With 58 La Liga titles between them, Real Madrid and Barcelona are the two biggest clubs in Spain. Thanks to their ridiculously brilliant squads and unmatched winning pedigree, the two juggernauts always kick off the league campaign as title favorites; and the 2018/19 season, too, was no exception. Sadly, this season, their iconic rivalry hasn’t reflected on the Spanish Primera Division table.
Both Real Madrid and Barcelona started the season brightly, picking up convincing wins over Getafe and Alaves, respectively. The two carried the momentum over the next couple of La Liga matchdays, but the first upset of the season was just around the corner for the European champions. In their first real test of the season, Real Madrid folded rather astonishingly, drawing 1-1 at Athletic Bilbao. Barcelona returned the favor by surrendering two points to Girona at Camp Nou in the next weekend.
— SuperSport (@SuperSportTV) January 7, 2019
Over the next six La Liga games, Real Madrid suffered four crushing defeats, including a 5-1 humbling at Camp Nou; which ultimately marked the end of Julen Lopetegui’s disappointingly short stint at the Santiago Bernabeu. Barcelona, as expected, capitalized on Real Madrid’s misfortunes and got themselves a healthy advantage over their bitterest rivals.
Also Read: La Liga Gameweek 18 Roundup
Real Madrid handed the reins to former Castilla man, Santiago Solari, hoping for a prompt change of fortunes. The Argentinian recorded five consecutive victories in his opening five fixtures, but couldn’t help the club from settling back into their same old routine. The 3-0 defeat at Eibar gave Real Madrid a harsh reality check, showing them that a managerial change was never going to help the way they had hoped. Ernesto Valverde’s Barcelona, too, couldn’t manage to look as flamboyant as they would’ve liked, but their determination to bag all points gave them an edge over Solari’s Madrid.
According to Onda Madrid, Real Madrid are interested in strengthening the attack by bringing Genoa striker Krzysztof Piatek on loan. [as] pic.twitter.com/gXxpnqCt9V
— Real Madrid Info (@RMadridInfo) January 8, 2019
As of today, league leaders, Barcelona, have a ten-point advantage over fifth-placed Real Madrid. The Blaugrana have demonstrated how to win matches at any cost – an ability Los Merengues still haven’t managed to master. The disparity between the two sides has been monumental this season, and most of it can be chalked down to a certain Portuguese superstar’s absence.
Key Men: Gareth Bale vs Lionel Messi
Following Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure to Juventus, Gareth Bale was tipped to fill in for the club’s record goalscorer. But so far, the Welshman hasn’t done anything to justify the hype. Bale’s season has once again suffered due to niggling injury issues, forcing him to miss a significant chunk of the campaign. The former Tottenham man has appeared in 15 La Liga fixtures, so far, scoring 4 goals and providing 2 assists.
⚽ 26 Goals
🇦🇷 Goal involvements by Lionel Messi in @LaLiga this season:
⚽ 26 Goals (16 Goals, 10 Assists)
— SPORF (@Sporf) January 8, 2019
While Gareth Bale has struggled to get a foothold, Barcelona skipper, Lionel Messi, has once again been understatedly brilliant. As mentioned earlier, Barcelona haven’t always been at their best under Valverde, but the Argentinian has made sure to deliver whenever called upon, without fail, every single time. In just 16 La Liga matches, Messi has scored 16 goals and provided 11 assists, emerging as the league’s leading scorer and provider.
After 18 rounds of fixtures, it’s pretty safe to say that Real Madrid haven’t been able to live up to the billing, not even close. As for Barcelona, they look on course for yet another league title, their 26th in history.
The All Whites have done everything in their power to bring Madrid back to where they belong, but the void left behind by Cristiano Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane has been almost impossible to fill. Their forwards have struggled for both fitness and consistency, while the defense, as always, has been all over the place. In all honesty, there doesn’t seem to be much hope for Real Madrid this season, and anything better than a Europa League finish will be considered a humble achievement.