La Liga Title Race: Barcelona vs. Real Madrid Head-to-Head Analysis

Luis HerreraAnalyst IMarch 24, 2011

La Liga Title Race: Barcelona vs. Real Madrid Head-to-Head Analysis

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    BARCELONA, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 29:  David Villa of Barcelona (R) vies for the ball with Sergio Ramos of Real Madrid during the La Liga match between Barcelona and Real Madrid at the Camp Nou Stadium on November 29, 2010 in Barcelona, Spain.  Barcelona won th
    David Ramos/Getty Images

    It was a perfect time to take a break.

    With nine match days remaining in the Spanish First Division schedule, all teams have a free weekend due to the FIFA date.

    Almost all squads still have something to fight for (a spot in the Champions or Europa League, avoiding relegation), but of course, everybody is looking to the fight at the top.

    Barcelona vs. Real Madrid: Who will be the next La Liga champion?

    Let’s make use of this break to analyze them.

1. The Star

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    MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 10:  Lionel Messi (L) of FC Barcelona clenches his fists celebrating scoring his sides opening goal as Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid reacts during the La Liga match between Real Madrid and Barcelona at the Estadio Santiago Bernabe
    Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

    Cristiano Ronaldo is having a terrific season, with 27 goals in 27 league matches.

    The Portuguese star has carried Los Merengues in many games, helping them break their Champions League curse and reaching their first Copa del Rey final in seven years.

    But even CR7’s fantastic season gets overshadowed by Lionel Messi.

    La Pulga has spent the last six months erasing any doubt about who is the best player in the world.

    Advantage: Barcelona

2. Coach

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    BARCELONA, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 29:  Head coach Jose Mourinho of Real Madrid (L) and head coach Josep Guardiola of Barcelona shake hands prior to the La Liga match between Barcelona and Real Madrid at the Camp Nou Stadium on November 29, 2010 in Barcelona, Sp
    David Ramos/Getty Images

    In less than three years as First Division manager, Pep Guardiola already has accomplished more than almost any other coach: Two leagues, one Copa del Rey, two Spanish Supercups, one UEFA Champions League, one UEFA Supercup and one FIFA World Club Cup.

    But on the other bench sits the man who found the way to stop his team last year. The Special One.

    Jose Mourinho is probably the best manager of the current era. Since 2002, he has won at least one trophy every year, including two editions of the UEFA Champions League with Porto and Inter, only the third manager to win the European top competition with two different teams.

    Advantage: Real Madrid

3. Goalkeeper

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    MADRID, SPAIN - JANUARY 13: Iker Casillas of Real Madrid reacts during the Copa del Rey quarter final first leg match between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on January 13, 2011 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty I
    Denis Doyle/Getty Images

    Iker Casillas is the best goalkeeper in the world. Period.

    Víctor Valdés is on route to win his third Zamora trophy in a row, but that has a lot to do with the opposing teams being unable to reach Barcelona’s goal.

    Casillas has proven his value time after time with Real Madrid and the Spanish National Team. He was the hero in the 2010 FIFA World Cup Final against Netherlands, and he saved Los Merengues many times when their defense was atrocious.

    Valdés is also a very good keeper, and is Casillas’ deputy with Spain, but he is not in the same league.

    Advantage: Real Madrid

4. Defenders

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    MADRID, SPAIN - MARCH 16:  Marcelo Vieira of Real Madrid celebrates with Sergio Ramos after scoring Real's opening goal during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg match between Real Madrid and Lyon at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on March 16, 20
    Denis Doyle/Getty Images

    At first sight, Los Culés have a clear edge in this line.

    Dani Alves is the best right back in the world, one step ahead of Sergio Ramos.

    Gerard Piqué and Carles Puyol are a stronger duo than Pepe and Ricardo Carvalho.

    Eric Abidal is a more complete left back than Marcelo.

    The problem is, Abidal will miss the rest of the season due to a liver tumor, while Puyol has struggled with injuries for a while.

    Real Madrid’s defense is fully healthy.

    Advantage: Real Madrid

5. Midfielders

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    BARCELONA, SPAIN - JANUARY 12:  Xavi Hernandez of FC Barcelona (R) and his teammate Andres Iniesta in action during the Copa del Rey quarter final first leg match between FC Barcelona and Betis at Camp Nou on January 12, 2011 in Barcelona, Spain. Barcelon
    David Ramos/Getty Images

    After years and years of wasting money in attacking players while forgetting about balance, Real Madrid has finally amended the course and now has one of the top midfields in the world.

    Xabi Alonso is a world class player. Some fans already compare Mezut Özil with Zinedine Zidane, and Ángel Di María has been a revelation since his arrival from Benfica. Sami Khedira has also had a solid season.

    But, oh right, the Blaugrana side has three World Champions, including two of the three finalists in the FIFA Golden Ball vote of last year.

