“It is true that, if we are able to win there, it is going to be a huge step, but we shouldn’t forget Atletico Madrid, who are six points behind. We are looking forward to playing a great game and try to get the three points,” Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta said in a recent interview to Goal.com.
The reporter had asked whether the football fixture between Real Madrid and Barcelona could close the La Liga title race. The Spanish footballer had said he cannot imagine competition closing in December.
Iniesta, in his assessment, is not far away from the mark. While the upcoming Clasico does not appear to be as crucial as it was in previous years, due to a considerably higher point difference between the two teams, it might as well give a new lease of life to the competition in la Liga.
The defending champions Real Madrid are still struggling to get consistency in results in the league; the defeats against perennial middle-tier club Real Betis and newly-promoted Girona has seen them slip 11 points behind their rivals. In last five fixtures in the competition, the side managed by Zinedine Zidane has won three and drawn two against comparatively stronger teams – Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao.
Even though Los Blancos have played a game less than Barca, due to their FIFA Club World Cup commitments, the side will close the gap only by 8 points if they go on to win the match. The Catalans will still remain further away on the top of the table, like a distant dream to achieve, completely out of hands. With star forward Cristiano Ronaldo showing resurgence of form in last few games (he has scored five goals in as many games, including the match-winning free kick against Gremio), the home fans can be hopeful of winning the match – but it would not guarantee them a chance at winning the trophy.
But just a few miles away, on the other side of Madrid, the cheers might go up.
Atletico Madrid had a slow start to the competition. But a resurgence late in the first half of the season has seen them winning five of last six games. Rojiblancos are currently placed second with 36 points – six behind Barcelona. If the Catalans suffer a defeat in the Clasico, the side led by manager Diego Simeone have a strong chance of closing gap on the table toppers to mere three points.
Atletico will take on a struggling Espanyol side, on Friday, who have dropped to 16th position in the table. With a recent resurgence, they will hope to win the match and Real’s victory in the Clasico will ensure they remain just a game away from tying with Barcelona at the top. Even if the Clasico goes to a draw, Atletico will still be just 4 points away from the top.
With no more Champions League football for Atletico this season, they can expect a lighter schedule as compared to the Blaugrana. They have a chance of becoming real title contenders after the Clasico.
So does, Valencia, who have now slipped to the third position after losing two of three league fixtures. But, still sitting pretty at 34 points, Marcelino’s men can again close in on Barcelona to five points and put a reset button on their recent failings. A tough competition this week against sixth placed Villarreal might shatter Valencia’s hopes though. But if they manage to achieve a victory in the encounter, it might prove to be just the morale booster the team needs.
Iniesta is right. Barcelona need to be on their toes in this Clasico and try to achieve all the three points. The compeition in la Liga is far from over – even with Real Madrid lagging behind.