La Liga: Barcelona vs Real Madrid vs The Rest

Spain may be World and European champions but that is old news and the focus now moves from international to domestic. La Liga 2010/11 season is about to start, and Cristiano Ronaldo, Jose Mourinho, Lionel Messi, and David Villa are stars from Real Madrid and Barcelona who could spice up the show. Last season saw fans enjoying the very best from both sides with the Catalans and Los Blancos earning huge league points. In the end, after 38 hot match-days, the La Liga title ended in the hands of the Camp Nou rulers who had been remarkably powered by the Argentine Lionel Messi. Neither Real Madrid, nor Barcelona were good enough to steal the Champions League trophy in May 2010.

Now the popular Portuguese manager will be joining Cristiano Ronaldo in Real with the task of waking up the sleeping giants for their next long battle against Barcelona. This surely boosts the confidence of the Castellans who can now boast of possessing Germany’s superstar Mesut Oezil, but Barcelona have also acquired a deadly weapon with which they do not only plan to defend themselves, but also attack: David Villa. The latter adds to the list of already-bounded Barca contributors among which one can already count Xavi, Puyol, Messi, or Iniesta.

The race for the La Liga title this season promises to be a terrific one. Barcelona and a new look Real Madrid are set out to battle it out, once again, for the hearts and minds of the Iberian Peninsula. Barcelona and Real Madrid dominated the league last season like never before. Valencia finished third, a distant 28 points behind the champions, and have moved significantly backwards with the sales of David Villa and David Silva to Barcelona and Manchester City respectively. Sevilla have also lost their best player, Adriano, also to Barcelona, and has effectively gone backwards. Meaning that Barcelona have stripped their nearest rivals of their best talents and moved further ahead while Real Madrid, under Jose Mourinho, have also strengthened significantly.

That leaves Mallorca as possible top four contenders, but no. The club have changed hands in something like a game of pass the parcel over the last couple of years and due to their financial problems UEFA refused to grant the club a license to compete in European competition on July 22. The loss of Mario Suarez Mata to Atletico Madrid will hit the club hard and he will be difficult to replace. Getafe are another team who has lost their best players, Pedro Leon and Soldado, and have yet to bring in anyone of note.

All that leaves Atletico Madrid, the newly crowned UEFA Super Cup champions as probably the only team who could challenge Barcelona's and Real Madrid's dominance. The club who finished ninth last year have brought in Fran Merida from Arsenal, once thought of as the heir apparent to Cesc Fabregas, Filipe from Deportivo La Coruna, and Suarez from Real Mallorca. The most important news is that they have managed, so far, to hold onto the best player in the world, Diego Forlan. In years gone by holding onto a player like Forlan would have been beyond the means of Atletico Madrid but his age and profile and combined beautifully for the Madrid based club.

At 31, Forlan, the twice winner of Europe's Golden Boot, is too old to attract the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal, or Barcelona while his location protects him from Real Madrid coming in and taking him across the city. All that means is that Real Madrid and Barcelona should be stronger than ever while all their rivals, bar Atletico Madrid, have been weakened. The title chase will boil down to whoever holds their nerves before and after the Champions League games and with Jose Mourinho already stating that anything less than a Champions League victory would be a disaster for the club it looks as if Los Blancos may be focusing on Europe over the league.

It will be a purist dream come true, if any other club rather than Barcelona or Real Madrid could lift the La Liga crown at the end of this season. Although it looks very unlikely but it could make La Liga even more entertaining and give "The Rest" a glimpse of hope.

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