I happened to be in Barcelona last December. (Lovely, lovely place at Christmas time, by the way.)
I remember getting a giggle from the way the city was coming apart because – Gasp! – Real Madrid had assumed a “seemingly insurmountable” lead of eight or so points on Barca. (Sorry, I can’t exactly remember the deficit – I was distracted by amazing tapas).
Well, Real Madrid did go on, as feared by the good Catalan folks, to capture La Liga’s top flight by a total of … yes, nine points. What do I know about La Liga?
Well here we are, in late November. And while Barca does have lots of work ahead to claim another La Liga crown – and a first under new boss Tito Vilanova – it looks increasingly as if Real Madrid is out of this thing. Barca now holds an 11-point cushion on Jose Mourinho’s struggling bunch of highly paid stars; Atletico Madrid, just three points down in the table after 13 rounds, looks to be the bigger bother now to Leo Messi, Andres Iniesta, Xavi and the rest of the talented men of Camp Nou.
So there are two big La Liga talkers today: Is the chase over for Real Madrid following yesterday’s stunning upset to Real Betis?
And from Barca’s side, there Messi’s merry chase of Gerd Muller’s record. The inimitable Argentine attacker hit for two more Sunday as Barca took down Levante, 4-0.
That gives Messi 82 goals (70 for club, 12 for country), three short of the most in a calendar year; Germany’s Muller struck for 85 goals back in 1972.