Have Real Madrid already lost the title?
Published: 04.12.12 / Written by: David Gold
In a league like La Liga, there is very little margin for error at the best of times.
In recent years, Real and Barcelona have known that if they fall a few points behind the other early in the season, there is little chance of being able to come back, and so it has proven that way for a while now. Barcelona were unable to find a way back into the title race last year as Madrid steamrollered opponents week after week, whilst the year before it had been the other way around.
So this year, the margin is even less for Real with Barcelona matching their 1991 side’s La LIga record for a best ever start. Barca have won 12 out of 13, their only dropped points in the draw with Real at the Camp Nou, and Leo Messi is in imperious form, closing fast on Gurd Muller’s all time record for goals in a calendar year.
In the context, Madrid could have already lost the league title after their 1-0 defeat to Real Betis at the weekend. Eight points behind going into the match, they are now 11 adrift, having succumbed limply to the Seville outfit’s determined showing.
With a third of the season gone, it is some stretch of the imagination to see Barcelona dropping eight more points than Real, even if Los Merengues manage to win the second Clasico of the season. So now Jose Mourinho is faced with losing the title he won back at the end of last year. His rein may well be coming to an end and it would be a limp one the way things are going. Things do not seem all well in Madrid. Cristiano Ronaldo appears unsettled and Mourinho’s uncomfortable relationships at the club seem all too clear for all to see. It would not be a shock if neither was there this time next year.
Worse still, they are having their status threatened by the upstarts across the capital. Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid have been superb so far this season. That they have kept pace with Barcelona is remarkable, and they sit three points off the Catalans going into the Madrid derby this weekend. Falcao has won plaudits and headlines, but Simeone’s management since he took over a year ago has been remarkably good. He almost got them into the Champions League at the end of last season and won the Europa League.
With 11 wins out of 13, Atletico look to have the bit between their teeth and they can really hurt Real this weekend. They have not beaten their fierce rivals for many years but they looked better equipped to do so than at any time since they won the title in 1996. There is a solidity, a resoluteness to Atletico which has not been something you would associate with Los Colchonorones for quite some time, and is a reflection of the personality and skill of Simeone himself.
At this rate, Madrid may not be ready to give up on the title just yet. More is at stake for Real this weekend than just their title hopes. Come Monday morning, it is quite possible that there will be just one side from the Spanish capital with a realistic chance of lifting the title, and it may not necessarily be Real.