The European winter break is well and truly over and with two fixtures played since the rest, La Liga and Serie A couldn’t be more thrillingly poised, especially after this weekend’s results. Both leagues are shaping up nicely for an exciting few months ahead. The pre-Christmas leading teams are now perhaps not a ‘safe bet’ for their respective titles with the sides behind in hot pursuit of top spot. Those teams will be looking to put immense pressure on Real Madrid and Juventus in the race to be crowned champions. Spanish and Italian football is well worth a watch between now and May.
Ironically, the similarities between the La Liga and Serie A title chase is evident at present after the latest round of results. The two teams at the top of their respective tables, Real Madrid and Juventus, both lost 2-1 this weekend and they are both now only one point ahead of their nearest rivals. However, the Bernabeu team and ‘The Old Lady’ each have a game in hand which they will want to take all three points from to give themselves some breathing space from the chasing teams immediately behind them, Sevilla and Roma.
It was looking increasingly likely before the new year that Real Madrid would become run away title winners and eventually Juventus’ strength, depth and experience would be too strong for Roma and ‘The Old Lady’ would take the Italian Championship for the 33rd time in the club’s history. This may have been seen as the usual predicable outcome for watching fans, Juventus winning the Serie A title for the 6th time in a row, and either Real Madrid or Barcelona winning La Liga, but now, for the neutral, both leagues have suddenly become very interesting.
Real Madrid’s incredible unbeaten run of 40 games came to an end last Sunday when they were beaten away from home to Sevilla. Despite taking the lead through a Ronaldo penalty the home side showed great strength and character to turn the match around and win 2-1. Not only was it a fantastic result for Sevilla, but it puts them 2nd in the La Liga table above Barcelona, and only one point behind Real Madrid who’s position at the top is now under pressure. Can Sevilla really mount a title challenge? At the beginning of the season it would have seemed unlikely, but over half way through the season they are holding their own. However, the weekend before, despite a convincing 4-0 win away to Real Sociedad for Sevilla, you still would have put your money on the Bernabeu team taking the title after their resounding 5-0 demolishing of lowly Granada and Barcelona only managing a draw. A week can make all the difference in football and it can see the fortunes of teams change in an instant, it will be fascinating to see if it is significant when the La Liga trophy is handed out at the end of the season.
Just before Christmas, Juventus beat Roma in a ‘top of the table clash’ 1-0 and again, as with the La Liga title, most Serie A fans would have predicted the Italian Championship would eventually end up with Massimiliano Allegri’s team despite, so far, the chase between the top two being tightly contested. Many would say Juventus’ experience of winning the league and more talented squad would see them through to another Serie A title. However, a shock defeat to 8th placed Fiorentina on Sunday and with Roma, currently 2nd, taking all 3 points away to Udinese, the ‘Scudetto’ appears to be not so cut and dry as thought before the turn of the year. Like Real Madrid in La Liga, Juventus do have a game in hand over Roma, but last weekend would have certainly given the Stadio Olimpico side a boost and perhaps ‘The Old Lady’ a dip in confidence. Juventus have won their last 10 homes games, but Roma are close behind with 9 wins, the Serie A table could now not be closer, again, as with the Spanish League, it will be an interesting watch.
Real Madrid take on Malaga at home this weekend, Barcelona are away to Eibar and bottom club Osasuna host Sevilla. If there are more twists and turns this weekend, by the end of Sunday we could remarkably see Sevilla sitting at the top of La Liga. There is of course still a long way to go, and you still can’t rule out the teams just behind the top three; Atletico Madrid, Real Sociedad and Villarreal would all believe they are in with a chance after recent results, but either way it gives football fans an exciting second half of the season.
Juventus have a tricky match at home to Lazio this Sunday while Roma host Cagliari in the evening. Again, by 10pm that night, if the weekend in Serie A is as thrilling at the pervious one, Roma could be top of the table. You could say the Italian championship is even closer than the Spanish, with Napoli, Lazio and the two Milan clubs very close behind the top two and more than capable of winning the league. Whatever the results are at the weekend, as with La Liga, it is going to be a great battle for the Serie A title.
So, once you have watched your own team on Saturday or you are at a loss after watching every Premier League game throughout the weekend, don’t despair, the Italian and Spanish league will come to your rescue after an interesting turn of events. Flick over channels, sit back and enjoy attractive, fascinating football with an exciting race to the end.