Real Madrid players. (Reuters Photo)
CHENNAI: Gerard Pique‘s worst fears came true on Sunday when Real Madrid usurped Barcelona’s top spot in the La Liga table after their fighting 2-1 win over Real Sociedad at Reale Arena. Sergio Ramos scored from the penalty in the 50th minute and Karim Benzema doubled the lead in the 70th minute to give the Madrid giants a crucial away win.
Even though Barca and Real are level on points at 65 after 30 matches, the head-to-head record between the two (draw at the Camp Nou and win at the Bernabeu) gave Zinedine Zidane‘s men the top spot. From here on, it will only be Real’s title to lose even though they will still have eight more games remaining – the same as Barcelona.
After Barca’s goalless draw against Sevilla and ahead of Real’s Sociedad game, Pique had remarked that it will be difficult for the Catalan side to retain the title. The Barcelona defender went on to say that Real may not lose any points too in their remaining matches. On Sunday, Real made sure that they don’t let go of the opportunity to dethrone Barca. They showed a good deal of intent and came out triumphant.
Out of the eight matches now, Real will be playing three against bottom-placed teams Mallorca, Leganes and Espanyol. Perhaps, their biggest threats will be Getafe (5th) and Villarreal (6th), both of which will be vying to get a Champions League berth. However, Real are not expected to lose points against either of them as both their opponents haven’t been at their best since the restart. Moreover, Real had beaten Getafe comprehensively away too. The only concern will be the injury to Sergio Ramos at this stage.
Barcelona, on the other hand, have completely lost the plot. In their game against Sevilla, they had chosen the wrong set of players to start with. To make matters worse, their coach Quique Setien didn’t even make effective substitutions too. They also lacked the necessary pace and incision to unlock the opponents. What will also hurt them now is the fact that their influential midfielder Frenkie de Jong has sustained a leg injury and there isn’t a date fixed for his return. With strong opponents like Atletico Madrid lying in wait, they might be just fighting a losing battle.