Spain: Madrid and Barcelona cement places as top two
Both of Spain’s dominant footballing powers continue to edge their way further ahead in the race for the 2010-11 La Liga championship as Real Madrid and FC Barcelona recorded massive wins over Athletic Bilbao and UD Almeria respectively.
In a league which is becoming something of a more powerful version of the Scottish Premier League, there seems to be a massive gulf between the traditional big two of Spanish football and the rest of the league. With El Clásico on the horizon it was important for both teams to make a statement of intent going into next Monday’s crucial encounter and neither team disappointed.
First up were FC Barcelona and once Lionel Messi opened the scoring for the defending La Liga champions on 17 minutes there was no looking back as the Blaugrana had wave after wave of attack which left their opponents completely overwhelmed. Before they knew it Almeria were five goals down at half-time following strikes from Iniesta (penalty), Pedro, Messi again and an own goal from Santi Acasiente. Barça were in no mood to take their foot off the gas as they hit the back of the net a further three times in the second half. Bojan Krkić’s second half brace sandwiched Lionel Messi’s hat-trick goal and the 8-0 win was the biggest of the season for Pep Guardiola’s team who can now go into their home match against Real Madrid with confidence.
Things are equally as good at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu where league leaders Real Madrid also hit a multitude of goals in a 5-1 rout over Athletic Bilbao. José Mourinho’s team got the ball rolling when Gonzalo Higuaín opened the scoring after 19 minutes. After that the game turned into the Cristiano Ronaldo show as the Portuguese superstar equalled Messi’s efforts by scoring a hat-trick of his own. A penalty from Sergio Ramos was Madrid’s other effort of the game whilst the hapless Basques at least mustered a consolation strike when Fernando Llorente’s 40th minute strike at least had fans thinking there would be a contest with the game ending 2-1 at the break. However the attacking nature of Madrid under Mourinho is, after a slow(ish) start, beginning to find a more fluent rhythm with Los Blancos scoring seventeen goals in their last five league games.
Villarreal and Valencia CF, the two teams directly behind the top two before this weekend’s games, played out a 1-1 draw at the former’s El Madrigal stadium which further encapsulates the view that La Liga is going to be dominated by Madrid and Barcelona once again. League leaders Real Madrid are still unbeaten with 32 points from 12 games, just one ahead of Barcelona whilst third place Villarreal are already a further seven points back. Considering that the gap between the top two and third place in last season’s championship was a distant 25 points there are already fears that the Spanish League is turning into a glorified Scottish League. Despite this there is a match-up betwen Spain’s version of the Old Firm coming up next Monday night and it looks like being one of the most interesting Clásico games in modern times.