The Spanish media no longer believes Real Madrid can win the 2015-16 La Liga title following their latest setback in Week 25, a 1-1 draw against Malaga that left the door to the Spanish title wide open for rivals Barcelona.
The Catalans battled to a 2-1 win over Las Palmas on Saturday before watching both Atletico Madrid and Real drop points. Atletico now trail the Blaugrana by eight points, while Real sit one point behind their city rivals―a position from which no team has ever won the title at this stage of the season, per Marca's Javier Estepa:
Zinedine Zidane's men practically bowed out of the title race after failing to get the better of Malaga at La Rosaleda. Although Zidane and players like Sergio Ramos insisted that they will keep fighting until winning the league is mathematically impossible, history is not on Real Madrid's side. No one has ever made up a nine-point deficit at the top of the table with 13 rounds of games to go.
Raul Albentosa cancelled out Cristiano Ronaldo's opener to hold Los Blancos to a draw at La Rosaleda in what was ultimately a disappointing outing for Los Blancos.
Here's a look at the highlights of the match, including a penalty miss from Ronaldo and some controversy surrounding the opening goal as well:
To make matters worse, Real's next match will be against Atletico at the Santiago Bernabeu, so at least one of the title hopefuls from the capital faces the prospect of losing even more ground on the Blaugrana, who host Sevilla.
Unsurprisingly, the Spanish media wasn't kind to both Real and Atletico following their Week 25 performances, with the latter playing out a drab scoreless draw against Villarreal.
Sport's Albert Masnou isn't ready to declare Barcelona champions just yet, although he doubts anyone can catch the Catalans given their hot form:
Atletico Madrid, like Real Madrid, can’t keep up with Barcelona’s rhythm. The Rojiblanco drew with Villarreal (0-0) on Sunday and are now eight points behind Luis Enrique’s side, a distance which you can technically add another point to due to the Catalan side’s head-to-head and goal difference advantage.
In these circumstances, the question is obligatory: Is La Liga over already? It’s difficult to answer. In 2003-04, after 25 games as well, Madrid were eight points clear of Valencia, only for Los Che to win the title. However, given Barça’s performances in comparison to Atletico and Real, it seems unlikely we will see such a drastic change in the table.
Ramon Tremosa, a politician from Catalonia who has asked for Gareth Bale's transfer to be investigated, couldn't help but take a shot at the Wales international during an interview with La Vanguardia (h/t Sport EN).
Claiming the transfer might have been made with public money, he said:
We only ask the European Commisison investigates how they paid the fee because 90 million euros, which Ronaldo or Bale cost, are how much is needed to build an airport.
Bale has been a failure for Madrid. This is an airport that would amortize in 50 years. How much is Bale worth now on the market? Five percent of what they paid for him?
But while the media appears to have buried Real's chances of completing an historic comeback and passing Barcelona in the standings, Los Blancos manager Zinedine Zidane has not.
Per ESPN FC's Dermot Corrigan, he said:
You might think La Liga is over but I do not, and the players do not either. It will be more difficult, as today we have lost two points, but we will never drop our hands. There are lots of points still to play for, so we will keep going. It is more difficult, as we have dropped two points.
There are different moments in the season, and there is a long way to go in La Liga. Other teams can also drop points. But I do not think about other teams.
Barcelona face a difficult week themselves, as they will take on Arsenal in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday before hosting Sevilla—the defending UEFA Europa League champions and the Catalans' opponents in the upcoming Copa del Rey final.
Can Real still win the La Liga title?
Their schedule won't get much easier moving forward, with a three-match stretch against Arsenal, Villarreal and Real on the horizon.
But the Spanish media seems convinced the title can no longer escape their grasp, and it's hard to disagree. The Blaugrana look close to unstoppable at the moment, and Saturday's win over Las Palmas proved Luis Enrique's men can win the ugly matches as well―unlike Real and Atletico, apparently.