Is La Liga the new SPL?

by Michael Somerville

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Los dos grandes

If you have a look at the current La Liga table, you’ll find that there are only two teams who have a chance of winning the coveted title- Barca and Real Madrid. Although you’d be forgiven for thinking this is predictable, these two giants of Spanish football haven’t always enjoyed quite this degree of domination for some years, with Valencia taking home the title in 2003-04 and 2001-02 and Deportivo La Coruna winning in 1999-00. Barcelona are strong favourites to win this year, after playing some quite scintillating football and averaging over three goals a game with Samuel Eto’o, Lionel Messi and Thierry Henry firing on all cylinders consistently throughout the season. It looked like Henry was never going to establish himself at the Nou Camp, but after a difficult first season, he has emerged revitalised and has shown his class under new boss Pep Guardiola, scoring seventeen goals, including a late equaliser last night away to Valencia. Henry’s goal should prove to be valuable, especially after Real Madrid finally turned on the style against Sevilla last night, winning 4-2 courtesy of a hat-trick from Raul and a late Marcelo strike. The victory cranks the pressure up on Barca, with now only 4 points separating the two sides. Madrid have had an amazing stretch of 16 wins in their last 17 games (drawing the other game), and although they have won ugly in almost every game, Juande Ramos must be commended in keeping the belief in his players, especially after the demolition by Liverpool. It proves that results matter, and Ramos seems to be keeping his temp job at Madrid for another season. There is a renewed sense of optimism, as according the clubs official website 83% percent of Madrid fans now believe that they can win the title.

Obviously this is all very exciting and dramatic, but if you look at the bigger picture of La Liga (the second highest rated league behind the Premier League) then you quickly realise that there is a huge gulf in class. Valencia, once one of the best teams in Spain look resigned to loosing their star player David Villa in the summer, and most likely other key players such as David Albeda, Joaquin and David Silva as they attempt to erase their debts of £462 million. The only teams who really can challenge Real and Barcelona are Sevilla and Villarreal, but they are 21 and 23 points adrift of the twin Spanish giants. All of this points towards a domination of La Liga for many years to come, showing parallels to (God forbid) the SPL.

The SPL has always been Celtic/ Rangers dominated except from an unpredictable surge from Hearts in 2005, which were unfortunately quashed due to an unbelievably incompetent chairman and “megalomaniac” Vladimir Romanov, after he meddled in team affairs, which George Burley sensationally quit the job after “irreconcilable differences”. In short, he severely disrupted chances of securing the title in 05. The parallels are obvious and slight, as there is a lot more money and quality in La Liga, but it makes you think whether the brave resistance has finally succumbed to the big boys.

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  • Darren

    it’s the same in most leagues to be honest, there just seems to be a big 2 in Spain.

    Saying that, I thought Barca were pretty average last night, talk about over passing. It reminded of watching Arsenal at the Emirates last season.

    Credit must go to Chelsea, they defended excellently, so what if they were negative, you hardly expect them to go to a ground where the home team scores an average of 4 goals per game and play them at their own game.

    As much as I want Barca to win I fully expect Chelsea make the final now

  • Mike

    Yeah I thought E’tto and especially Bojan should of put their chances away for Barca. Saying that, Drogba should have put his effort away. 2-1 would have been better for Barca than a nil nil but I do expect a lot more goals in the second leg. Will be a great game!

  • Matt Quinn

    But Villarreal finished second last year. I’d say the Spanish league is more open and less predictable than the English Premier League. In the last few years Spain have had Barca, Real, Villarreal, Deportivo, Valencia, Atletico Madrid in the champions league. England have the same 4 every year.

    Plus, its hard to say barca “over-pass” Darren as they have broken scoring records all year in Spain. Clearly this “over-passing” works for them. The reason they didnt play that well or score was because Chelsea were an embarrassment and had 10 men behind the ball for 90mins. I think one stat showed that the highest number of passes Chelsea strung together was 4!! Not very impressive for Englands supposed 2nd best team.

    I also think they wont be able to do that at Stamford Bridge and will probably go out now. Nil-nil is always a strange result and will probably favour Barca.

  • Darren

    is this why you are keithing me Matt? Because I dared to say Barca were poor?

    Chelsea did a job, know one will remember Barca if Chelsea get to the final, its a results game. I’m not sticking up for them as I hate them as much as you do.

    Pretty football doesn’t always win you throphies, just ask any Arsenal fan!

  • Matt Quinn

    I think Barca will still get through to the final. I dont actually think it was that good a result for Chelsea.

    I just think it is embarrassing for a team to perform like that in a Champions League semi final. Youre right no-one will remember Barca if Chelsea get to the final… but they’ll remember how Chelsea played to get there.

    Remember Red Star Belgrade winning the European cup? I bet the first thing that springs to mind is how they won it. Ie. Poorly, defensive, cheating etc….

  • Matt Quinn

    Ps. Not keithing you.

    Was out last night and out with work this morning.

  • Darren

    Germany won 3 world cups and 4 European championships by playing the Chelsea way. Look at Holland and even Hungary, they won nothing for playing beautiful football.

    It’s sad but pure footballing sides rarely win trophies.

  • Jude

    Not sure about the German comparison Darren. They might have been extremely fit and efficient, but they were not exactly Greece. They played good football and had great players with the likes of Franz Beckenbauer, Uli Hoeness, Gerd Muller and Gunter Netzer – whose legs were infamously autographed by the the studs of the England players at Wembley in the quarter finals of the 1972 Euro Champs – in the 70s and Schuster, Stielike, Brietner and Rummenigge in the 80’s.

    And even in Italia 90′ – when many thought England were unlucky to lose in the semi’s to the Germans – they were blessed with Brehme, Matthaus and Klinsmann – hardly your bog-standard footballers.

    Brazil 82′, best footballing side never to win the World Cup…

  • Darren

    Totally agree, Brazil ‘82 best side never to won the WC. Zico, Soccrates, Eder, Falco, Junior. It was the first time I had had been exposed to that style of football, I was 11 and still remember that World Cup as if what last year. So many great players and great moments.

    • Bruno Conti’s goal against Peru which effectively put them through to the next stage without winning a game.
    • Algeria beating West Germany only to fix a 0-0 with Austria to qualify
    • Keegans miss against Spain
    • Northern Irelands 1-0 win over the hosts
    • Boniaks performances for Poland
    • France 3 West Germany 3, Schmakers horrendous tackle on Battiston
    • David Nareys goal against Brazil

    Ah man, so many great moments!

  • dexylongshot

    What about when Robbo putting one past super duper France in the 1st minute, magic!!!
    I watched it on a black & white with my old man in hospital,
    he put his back out that morning (how convenient, a fortnight of work, timing!)

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