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This Season It's A Three Horse Race To Win La Liga

Thursday 19th March 2015
Spanish football fan Nihad takes a look at the three teams that are all fighting to win La Liga this season.

For the last two years we have had a three-heat race in the La Liga.

With the usual suspects Real Madrid and Barcelona, Atletico Madrid under flamboyant leader Diego Simeone have joined the struggle to win the Spanish league trophy, which they did with the draw at the Camp Nou last season.

The belief then was that this was a one-season thing, along with the trip to the final of Champions League, and I was one of those who believed that, being a passionate Real Madrid supporter. However,, this season is starting to become a really interesting race between the three teams; all excelling in different areas of the game. While Los Rojiblancos have an excellent defensive game and their mentality and effort on the pitch is just amazing, and while Blaugrana currently has the best firepower up front in the world with Neymar playing absolutely amazing and Messi just doing what Messi does, Los Merengues have the best all around team when everyone is healthy and they have tactical supremacy with having the best coach out of the three. Although Simeone is experiencing the best two seasons of his life, Ancelotti has won the UEFA Champions League with two different clubs, has won the Premier League and Ligue 1 before, and I do not believe that one Liga BBVA of Simeone and nothing Luis Enrique has won can match with the Italian mastermind.

This makes the race in BBVA finally interesting after years of Real Madrid-Barcelona domination. Now, this season these teams have played  each other a total of ten times:

  • Atletico Madrid – Real Madrid -> six meetings, four Atletico wins, two draws

  • Real Madrid – Barcelona -> one meeting, one Real Madrid win

  • Barcelona – Atletico Madrid -> three meetings, three Barcelona wins

The valid explanation of these stats which are, to some extent, limited is that the play of Atletico Madrid does not suite the offensive game of Real Madrid and due to that, and some things within the Real Madrid squad such as lack of creativity in the midfield without Modrić and James Rodriguez and the state of the front three when the midfield is flooded by destructive defensive midfielders such as Gabi in the Atletico squad, is the reason why Ancelotti cannot find a way to beat Atleti in this season.

Simeone is an intelligent coach who uses tactics such as the aforementioned flooding the midfield and then combines those tactics with smart motivation pregame to make his players, who are physically very prepared, run the whole 90 minutes thus out running the Madrid Galacticos who are more prone to laziness in the game than the motivated players of Rojiblancos. This allows Simeone's squad to take control of the middle and then just destroy every attempt of an organized attack with frequent but not too hard fouls, basically just on the edge of a yellow card. He uses players like Gabi in his squad to do that and then on the counter, he uses fullbacks Juanfran and new signing Siquera plus the amazing striker Griezmann to basically destroy Real Madrid each time this season.

This, however, does not work with Barcelona since with form of Neymar and the fact that Messi is such an amazing individual who drops deep to get the ball and is not stopped by violent holding midfielders in the Atletic squad, Barca is unbeatable with that destructive tactic Simeone uses. In the games this season when Barca score early and then Atletico has to attack, something they do not do on a regular game basis. But, if Atleti can't beat Barca but then can destroy Real Madrid, how come Barca then lose to Real Madrid?

Easy. Sergio Busquets is not that good as a defensive midfielder and Mascherano is more used as a centre-back, so Madrid has an advantage attacking, plus the offensive game of Jordi Alba and Dani Alves leaves plently of space for the wingers Bale and Ronaldo to push through and score with ease on the counter attack. Also, Real is much better side in set-pieces with centre-backs Pepe and Ramos, plus Varane if he is playing are so good in the air, and Barca has nothing to counter them. From three goals scored at the Bernabeu, one was a penalty, one was a corner (set-piece) and the last one was a perfectly executed counter after a mistake in the midfield.

What does all this mean however? It just means that in a three horse race between these exciting clubs, everyone has a chance at the win in individual meetings so games against clubs such as Valencia, Sevilla, Celta (who are having an amazing season) plus other minor clubs will determine who will win La Liga in the 2014.-'15 season.
Nihad Žunić
My name is Nihad Žunić and I have been writing about sports since May 2014. I follow BPL, Liga BBVA and Bundesliga. Religious fan of Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and FK Željezničar. Follow me on twitter @Zuna1902

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