COS columnist Lord of the Foot believes that the La Liga race may be wide open this season.
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Villarreal, with an opportunity to anoint themselves contender rather than pretender, were put to the sword by an emphatic Barcelona. Cynics would look at that result, and without a blink of an eye or the bat of an eyelash, label La Liga as a two horse race. Such people, however, would be incredibly stupid to make such rash conclusions.
Those who watched can tell you it was probably the most enjoyable, artistic, and technically gifted match of any played this season. The visitors matched their hosts in every facet of the game – high defensive lines, neat and tidy possession, wing play and attacking fullbacks. What they lacked, though no fault of their own, was the world class brilliance of Messi and Villa whose goals were absolutely brilliant.
With that in mind, don’t be fooled by the final 3-1 tally. Pep Guardiola referred to his defeated opponent after the game as “”una joya de equipo (a gem of a team).” Their performance was “brutal” – tough and hard nosed yet pleasing to the eye.
Villarreal possess two intelligent and lightning quick forwards who have the third most goals of any two strikers in La Liga. Their midfield possess the power and intellectual awareness necessary to execute the beautiful, short pass football ingrained in the squad by former manager Manuel Pelligrini. Sensational captain Santi Cazorla adds flare to the wing, while a physical back four compliments the attack with forward thinking left and right backs. The yellow submarine are good enough to beat anyone in the league. Unfortunately, they faced a squad that much better on Sunday.
Back at the top of the table, Real Madrid left it late in Gijon to secure a difficult three points. Mourinho also secured the best ever start for a new manager in Spain. Shaking in your boots yet? I surely hope not. They have played nobody – the minnows of La Liga. To say Real Madrid are running away with Barcelona is foolish. To say they are as good as their Champions League performances to date is also foolish. You don’t have to be Einstein to understand that Florentina Perez, Madrid, and Mourinho make continental supremacy a priority over winning a domestic title (which is obviously a must as well). A grueling domestic campaign cannot compare to group stage and two legged affairs.
Meanwhile, Barcelona are just as good as everyone expects them to be. On a night when a great team showed up at their front door, they were simply greater (to borrow the words of Sid Lowe). Barcelona have already defeated Atletico, Villarreal, Valencia, and Sevilla by a combined score of 12-3.When the top clubs in Spain come knocking, Barcelona often produce sensational clinics to reinforce their role as champion. There should be no doubts about their potential, while Real Madrid simply haven’t had a chance to show that.
However, the question remains: did Villarreal waste an opportunity to make the championship race in La Liga enthralling? The scoreline says yes. The performance says otherwise.
El Clasico is two weeks from today. Madrid then face Valencia, Villarreal, and Sevilla in three of their following five matches. Don’t draw negative conclusions from Villarreal’s defeat yesterday. They are too good to fall out of the chase, while the league leaders have their first true competitive matches ahead.
Keep your eyes fixed on Spain. The next month will give us a much better idea of the future of La Liga this season.