Barcelona beat Real Madrid 3-2 and put a serious dent in claims that Los Blancos had the league title assured. It’s not just the “six pointer” nature of a direct clash, but also a psychological boost for one and a similar downward slope for the other.
But even after that, it’s too early to say Barça are now the favorites.
This team has been way too inconsistent for a title that depends largely on consistency. This was exemplified by losing to Malaga on the same day Real had already dropped points with their draw against Atletico Madrid.
There are reasons for Cules to be optimistic, of course. First, not being in the CL alleviates the calendar for Barcelona, meaning they can rest and focus more on the league games.
Real Madrid have a game in hand, which is good for them of course, but it does crunch their calendar further and a win against Celta Vigo is not assured by any means.
Barcelona have: Osasuna, Espanyol away, Villarreal, Las Palmas away, and Eibar left. Real Madrid have Deportivo away, Valencia, Granada away, Sevilla, Celta away, and Malaga away, not to mention two games against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League.
Notably, Barça’s schedule doesn’t have quite as many away games (two vs. four, plus one in the CL for Madrid).
Let’s not underestimate any of these teams here, but the case could be made that Barcelona have on paper the easier schedule. But that’s on paper. What actually has happened this season has been entirely off-script.
Osasuna are bottom but we’ve seen teams surprising Barcelona a lot this season. Espanyol away is the Catalan derby, not a fun game usually. Villarreal are fifth and quite brilliant on their day. Las Palmas have played great football this season and facing them in their home won’t be easy. Eibar, you may not have heard about a lot, but they are eighth - higher than Espanyol, Celta, Alaves, Valencia, or Las Palmas. Watch out for that one.
But Real Madrid don’t have it easy either, of course. Deportivo and Granada could get lucky. Don’t forget Depor are at home and Real beat them just 3-2 at the Santiago Bernabeu. Meanwhile Valencia, Sevilla and Celta have gotten results against Madrid this season already. A repeat from at least one of those could be enough. And it could be decisive that Real have two brutal games against Atletico in the Champions League while Lionel Messi kicks his feet up and plays FIFA.
My prediction? I said it before: Real Madrid will drop enough points for Barcelona to win La Liga, the only question is if Barça will win enough to make up the gap.