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Simon Heptinstall On January - 10 - 2012

Are Barcelona Heading Towards La Liga Failure?

Local derbies rarely pass with little incident. In the early kick off on Sunday in England, the two Manchester sides produced one of the most memorable local derbies in recent memory. Or at least since the 6-1. In Spain it was the turn of Espanyol and Barcelona to put on a show. If what followed might not be worthy of the tag “classic”, it can certainly be described as important. Both in terms of what that point means to each team but more importantly what it means for the La Liga title race. The advantage is once again Real Madrid’s.

Barcelona's Gerard Piqué (photo by laligaweekly)

Sadly Sunday didn’t just herald the return of league football in Spain, it also saw the return of racism and the very much unwanted monkey chants at the Estadi Cornellà-El Prat. It would be wrong to go any further into this report without talking about the most important issue, racism. It seems that as far as Spanish football is concerned there is a place for racist chanting. Of course we know that shouldn’t be the case but until either Uefa or the Spanish FA take a stronger stance on this then nothing will change. For all of Daniel Alves’s cheating and diving he doesn’t deserve the monkey chants aimed at him that he has suffered time and time again.

As for the rest of the match it’s safe to say this won’t be remembered for much else except as a foot note in the title race. For Espanyol this is a great point and one that should not be underplayed. During the match the Espanyol fans held up a banner that read “Qatar is not Catalonia” to show how they feel about the Arab money now pumping around the veins of their city rivals. They will see this as moral victory for the “real” club of Catalonia.

For Barcelona this is exactly what they feared before the match, another away match without victory. If football teaches us anything it’s that you can never guess what is around the corner. Who would have thought Thierry Henry would ever score for Arsenal again or that little Levante would be in the top four half way through the season? So to declare that Real Madrid are going to be champions come the end of the season while we are still in January would be foolish. You can never write this Barcelona team off and they will push Madrid until the very last in order to retain their title. But for Barcelona the situation doesn’t look good. They now sit five points behind their great rivals and all though they still have to play them again at the Nou Camp, the Catalan giants know they must be near perfect in the league for the rest of the season. Their away form has simply not been good enough to compete with Real Madrid and it is possible (maybe even likely) that Barcelona will win both El Classico’s this season and still finish behind Los Blancos.

So if Barcelona were to finish second this season but were to retain the Champions League (a feet no club has achieved) would this be considered a successful season? This comes down to fine details. Let’s have some hypothetical fun right now and pretend we know what is going to happen.

If Barcelona were to finish second and lose out on the title by one or two points but were to beat Real Madrid at the Nou, then they could consider themselves to be once again the top side in Spain despite narrowly losing out on the title. Of course the Madrid papers and indeed Jose Mourinho would strongly disagree but you get the sense that when it comes to football, most onlookers are very uneasy at declaring Real Madrid the better side, even if they were to win the title this season. They would point to the fact that when it comes to head to head matches, Real Madrid simply can’t live with the football that Barcelona play. And if Barcelona were to retain the Champions League and become the first ever team to retain the Champions League then these feelings would be amplified. Indeed it might be that the Champions League would become the defining competition. Perhaps in ten years time people will talk about the great Barcelona team retaining the Champions League and they will forget that they lost the Spanish league that season to Real Madrid.

But what if Barcelona finish seven or eight points behind Real Madrid? That would be different, that would change how people see these two teams. If Madrid were to put clear daylight between themselves and Barcelona at the top of the table then a power shift of sorts would be established. And if Real Madrid were to get a draw (or even heaven forbid a win) at the Nou Camp when they next meet then Madrid could truly claim to be getting the better of their great rivals for the first time in years. Again the Champions League would play a large part in this but even if Madrid were to fail to win it and Barcelona were once again crowned champions of Europe, as long as Madrid were to win the Spanish title by a decent margin (say 4 points or more) and were able to get a result at the Nou Camp then they would rightly claim themselves to be the top dogs in Spain.

But speculation of events that may or may not happen will get us nowhere. Or at least nowhere useful. For now it is best to stick to the facts and concentrate on what we do know. And what we know is that right now it’s advantage Real Madrid. Will Barcelona be able to catch them? Only time will tell but if they are to catch Mourinho’s men improvement is need and it’s needed fast. The Special One doesn’t throw away too many five point leads.

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One Response so far.

  1. James says:

    They are only in the league this term to beat Real Madrid and not to win the league..up R.Madrid

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