El Clasico, and the contrasting study with Spain's Champions League claims
On the importance of El Classico clash between Barcelona and Real Madrid in La Liga, and Spanish clubs' domination in Europe, specially in UEFA Champions League.
It seems the often-chastised duopoly has returned to haunt Spanish football. After the end of Gameweek 27, La Liga title fight has been reduced to two teams – yet again, its between two familiar foes. Barcelona are at 65 points, one more than their eternal rivals Real Madrid.
Sadly, defending champions Atletico Madrid – with their entire travesty employed through the buying and selling of players – are a further eight points behind their city foes. Their so called third place has been taken over by Valencia, with 57 points. Atletico are fourth, with one point lesser.
A gap of one point or two between Barca and Real is almost non-existent. But the gap between the top two and the chasing pack is burgeoning, at any given day and any given circumstance.
This gives an unrealistic call to the talks of football competitiveness in Spain. Yes, those in white and red stripes have shown more than enough desire to challenge the duopoly, but keeping that fire burning is altogether a different thing, as we have witnessed this season.
This very aspect has somehow robbed the sheen of La Liga's luster, which has some of the best talents and of course football set-ups in numerous academies. The trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez is the ultimate – the sheer beauty in their attack, backed up by a creative force from the likes of Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, Ivan Rakitic, etc.
On the opposite spectrum, there is Cristiano Ronaldo and his coterie of hugely talented players in Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Luka Modric, Isco and James Rodriguez, etc. And they are still the world's most successful club, having completed an unprecedented La Decima last season.
Probably, the presence of such a seemingly uncountable number of ‘Galacticos’ has tarnished the very image of La Liga. For many, it's a two-club league, wherein the fixtures involving them decide the champions. It's inability to project an image of permeability, to give enough opportunities to other teams with limited resources, has indeed cuckolded it's legitimacy as world's best league.
Comparisons between national leagues - on their purported superiority or even competitiveness amongst the constituent clubs, continue to burn reams of papers. But, as stated above, the one that pertains to Spain is still about two teams. Throw in their protracted political or societal mores into this rivalry and we then have the crème de la crème of football duels - El Clasico, as the world knows it.
But beyond this clash, and up to some extent except the Madrid derby, there seems to be no real clash in Spain.
Last year, the poorer half of Madrid killed that duopoly and won the domestic title thus providing enough breathing space to the hordes of neutrals. Atletico, under the very pro-active Diego Simeone, seemed to have provided some legitimacy to the league's virtuosity. But even before the turn of a year, their claim has been vested. They are now clamoring for a top-four finish, let alone defending the title.
In the backdrop of such malignant propositions, looking for a Spanish champion other than the classic two appears ludicrous. The unexpected rise of Valencia and Sevilla as possible alternatives to Atletico as a third force, or even a fourth, carries a quixotic air to the best.
For that matter of fact, this season too, the two obvious sides have already booked the title fight. And they will meet in yet another installment of El Clasico this Sunday, to be played out in front of a global audience.
But amidst the noise – about which national league carries more weight, vis-a-vis the coefficients and past records – La Liga continues to dominate the UEFA Champions League reckoning.
Of the remaining eight teams this term, the world's greatest club competition will see three Spanish clubs – Barcelona and the Madrid duo in the quarter-finals, as against two from France and one each from Germany, Italy and Portugal.
Missing in contention are some other European nations with great and enduring football legacies, notable among them being England.
With a favorable quarter-final draw, any two of these three La Liga clubs can play in the summit clash, like in the previous season; and once again put to rest this churning debate of best leagues, at least for some time.