One can most certainly expect them to get their hands on their 34th La Liga title by the end of this season.