Real Madrid could afford to draw their final game of the season, having ultimately ambled to the League title. It had been a close fought race for much of the campaign, with Barcelona leading for much of the season after early challengers Sevilla, Atletico Madrid, and surprise packages Granada fell away. This may be the last time for a while La Liga is particularly close run.
Madrid won the league title conceding just 25 goals, the meanest defense in the top 5 European leagues, 2 less than notoriously stubborn neighbors Atleti. That’s largely down to goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois (formerly of Aleti) becoming comfortable, and the world class partnership of Varane and Ramos. Ramos has been on fire at the other end too, scoring 13 goals so far in all competitions, 11 in the league, more than Barcelona’s star striker Antoine Griezmann. The two middle men are flanked by the reliable Carvajal and one of Ferland Mendy or Marcelo. The Eder Militao serves as back up, as youngster who looks set to be a world class player.
That’s something Real Madrid have subtly been doing better than Barcelona in recent years. The balance of galacticos and ones for the future. Since bringing in Suarez and Neymar, most of Barcas big signings have been more hit than miss. Coutinho spent his time on loan, Dembele never got going, Vidal has been past his prime for a few seasons now, Griezmann doesn’t seem to fit into the team. The most recent transfer debacle has been letting young prodigy Melo Arthur go to Juventus in place of 30-year-old Pjanic. Looking at Barcelona’s line-up for next season as things stand, Lenglet and De Jong are the only relatively new faces to get excited about. And then there’s Messi, who is apparently fed up. If Messi doesn’t perform, this Barca team is average.
Whereas for Real Madrid, they have talented youngsters in Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo, and Federico Valverde to work along side the old guard of Toni Kroos, Karim Benzema (the most underrated striker in world football), and Luka Modric. If Eden Hazard can stay fit, he will likely hit the ground running next season. Luka Jovic is the odd one out, and looks like he may be on his way. And as always there’s speculation surround Mbappe joining and the signings of young guns like Camavinga and Soumare.
It’s not just the players, they have what they for so long were missing. A manager the players want to play for. So often in the past it was a case of a bit of success, then the players get tired of playing for the coach. That hasn’t happened in either of Zidane’s two spells. The players love him, and will run through a wall for him. You could see Madrid enjoyed their football. And he’ a winning coach. 3 Champions Leagues in a row and now the first league title of the decade.
It may not be the best time to be a neutral, Germany, Italy, and France already have been largely dominated by the same team. We could be adding Spain to that list soon. Real Madrid are in the best shape of any La Liga team.
Barcelona are being held together by sellotape. Other big names like Sevilla, Villarreal, and Valencia lack star power. Real Sociedad are an exciting young team, but could see their talent poached. Atleti are ones to be curious about, but have a bit of a rebuilding job on their hands and can’t seem to hold onto key players. They finished 17 points behind their rivals.
The Champions League may be something of a last hoorah for Barcelona, but the one-off game format possibly suits a team like Real, who have quality and momentum.
At the end of the decade, we could be asking who could knock Real Madrid off their perch.