The fight between Real Madrid and Barcelona for the La Liga title heads into the final matchday of the season. Madrid are three points clear of their eternal rivals with just one match remaining. This puts the capital club in pole position to win the league title after a span of five years. While Barcelona host Eibar, Real Madrid have a tougher task at hand as they travel to Malaga, who beat the Catalans 2-0 in early April.
Both Barcelona and Real Madrid have always been there amongst the top teams fighting for the big trophies. While Madrid have been able to keep up the pace with Barcelona at the European stage, they have been completely dominated by their rivals domestically. The all-whites have won just a single league title in the last eight years. That figure is way too small for a club of Madrid’s stature. On the other hand, Barcelona have managed six in the same time span.
In the previous years, Real Madrid had failed to grind out results. Juande Ramos and Manuel Pellegrini, both were sacked after a trophy-less season each. Jose Mourinho brought some success to the club. His unique and new counter-attacking style of football was admirable. But his dispute with some big names at the club, most noticeably, goalkeeper Iker Casillas, was a big reason of his departure just a year after he had won the league title.
Ancelotti won arguably the most sought after trophy for Madrid – the La Decima in his first season. But he also suffered the axe as he was unable to get any major silverware next season. Rafael Benitez was probably the one who suffered the most at Real Madrid, and was sacked in January 2016, when Zinedine Zidane took charge.
The French legend has already played with Madrid. And his connection with the club is paying dividends as Madrid are performing much better under him. He knows how to use his key players and how to keep everyone happy and motivated. It isn’t this season that the team started playing well under Zidane. Madrid cut Barcelona’s lead of 12 points to a single point after Benitez’s sacking last season. The depth in squad has helped Zidane rest his big players for big games in both the league, and in Europe.
The previous three years have been very heart-breaking for Madrid in terms of the league title. They lost to fierce city rivals Atletico Madrid by just three points in 2013-14. The next season brought more agony for Madrid as they finished just two points behind Barcelona. Madrid kept the pressure on Barcelona in the final weeks of the 2015-16 campaign, but fell short of the mark again, this time by just a single point. But Madrid have a real chance of changing the trend this season.
It’s too early to comment anything as of now. But, with Zidane at the helm and Madrid acquiring an approach similar to that of Barcelona’s in the past decade – producing young and exciting players and giving them more game time, there might just be a power shift in Spain.
All in all, it is going to be a great finish to an enthralling La Liga title race tomorrow. Barcelona need to win to keep themselves in the race. Madrid just need a point to secure their first league title in five years. And the way they are going, Madrid are favourites to lift their 33rd league title in the club’s history.