La Liga is one of the most exciting and avidly followed football leagues in the world, and this year’s result could be the most interesting of all. Currently in a great position to win are Atlético Madrid, a side which hasn’t won the League since 1996 – that’s 16 years – and yet, after their 1-1 draw with Malaga on the 11/05/14 they go into their match against Barcelona on the 18/05/14 knowing that, should they beat the mighty Barça, they will be champions.
Atlético Madrid have seen a rise in form, which has coincided with changes in the structure of Barcelona, meaning that the two sides are on a more level playing field. Atlético manager Diego Simeone has received criticism from the international community for not changing his strategy, and sticking to a 4-4-2 format. He has nonetheless made the most of the team’s talents, although there have been comments that the team sometimes struggles to take the initiative. However, with the players that he has, Simeone has produced a top team for the League, and claims that he would not be able to take on a major club may be unfounded, especially if his team goes on to win.
Barcelona, on the other hand, have been accused of giving up, and there are quotes flying around suggesting that Iniesta thinks it would be a “miracle” to win, that Busquets has admitted to making mistakes that no professional should make, and Xavi thinks that the team should starts from scratch. Grave news indeed. Regardless of how the team has performed in the past, the world is looking to Atlético to win. Curiously, the two teams left in the final have lost the League in the last three years, and there’s something spirited about watching the three previous underdogs (if they can be described in that way) fight it out for the top spot.
The really big game, when Atlético and Barça really get to square up to each other, is on the 18th, this is the match that will decide the winner of La Liga. Atlético are of course the current favourites, with a 5/4 chance of winning – good odds in any game – and Barcelona lag behind with an incomparable 24%.
Last season, Atletico really struggled at the Nou Camp, with Barcelona unstoppable in a 4-1 victory. Can Atletico see this match through and reverse the 16 year deficit?