It’s with great honor that I announce the return of this column after a few months off these pages.
What a time to make a return to my favourite subject when the Spanish Primera Division title race is tighter than ever. Neither Barca nor Real have a guarantee to win the title as both are below Atletico Madrid on the table.
In other words, it’s a good time to be watching La Liga, not that much has changed yet in terms of the domination by Real Madrid and Barcelona but by the fact that at least Atletico Madrid is giving them a run for their money in the title race.
For years, critics have moaned the Spanish league for not being as competitive enough as the other top European leagues, claiming the title race is over before it gets started—since only two teams have the chance to alternate it between themselves.
But at last, it appears as though this season, La Liga, which has been the strongest league in Europe over the past five years, according to UEFA’s league coefficient, is giving critics a glimmer of hope that the status quo of the last 10 years or so could finally change—particularly with Diego Simeone’s Atletico at the centre of it all.
For the first time since the 1995/96 season, Atletico find themselves at the top of the league, three clear points between them and the teams in second and third place, Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively.
Ironically, the 95/96 season was also the last time that the second biggest team from the Spanish capital won their last La Liga title.
Since that time, the traditional ‘big two’ (Real and Barca) have won it a combined total of 14 times. Only Valence in 2001-02 and 2003-04 as well as Deportivo La Coruna in the 1999-00 season managed to win it.
The reputation of La Liga has, for years been despoiled by the commonly used tag of ‘Two-team League’ and the facts show that the label is rightly deserved.
As someone, who believes this league is better, with however little margin, than the much publicised English Premier League, being labeled a ‘two-team league’ it’s not something that any top league want to be associated with.
Atletico Madrid, who are also through to the quarter-finals of the Uefa Champions League, and will take on Italian giants AC Milan, have the best chance to prevent either the giants from lifting the trophy that no other team has won since Valencia in 2004.
In a league with the two biggest clubs, money and pedigree, it is even harder for any other team, other than them, to win the title.
Actually some observers say winning La Liga is the most difficult thing to accomplish in Europe, if you’re not a Real and Barca—and it Simeone’s team go on to accomplish the mission, it would be biggest achievement, not only the club but also La Liga.