Eight finals to go.
That’s the mentality of Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane as Real Madrid head into the final furlong of the LaLiga season as favourites to clinch the crown from Barcelona.
Madrid leapfrogged their Catalan rivals to the top of the table over the weekend thanks to a 2-1 victory at Real Sociedad after Barça dropped points in a 0-0 stalemate at Seville. Tuesday’s slender home win over Athletic Club moved the Catalans back to the top but should Madrid win their game-in-hand on Wednesday against struggling Mallorca on home soil, Zidane’s men will be top of the pile again thanks to a superior head-to-head record.
Recent results have edged Madrid ahead in the title race but Zidane will not be taking anything for granted – Los Blancos suffered a shock 1-0 reverse against Mallorca earlier in the season and every match will be treated as a final.
Madrid, however, are favourites. Their recent form since the return to action has helped them displace Barcelona at the top. If anything, the three-month break from action has aided a Madrid side who suffered two defeats and one victory, in El Clásico, ahead of the pause in action.
Since then, three relatively convincing wins have come their win, with 3-1 and 3-0 home wins over Eibar and Valencia respectively followed by a somewhat controversial 1-2 win at high-flying Real Sociedad.
Madrid’s squad depth has certainly helped. While Barcelona have look slugging in some of their matches, Madrid have been relatively fresh and have been able to rotate their squad heavily in the opening three matches of the return to action.
Casemiro will sit out the match against Mallorca owing to suspension but that will give the Brazilian some down time. Eden Hazard was left out of the clash against La Real while Rodrygo and Vinicius Jr. have also rotated in attack. Madrid can switch between Marcelo and Ferland Mendy at left-back and the energetic Fede Valverde should slot in nicely to replace Casemiro.
Madrid are also set to welcome back Isco, who missed the clashes with La Real and Valencia with a knock. Lucas Vázquez and Nacho are also set for returns to action soon to boost a well-packed squad.
All this while Barcelona struggle to rotate their squad effectively. There are doubts whether Lionel Messi can play every match between now and the end of the season and Luis Suárez has only just recovered from injury, while Antoine Greizmann is out of form.
The fixtures also fall nicely for Madrid, on paper at least. A tough trip to Athletic Club remains the biggest challenge for Madrid, but without the famous San Mames support, Athletic won’t be the same challenge. Meanwhile, Barcelona still have to host an in-form Atlético Madrid, eager to tie up their Champions League spot for next season.
There are eight finals to go and Madrid remain in the driving seat.