With the Spanish title race blown wide open thanks to Barcelona’s sudden and unexpected dip in form, La Liga’s “big three” are all in action Wednesday. As Barça, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid all scramble to take every available point from the five rounds of play that remain, we preview this week’s action.
Deportivo La Coruna vs. Barcelona
The all-attacking, all-star trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez scored a staggering 106 goals between them in the time between last summer’s European Super Cup clash with Sevilla and the second leg of the Champions League tie that saw Barcelona eliminate Arsenal last month. However, since then, the trio known as the “MSN” has only managed four goals between the three of them. This drop in production from the front three has coincided with an overall drop in form for Barcelona, who have now lost their last five games in all competitions.
Normally a trip to lowly Deportivo La Coruna would be a foregone conclusion, but with Barça in their current form, suddenly anything is possible. Manager Luis Enrique must get ahold of himself and his players and get them back on track.
Anything less than a win at the Estadio Riazor Wednesday could potentially spell the end for Barcelona’s title defense.
Athletic Bilbao vs. Atletico Madrid
Just behind Barça in the table, even on points but trailing on goal differential, sit Atletico Madrid. Atleti are riding high on a three-game winning streak that’s seen them knock Barça out of the Champions League and close the gap on them in the league. Next up for Diego Simeone’s men is an away trip to Athletic Bilbao. If recent history is anything to go by, Atleti has the edge, having won their last three matches in all competitions at the San Memes.
However, this Bilbao team is not to be trifled with, especially at home, where they’ve dished out some hefty score lines this season. Simeone’s directive that his team should play as if they have a “knife between their teeth” will be very much in effect on Wednesday as Atletico seek to maintain the pressure on Barça and quite possibly, to win their second La Liga title in just three seasons.
Real Madrid vs. Villarreal
Just a few, short weeks ago, it looked to all be going wrong for Real Madrid. But beginning with the win in the El Clasico, Zinedine Zidane’s team has been on the ups, winning three on the bounce in La Liga and making it into the last four of the Champions League. The club’s big stars – Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and James Rodriguez – all got on the score sheet in the 5-1 demolition of Getafe on the weekend and the team has taken 35 points from their last 15 league matches.
Villarreal, meanwhile, have been ticking along nicely, currently sitting in fourth place and into the last four of the Europa League. While Real Madrid should have the firepower to subdue them – especially at home at the Santiago Bernabeu, it will be no easy ask for Zidane’s men, especially with the Yellow Submarine striker, Cedric Bakambu currently in high-flying form.