Can Real Madrid hold on to their lead?

Mashfiq Mizan | Saturday, 2 April 2022

Table-toppers Real Madrid will return to LaLiga evening today at Balaidos when they take on Celta Viga.

Celta are always a team to beat led by Iago Aspas, as they showed Real at the Santiago Bernabeu earlier this season before an Eduardo Camavinga-inspired debut performance rescued them. 

Real Madrid need a strong performance today as they are coming off an embarrassing 4-0 loss to Barcelona in El Clasico.

The defeat had people asking a question - can Real Madrid hold on to their lead with 9 matches to go?

The Los Blancos are at the top of the La Liga table with 66 points in 29 matches, nine points ahead of their nearest rival Sevilla.

Barcelona stand third with 54 points, 12 points behind  Real Madrid having played one game less.

So there is no need of pushing the panic button in Real’s dressing room as things stand because Barcelona beating Real Madrid 4-0 on their own turf should not have any real effect in La Liga.

Real should still cruise to the title and Barçelona’s best bet should be winning the Europa League and qualifying for the Champions League.

However, it didn't stop Barca captain Gerard Pique from proclaiming 'We are back' or the Spanish media from questioning Carlo Anclottis’ ability to coach Real Madrid. However, a slip in today’s game can start making things tricky.

Moving on, Real will face Getafe sandwiched between their Champions League quarter-final fixtures against Chelsea.

Ancelotti could rotate players to have full-fit steam against Chelsea in the second leg which could put Real in a precarious position given their lack of squad depth and dependency on captain Benzema.

Five days later, they will have to lock horns with Sevilla away from home in one of the crucial fixtures of the season and follow that up with another away game against Osasuna. Madrid will also have to face Espanyol away; they lost against that team in Matchweek 8.

Another game that could be key to defining Real Madrid's destiny is another away fixture against Atletico Madrid in May.

Madrid have been relying on the individual brilliance of Karim Benzema, Vinicius, and Thibaut Courtois throughout the season.

Barcelona and Sevilla will hope that fatigue kicks in for the trio during the business end of the season, especially considering how little they have been rotated.

The game against Barca exposed once again how dependent Real are on Benzema.  Ancelotti looked like a lost child in the Bernabéu. His experimentation with Modric by playing him in a more advanced role completely backfired.

Despite their brilliance, the ageing midfield of Real Madrid has also been a cause of concern for the Los Blancos, especially if pressure is exerted from the deepest part of the midfield. 

On the other hand, Barcelona’s next game against Sevilla will decide which of these two teams will pose a greater threat to Madrid in the season finale.

A win against Sevilla would leapfrog  Barca into second place by the end of the game. At that point, Barcelona could be nine points behind Madrid, with nine games on the clock. 

And their fixture afterwards is comparatively easier than Madrid with Levante, Cadiz, Real Sociedad, Rayo Vallecano, Mallorca, Real Betis, Celta Vigo, Getafe and Villarreal. Six of those ten games will take place at Camp Nou.

Although it’s still unlikely that they will catch Real Madrid, Xavi’s rejuvenated Barcelona will surely make things dramatic.

And Sevilla will also gather some courage after Real Madrid’s Clasico defeat. Sevilla haven’t lost a home game in the ongoing season with 10 wins and 3 draws. 

They will play 5 of the last nine games of the season at home which is good news for them.

One of those home games is against Real Madrid in match week 32 which will seal their fate in the current campaign along with the Barcelona game.

Clearly, the La Liga race is not yet over. Real Madrid will have to be at their best as both Sevilla and Barcelona will wait eagerly to tap in on any stumbles the table-toppers make.

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