|Three celebrates, three think its too early|
However, there is one main difference this season that makes this league way more interesting. If you go back to last time Real Madrid won the title, you will notice that the strong fight they put till the end (in two seasons) came hand in hand with a catastrophic collapse for FC Barcelona on and off the field. Then you move forward to the seasons FC Barcelona won and you notice that even though Real Madrid had superb seasons, FC Barcelona were on a very high level and almost unbeatable. In my opinion, this is the first season where the two teams are playing on the same level – each utilizing own strength and suffering own weaknesses. While Barcelona is still the best team collectively and (for most positions) even if you compare individuals one-by-one in the starting eleven, Real Madrid squad provide more depth and diversity. The fact that both teams have their backs to the wall (No more: we are building a team for future) put more pressure and make the mental strength, squad moral, and club’s environment deciding factors, more than ever.
The stock market of hopes:
At the moment, most Liga followers consider it done and dusted for Real Madrid. Five points difference is a big margin in the liga, and Real Madrid are winning all the time – beside when they meet Barcelona. Barcelona fans – or the majority of those I discussed the issue with- already surrendered that this is not Barcelona’s year. So I’ll not argue if Real Madrid can win the title because that’s the common belief. The question is: Can Barcelona still win the title? Do they have a realistic chance?
After the disappointment against Getafe, lot of people considered Real Madrid as the favorites to win the Liga. Then the clasico came, Barcelona won it, and they became the team to beat. Then another disappointment against Espanyol and that’s doom’s day. Barcelona lost the Liga. I didn’t agree before the clasico, and I don’t agree now. Some people complained that I’m just being in denial. Other’s praised my optimism. Its neither this nor that, it’s just about the way each football follower observes the situation.
Some people count on statistics; others simply check the points’ difference, or simply count on the “feeling”. Most may mix all together. Today, I’ll walk you through one of the most confidential and restricted departments in FootballMood’s base, it is called: “The” (just that as we can’t leak its name). Sign the papers you receive at the entrance (which confirms that you do this at your own risk), and walk just between the two yellow lines, any slip and you are gone! Make your way through the tunnel and narrow paths where it only gets dimmer and colder, and here you are facing “The” giant lead gate. Opened. Get in and check the table in the middle.
|The operation room in "The" area|
This is my way to follow the league. And the posted schedule lists all the Liga matches for FC Barcelona and Real Madrid (with Cdr and CL confirmed matches). Looking at the whole picture makes a big difference. It gives you a perspective for the way the Liga may go based on previous matches and the coming ones. We already conceded that Real Madrid chances to win the league are as good as them getting another penalty for Ronaldo to score. No question. But why am I still as confident that Barcelona can still win the title?
If we make a flash-forward to the clasico day at Camp Nou, with Real Madrid being five points ahead of Barcelona. If Barcelona wins that match, the points difference will go down to two points. Now for each his own to figure the possibilities there. I think for Barcelona to win this Liga, they have to defeat Real Madrid at home, and I don’t see this as a mission impossible. But then there are still two points difference…
Putting the tricky game against Sevilla, Real Madrid will play after the clasico (and clasico defeat may also leave an impact), the main bet for Barcelona will be on Real Madrid’s visit to Bilbao to face Athletic. I’m not sure if this is the last season for Athletic at their cathedral before moving to the new stadium (or maybe next year will be the last), but in any way there is no better opportunity to make the historical stadium more historical than damaging Real Madrid’s title hope. Knowing just a little about the rivalry between Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid will make you certain that this game will be far from being certain for the visitors. A draw there may hand the title to Barcelona.
Can Betis cause damage for Barcelona’s title hopes? Of course they can. They did it before, and they will remember that forever. So as many Barcelona players who lost a title when Betis defeated them, they will remember that as well. We are definitely not talking about any certainties there - Only possibilities. Now be realistic and make your own probabilities.
Looking at it this way, if you are a fan of FC Barcelona, then Real Madrid’s wins each and every week will not cause you a moral damage, as you still have something ahead to look forward to. Same goes for Real Madrid fans when things are going the other way. The league is a competition full of complexities.
For Barcelona, it is vital that the difference separating them from the top does not get wider than five points till the coming clasico. The most difficult part is passing February without increasing that difference. If you look at the matches starting with Villarreal till Atletico, it will be a huge challenge for Barcelona to keep the five points difference as it is. Villarreal is a team that can take points at home. Real Sociedad match is sandwiched between two CDR games against Valencia. Osasuna game is at Pamplona, one tough place to be. Then Valencia visits the Camp Nou after playing Barcelona twice in the same month (repetition rarely serves Barcelona), before traveling to play against Atletico in Madrid, a team that developed after changing the coach. While lot of Barcelona fans may still feel down at the end of February if the difference stays where it is, I will be looking at the schedule posted above and singing relief for the accomplished mission. Especially if you take the injuries crisis in consideration.
Any additional points added to the difference between the two teams, Barcelona will need to cancel during the second slice of the games – the queue of games preceding the clasico. Looking at that slice of fixtures, Real Madrid may have more matched to worry about than Barcelona. This is a relatively balanced slice, yet Barcelona can bet on collecting couple of points more than Real Madrid there, narrowing or closing the difference.
That’s why I don’t think anything is decided yet and the title can still go both ways. Lots of factors can imbalance the teams, causing a U-turn in the sense of the Liga. Injuries records in the coming weeks, moral variation, Champions league and CDR results, and much more, all will happen one way or another.
While losing against Getafe was a surprise, winning against Real Madrid was another. Barcelona lost more points than I expected through my First-19-matches planner, but not a lot more. Taking the squad available in consideration (and my opinion is known about squad, transfers, etc...), I expected the team to lose/draw more matches this season than before. Barcelona earned more points in some matches than I expected (Athletic, Real Madrid...) and in return lost points where I didn't expect - all balancing all in a way or another. And that's why my view for Barcelona's chances to win the league are still exactly where they were at the beginning of the season.
Now that you have this roadmap on your table, add it to your own charts and enjoy watching the league from a different perspective. It worth following till the final day, I can assure you that.