    Advantage: Barcelona

6. Forwards

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    BARCELONA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 05:  Lionel Messi of Barcelona (R) celebrates with his teammate David Villa after scoring his third goal during the La Liga match between Barcelona and Atletico de Madrid at Camp Nou on February 5, 2011 in Barcelona, Spain.  (P
    David Ramos/Getty Images

    We already established that Lionel Messi is superior to Cristiano Ronaldo.

    Messi’s supporting cast is also stronger.

    David Villa is a world-class striker who easily adapted to play from the left side, making everybody forget about Zlatan Ibrahimovic, while Pedro Rodríguez is a star on the rise.

    Karim Benzema has been questioned since his arrival to Madrid, while Emmanuel Adebayor became expendable in Manchester City and has scored only three goals since joining Los Merengues.

    It’s not even close.

    Advantage: Barcelona

7. Bench

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 05:  Esteban Granero #24 (C) and Sergio Canales #27 of Real Madrid and  local youth soccer players participate in the Adidas training on August 5, 2010 in Westwood section of Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/G
    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    The Madrid side seems to have more depth than their rivals in almost every line.

    Defenders Álvaro Arbeloa and Raúl Albiol were part of the Spanish National Team in the 2010 World Cup.

    Midfielders Lass Diarra, Pedro León, Sergio Canales and Esteban Granero are solid deputies.

    I would pick Adebayor over Bojan nine out of 10 times.

    Meanwhile, other than Mascherano and Seydou Keita in the midfield, Barça doesn’t seem to have replacements at a similar level to the starters.

    Advantage: Real Madrid

8. Ace Up Their Sleeve

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    MADRID, SPAIN - JANUARY 20:  Kaka of Real Madrid reacts during the quarter-final Copa del Rey second leg match between Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid and at Vicente Calderon Stadium on January 20, 2011 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Ima
    Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

    I omitted one player in the previous slide. His name is Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite.

    You probably know him as Kaká.

    The Brazilian player has only eight appearances and 356 minutes played in the league due to injuries. It has been rumored in the Spanish press that his relationship with Mourinho is broken.

    But he is still a former FIFA Player of the Year and is only 28 years old.

    Kaká could be the player who changes the course of one game. We all know his magic, he just needs a few minutes to use it.

    Pep Guardiola would have to trust one of the kids from Barça B.

    Advantage: Real Madrid

9. Remaining Schedule

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    VILLAREAL, SPAIN - MARCH 17:  The Villarreal team observe a minutes silence for the victims of the Japan disaster ahead of the UEFA Europa League round of 16 second leg match between Villarreal and Bayer Leverkusen at El Madrigal stadium on March 17, 2011
    Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

    Both teams will face beatable opponents in the UEFA Champions League, and then they would meet each other. It's the same case in the Copa del Rey, so these tournaments won’t affect the definition of La Liga.

    In their final nine games, Barcelona will visit Villarreal, Real Madrid, Real Sociedad, Levante and Malaga. They will host Almería, Osasuna, Espanyol and Deportivo.

    Meanwhile, Real Madrid will host Sporting, Barcelona, Zaragoza, Getafe and Almeria. They will visit Athletic, Valencia, Sevilla and Villarreal.

    Apart from the Clásico at Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, Los Culés only have a hard match, the visit to Villarreal.

    Barcelona should win the other seven games, which would force Real Madrid to sweep the opposition in their remaining schedule.

    In their turn, Los Merengues have four very difficult away matches, plus the Clásico itself at home. It seems very likely that they will lose some points.

    Advantage: Barcelona

10. Expectations

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    BARCELONA, SPAIN - MARCH 08:  Xavi Hernandez of Barcelona celebrates with team-mates David Villa and Andres Iniesta during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg match between Barcelona and Arsenal at the Nou Camp Stadium on March 8, 2011 in Bar
    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    Barcelona is widely considered the best team of the world, so many expect them to win another Treble.

    On the other side, after ending the last two seasons with empty hands, Real Madrid just want to win whatever they can.

    You would think the pressure is over the Blaugrana side, but they spent the last three years thriving under pressure.

    Los Merengues just managed to end a streak of six years losing in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16.

    Advantage: Barcelona

Conclusion: Barcelona Will Get Their 21st La Liga Title

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    BARCELONA, SPAIN - AUGUST 25:  Former Barcelona president Joan Laparta holds the 2009-2010 La Liga trophy with Leo Messi during a lap of honour before the Joan Gamper Trophy match between Barcelona and AC Milan at Camp Nou stadium on August 25, 2010 in Ba
    Denis Doyle/Getty Images

    Los Blaugrana have a good edge in the standings (five points plus the tiebreaker due to the 5-0 victory in the Clásico in the first half of the season) and an easier schedule, so they shouldn’t struggle to get their third Spanish championship in a row.

    Real Madrid has closed the gap, but they are still one or two steps behind their rivals.

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    Also read:

    * La Liga: Ranking the Top 25 Players in the Spanish First Division