Real Madrid have a one point advantage in what looks set to be the tightest La Liga title race in years after Sunday’s Clasico victory over Barcelona. The sides now have 12 games to play and there are sure to be many twists and turns between now and the final round of fixtures in May.
|Real Madrid Fixtures
|Real Sociedad (H)
|Real Betis (A)
|Real Sociedad (A)
|Athletic Club (H)
|Celta Vigo (A)
|Atletico Madrid (H)
|Athletic Club (A)
|Real Valladolid (A)
Unlike in previous seasons where tight title races between Barcelona and Madrid frequently saw both sides reeling off victory after victory, this year feels different. Both sides have their vulnerabilities and both are sure to drop points between now and matchday 38 which means Real Madrid’s weekend victory is far from a knockout blow.
Los Blancos have dropped points in 38% of their league games this season while Barcelona have done so in 35% of their games but they have suffered three more defeats than Real.
Based on those figures, we’d expect both sides to drop points in at least 4 of their remaining 12 games and both sides have fixtures where you could certainly see that happening.
La Liga Title Race – The Key Weekends
Looking at the run-ins, a few key weekends stand out as potentially decisive with at least two occasions where both sides have really difficult fixtures on the same matchday.
7th/8th March – Matchday 27
Barcelona vs Real Sociedad | Real Betis vs Real Madrid
There’s a risk that Real Madrid’s stay in 1st place will be a short one with a tough fixture this coming weekend against Real Betis at the Benito Villamarin. Even though Betis are having an unconvincing season, they are a team with goals in them and in Nabil Fekir they do have a big-game player.
Barcelona meanwhile could be pushed all the way by an in-form Real Sociedad too. La Real are the only team in La Liga to have won each of their last three matches but they do have a big cup tie this week whereas Barça will have had sufficient time to rest and regroup following their Clasico defeat.
4th/5th April – Matchday 30
Sevilla vs Barcelona | Real Sociedad vs Real Madrid
This weekend comes immediately after the international break and it sees both teams play arguably the toughest of their remaining fixtures. It would be a big surprise if both Real Madrid and Barcelona emerged victorious on matchday 30.
Barcelona are at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan which is perhaps the stadium that the big sides fear going to most. That being said Barça do have a considerably better record away to Sevilla than Real Madrid and indeed this season the Andalusians haven’t been quite as convincing at home with only La Liga’s 11th best home record as it stands. Right now though, it’s not a game you’d fancy Barça to win with their away problems a recurring theme.
Real Madrid meanwhile are at Anoeta to take on a Real Sociedad side that has already dumped them out of one competition this season. La Real are currently on a club record run of 7 straight home victories and they’ve already beaten Atletico Madrid and held Barcelona this season in Donostia.
25th/26th April – Matchday 33
Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid | Real Madrid vs Getafe
Both sides are at home on matchday 33 but they will know they will have to work hard and perhaps utilise a bit of patience in order to win their respective games against the sides currently in 4th and 5th places.
Barcelona host Atleti while Getafe travel to the Bernabéu. While these are fixtures that Barcelona and Real Madrid normally win, with both sides suffering from problems in the final third, you could certainly see a scenario where at least one of Atleti or Geta sets their stall out to defend and comes away with a point that may alter the destiny of the title race.
2nd/3rd May – Matchday 34
Villarreal vs Barcelona | Athletic Club vs Real Madrid
| GOAL! |
WHAT A FINISH ?
— Eleven Sports (@ElevenSports_UK) April 2, 2019
These are the final big hurdles that Barcelona and Real Madrid have to overcome. Whoever is on top of La Liga after matchday 34 will certainly be the strong favourites to clinch the title but it won’t be completely over.
Barcelona will be really tested at the Ceramica. This is a fixture that ended in a thrilling 4-4 draw last season and Villarreal are a side that always fancies their chances of knocking over the big boys at home. Real Madrid meanwhile will be sure to get a hostile welcome at San Mames where Athletic fans will relish the prospect of putting a dent in Madrid’s title charge.
Significantly this weekend also falls directly in between the two legs of the Champions League Semi-Finals. Right now, it looks far more likely that Barcelona will be involved in European action that week than Real Madrid and that could turn out to be a slight advantage for Zinedine Zidane’s side.
Who has the easier Run-In?
There is actually a significant amount of symmetry to the respective run-ins of Real Madrid and Barcelona. From matchday 29 onwards, they both play at home and away on the same weekends. While it can and will be debated, they have a similar number of really challenging games to come and much may depend on who is fighting for what come the final weeks of the season.
Barcelona’s final four games are all against sides ranked 12th or below, including the derby with Espanyol. However their matchday 36 trip to Real Valladolid could become a tough fixture if their opponents are still fighting for survival while their final match at Mendizorroza is certainly no gimmie.
Real Madrid have six top half sides still to play (compared to Barcelona’s 5). That though includes a trip to Granada on matchday 36 and with El Graná likely to be safe by then but perhaps too far back to push for Europe, that may turn out to be a slightly easier fixture than it would have been earlier in the campaign.
Los Blancos finish their season at Butarque and the difficulty of that match will again hugely depend on whether Leganes have anything to play for. Currently, it seems likely that they will already be down by the the final weekend, but if they still have a chance of staying up, it could yet turn into an awkward final fixture for Real Madrid.
Overall, you could perhaps make a case for saying Barcelona have very marginally the easier fixtures to come. However there really isn’t much in it and with the momentum having swung back to Real Madrid this weekend, it’s certainly Los Blancos who have to be seen as the favourites to go on and clinch what would be only their second league title in eight years.
Either way, there are sure to be plenty of twists and turns to come between now and the final weekend and it has been the kind of season that looks destined to go to the very wire.
by Mark Sochon – @marksoc1