Table-toppers Atlético Madrid, defending Spanish champions Real Madrid and Barcelona are all still in the title race in LaLiga as we take a look at how the season has gone and could evolve.
Comfortably sitting on top of LaLiga are Diego Simeone’s in-form Atlético side. Real Madrid, Barcelona, Villarreal and Sevilla are chasing Los Rojiblancos, however, a flying Luis Suárez on 11 league goals has given Atlético a comfortable lead with games to spare. Atlético aren’t used to the favourites tag but if they continue on the same trajectory, with a rock-solid defence, they should claim their first Primera title in seven years.
Copa del Rey
Atlético were suprisingly knocked out in a second round shock defeat to Catalan Third Division club Cornella. The curse of the Copa del Rey continues for Zinedine Zidane following Real Madrid’s shock defeat by Third Division side Alcoyano in the round of 32 earlier this month. The French coach has never won the Copa as a player or a manager. Barcelona and Sevilla are the other two tops clubs that survived round of 32 scares from lower league clubs but managed to sneak through and keep their Copa del Rey hopes alive.
Spanish Super Cup
Both Barcelona and Real Madrid blew their chances of collecting their first silverware of this season. Barcelona managed to get through to the final but a dramatic ending to the game where the Catalans first conceded in the 90th minute which levelled the score at 2-2, leading to extra-time. Athletic Club went ahead in extra-time thanks to an Iñaki Williams wonderstrike and they held on until the final whistle. Real Madrid were knocked out by the eventual Supercopa winners in the semi-finals.
Current club situation, fixtures, and transfer news
Leading the La Liga table and continuing to be favourites to be crowned Spanish champions this year, Diego Simeone’s men have seriously impressed this season, with a more attractive brand of football compared to 2019-20. Clinical finishing backed with compact defending has been Atletico’s strength in the league. Luis Suárez has arguably been the signing of the season and one of Simeone’s greatest ever at the club. Jan Oblak, in goal, has been his excellent self and Europe’s top-performing shot-stopping keeper in 2020-21.
Atlético will face Chelsea in the last 16 of this year’s Champions League. Both clubs have faced each other seven times in the past and three games have ended in draws, while the clubs collected two wins apiece. Chelsea have been out of form recently following their impressive start to the Premier League season and it will a difficult task for Frank Lampard to get past the in-form Spaniards.
French striker Moussa Dembélé has arrived in Madrid on loan from Lyon and Diego Simeone isn’t done yet. Portuguese U19 star Marcos Paulo, who is currently with Brazil side Fluminense, has been on Simeone’s radar and the club are keen to sign him on a 5-year deal this transfer window. It is clear that with Diego Costa’s departure the club are looking to strengthen their forward line and go all in to finish the season on a high.
Defending LaLiga champions Madrid have had a rollercoaster of a season so far. Despite being dumped out of the Copa del Rey and missing the opportunity to win the Supercopa, Zinedine Zidane and his men are a force to reckoned with on their day. Sitting second in the league table, Madrid will have to pull up their socks, and get more from players like Eden Hazard, Marco Asensio and Vinicius Junior if they’re to mount a title challenge. An impressive 4-1 victory over Alavés on Saturday night keeps them in the hunt midway through an ultra-competitive season.
Despite having a disastrous start to the Champions League group stages, Los Blancos finished their group as winners and will face Italian club Atalanta in the round of 16. Atalanta impressed in Europe last season with scintillating performances. In only their second season in top European competition, Zidane’s men will have to be wary of the Italian side’s ability in front of goal.
Madrid have had to deal with injuries to key defenders this season, with Sergio Ramos, Dani Carvajal, and Nacho all missing several weeks out. Marca report that a deal for Bayern Munich defender David Alaba has been agreed, which will see the versatile defender join this summer. The club are aiming to improve on their defence for the coming season, with Ramos and Marcelo not getting any younger. Martin Odegaard looks set to join Arsenal this month. The Norwegian hasn’t been able to replace to majestic Luka Modric, who continues to improve at 35 and will sign a new one-year deal with the club.
The club’s presidential elections have been postponed until March. Barcelona are experiencing an extremely financially complicated time, which has been enhanced by the global pandemic.
Qualifying for the Champions League was no hard task for the Catalan club but now they are lined up to face last season’s finalists PSG in the round of 16. PSG will have the 6-1 comeback fresh in their minds, but Barcelona hosts the Parisians in the first leg of the fixture and the reverse fixture will be played in the Parc des Princes. Ronald Koeman also has the Copa del Rey to look forward to, as his side face Rayo Vallecano in the last 16. Barça are sitting fourth in LaLiga at the time of writing.
Barcelona are another team plagued with injuries to crucial players like Gerard Piqué, Ansu Fati, and Sergi Roberto but Koeman has been giving the club’s youngsters a chance to prove themselves and they haven’t failed to deliver. Barça will likely see young centre-back Eric García join the club in the summer from Manchester City, a much-needed addition to their weakening backline. However, Ronald Araújo looks like a player with an exciting future in the game. The 21-year-old was playing in the Uruguayan Second Division just over three years ago. He has led excellently in place of Piqué at the heart of the Barcelona defence.
As we enter the second part of this season, the top clubs in Spain have their eyes on trophies and will be aiming to dominate Europe once again. The Madrid two and the Catalan giants have all to play for in the final stretch of this year’s campaign. The LaLiga and Champions League trophies have made Madrid their home over the past decade, while the Copa del Rey is additional silverware that Barcelona will be hoping to bring back to Camp Nou.