MADRID, SPAIN - MARCH 14: Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid of looks on during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg match between Real Madrid and PFC CSKA Moskva at estadio Santiago Bernabeu on March 14, 2012 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
La Liga has been a two-horse race for a very long time. There are only two teams that currently have a realistic chance of winning the league this season, and for one team, this chance is growing with each passing match and every three points gained. Real Madrid lead the Spanish Primera Division table and arch-rivals Barcelona are 10 points behind. Even Barca Coach Pep Guardiola is pessimistic about keeping the title in Catalan hands, stating after their match against Sevilla:
"You already know my opinion on the league: we'd love to compete for the league right until the end but I don't think that's going to be possible."
The Catalan giants reduced the deficit to seven points after their 2-0 win over Sevilla last night; however los blancos have yet to play Malaga. If Real Madrid win tonight, the gap returns to 10 points.
Now 10 points is a significant gap, and some say Real Madrid may relax a little in the league because even if they do lose against Malaga tonight, they still have a seven point cushion.
Here's what's wrong with that mindset.
As many of you already know, the Champions League will be picking up in the coming months. Real Madrid were lucky enough to draw APOEL for their quarterfinal opponents. Although that match should certainly not to be taken for granted considering that APOEL is the dark horse of the competition, when comparing resources and squad quality, Real Madrid should advance to the semi finals, where Bayern Munich will most likely be waiting.
The match against Bayern is going to be difficult and the German team will pose a real threat. Real Madrid will have to be physically and mentally fit to beat them. Now, if Madrid manage to advance past Bayern, they will probably be meeting Barcelona in the final. No need to divulge how much preparation that potential match is going to need.
But what does that have to do with la Liga?
The issue is Real Madrid is looking at a congested schedule. With Champions League matches begging more and more attention and la Liga opponents bound to get trickier (los blancos still have to play the majority of the top half of the table), the team is bound to drop points. Although we would all like to believe Real Madrid will win every single match from here on out, that is unrealistic. They're human too. Surprising I know, but it's true.
Now, whenever a team plays more matches, there are bound to be more injuries and a tired team. Although Mourinho is a master at rotating his squad, some players are vital to the success of the team and thus will be getting little rest.
This is the part where you should scoff and ask: given that the gap is still large, why should we worry about slipping up here and there?
Well, you should be concerned because that gap can shrink. And it can shrink fast.
Let's say the Malaga does somehow manage to grab three points against Real Madrid tonight and the deficit remains at seven points. The team still has a trip to the Camp Nou. Unfortunately, it's likely Barca will be stealing those points considering they're on their own turf. The gap shrinks to four points.
Suddenly it's not much of a gap anymore, is it?
Any future slip up and stumble and suddenly the title is swept from under our feet.
This is why it is absolutely vital for the team to win these la Liga matches and not take them for granted. Mourinho certainly isn't going to do it, so the fans shouldn't either. Although some league matches are small, certainly compared to some future Champions League clashes, slipping up in one match can lead to a domino effect. And when you really look at it, that 10 points is barely a gap at all.
You can watch Real Madrid in action tonight against Malaga. Fingers crossed I haven't jinxed the result of that match, but hopefully now when you tune in, you'll realize that no matter how simple the game may be, it can have a great impact.