A number of Spanish Football highs and lows are reaching their conclusions this month. The winners of the La Liga domestic tournament, the Copa del Rey, and the fourth place in the Champions League sweepstakes, should be known by month’s end or the week thereafter. The question is: what do the outcomes mean for now and for the near future?
Barcelona FC La Liga 2013 Champions
Barcelona will become the La Liga champion as soon as they get two more points, and that could happen in any of their remaining four games. But they will do so with less goals and points than they were on course to achieve earlier in the year, leaving Real Madrid with those records. Their coach, Jose Mourinho, was quick to point that out last week, during a post-game press conference: “Real has the record. Until someone else can get well over 100 goals and points in a single La Liga season.” It sounded like a scant and poor valediction for the Only One.
Barcelona will have limped into this trophy, but if the core team remains intact, they will be the ones tipped as favorites to win it all again at home and abroad next year. Who would not want to see Pep Guardiola coaching Bayern Munich against Tito Vilanova and Barcelona?
Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid vie for Copa del Rey
On May 17th, the two Madrid teams will play a derby with a bit more at stake than usual. Real’s entire season, after its Champions League debacle and La Liga flop, boils down to this one game. Atletico wants this trophy too, and has the team to pull off the upset, but their opponents are too talented and needy to let this chance escape them.
If Cristiano Ronaldo and company want to end on a high note, make a point, or stake some face-saving claim, a convincing victory against their talented opponents would go a long way toward being that balm that at least minimizes the pain of Madrid’s disappointing 2012-13. If Radamel Falcao and company manage the upset the Colombian may be able to name his next club and the Madridistas can at least say they lost it all in one very poor year, but wait ’til next year.
Real Madrid post Mourinho
Assuming Real wins the Copa, Mourinho will be able to leave with some dignity–at least in his mind. Meanwhile the team cannot breathe any easier yet. Any incoming coach will know that he will inherit a locker room rampant with disillusion and emboldened stars. Club president, Florentino Perez, has more than a management slot to fill, he has a team that is unhappy with him, for his decision to give Mou so much power. His choice better take the players’ views into consideration.
The fall out this summer can only go in two directions–a catastrophic loss of personnel or, on the heels of a brilliant coaching hire, a retained and enhanced roster. If it is the latter, the incoming coach will have to know that his main role will be to sound the conciliatory tone long needed at the Bernabeu. If that second option mostly materializes (if it comes with fewer defections than anticipated), and if it includes a reconstituted starting line-up that gives credence to the talent in hand (and perhaps adds Neymar), it might just augur an instant Merengue renaissance.
Real Sociedad, Valecia and Malaga vie for Champions League spot
With four games to go those are the three teams, in order, still realistically contending for that elusive 4th spot in the Champions League. Not one of the teams has an easy route and none meet each other for a potential knock out match. Malaga must still play Real and Barca, Valencia plays four middle of the table opponents, and Real Sociedad, the top of this litter, has the relatively easiest road. They play Real, two mid-table foes and one lower placed opponent. With the three best Spanish Football teams already all but assured passage this three-way competition will be the most interesting to follow through the end of the season.
With an average of about 16 wins, 8 ties, and 10 losses, a piece, and with only Real Betis having a real chance of ending among those three in this second tier, we may be seeing the beginning of something big and new. Sociedad’s roster has 22 of 25 players under the age of 27 and five starters under 25. Malaga made the quarterfinals of, and were ousted unfairly from, the Champions League. They were but a goal away from making it three Spanish teams in the semifinals. Finally, Valencia are perennial second bests who are aching to break through. Will next year be the one that sees Roberto Soldado finally getting some scoring help up front? If so, we might be seeing a strong second tier of Spanish Football teams developing, one that could realistically vie for entrance into the top three spots.