Sunday, May 10, 2015

Masters against mediocrity

Yesterday FC Barcelona got a major boost in the Spanish title race when their rivals from Real Madrid failed to defeat Valencia. 2-2 is likely to land the title in Catalonia.
Even as a Valencia fan I have to admit that the tie was not entirely deserved: Real Madrid pressured and had chances for a victory, and it was either a great Diego Alves or luck that saved Valencia. That said, looking at the top 4 teams in Spain, Barcelona is a deserved champion: Barcelona defeated Valencia twice in the league, 0-1 in Valencia and 2-0 at home. In the meantime, Real Madrid lost 2-1 in Valencia, and with 2-2, Valencia have been better than Real Madrid on their head-to-head tally.
The same is the case for Real Madrid against Atletico Madrid; Atletico won both matches, 1-2 and 4-0. FC Barcelona still have one away match left against Atletico Madrid, but they already defeated them 3-1 at home earlier in the season.
Only against FC Barcelona does Real Madrid have an acceptable head-to-head record: they won 3-1 at home, and lost 2-1 in Barcelona.
Real Madrid's poor record against the few Spanish top teams reveals two things: firstly, that the top of the Spanish league has become a bit more equal, and secondly, that Real Madrid may have a problem when performing against bigger sides; while they routinely trash all the mediocre sides of the Spanish league, they do not seem at the level when it counts.
Real Madrid still have the possibility to get the Champions League title, but must perform at the highest level to get past Juventus, and possibly the rivals of FC Barcelona in the final. If the final turned out to be all-Spanish, nothing but a victory would count, and Ancelotti's job would hinge on that.

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