Although not mathematically certain, Real Madrid will lift the La Liga trophy at the end of the season thanks to their 2-1 victory at Camp Nou on Saturday night. Barça’s best chance of closing the gap on their fierce rivals was not taken and Madrid took the game to their opponents, and their win has extended their lead at the top of the table to seven points. It now looks unassailable, and bar an extremely unlikely slip up, Iker Casillas will be presented with Madrid’s first league championsip since 2008.
Gonzalo Higuaín, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo have been in prolific form throughout the season for Madrid, grabbing an astonishing 81 goals in total. Lionel Messi has been largely relied upon to provide goals every game. Barcelona’s problem is that they struggle for goals when he isn’t firing – lacking another central striker. This was prevalent a few weeks ago after Barça drew with Villarreal. David Villa’s injury has been crucial as Alexis Sánchez and Pedro Rodríguez are not potent enough to supplement Messi’s goals. This was highlighted on Saturday night, despite Sanchez scoring, as Messi can’t and won’t score in every single game. Samuel Eto’o and Zlatan Ibrahimović are missed.
Heavily criticised for allowing the sort of antics that would make Ashley Young blush, Spanish officials can be almost as bad as the dives we see week in week out. Yet on Saturday night, when a particularly strong referee was required for a potentially gritty, dirty and often controversial encounter, Alberto Undiano Mallenco delivered a brilliant performance. Stern from the start, he refused to be swayed by players from both teams crying for yellow cards and ensured that exaggeration of challenges would not be rewarded. The game flowed, devoid of the petty handbags so often seen in El Clásico ties, and Mallenco was sensible with the time-wasting tactics from Madrid. It was a stellar performance and one that improves the reputation of Spanish officials.
The personal battle between Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi in the sixth El Clásico of the season had a clear winner as the Portuguese winger all but sealed the title with his goal. Madrid’s main man tracked back, harried the Barcelona defence, gained valuable space with his commanding and surging runs, and scored the crucial winner, while Messi failed to assert himself. Madrid afforded Messi very little space and hassled him all night, barely giving him a sniff at goal. He may break the European goal record this season but Ronaldo upstaged him and he overtakes Messi as La Liga’s leading scorer.
MORE: Man United latest news
MORE: Arsenal latest news
MORE: Chelsea latest news
MORE: Liverpool latest news