At the conclusion of the first 11 weeks of Spanish La Liga, the table looks compact at the top with Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid separated by just four points from top spot to third. Prior to the last week of league action before the ongoing international break, reigning Spanish champions Barcelona and Real Madrid were tied on points, but a win for the Catalans and the subsequent defeat of Los Blancos has put the reigning champions ahead with a lead of three points. Meanwhile, the 2014 champions, Atletico Madrid are a point behind their illustrious neighbours in third.
The 12th week of action will see arguably the biggest game of the league season across Europe when Real Madrid play host to their fierce rivals Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday, 21st November.
Barcelona enjoyed a hugely successful 2014/15 season as they won a historic treble of the league title, the Champions League and the Copa del Rey – their second treble in six years. The Catalans, however, didn’t enjoy the most auspicious of starts to the current season as Athletic Bilbao hammered them 4-0 in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup at the San Mames before completing the job with a 1-1 draw at the Camp Nou to take home the domestic trophy with a 5-1 aggregate win.
On top of it, Luis Enrique’s side have been beset with personnel problems. The Catalan outfit have been banned from registering new players due to their infringements in the transfers of minor players – the ban remains in effect until January next year. The sanction has considerably thinned the resources at the disposal of Enrique, and their problems have been compounded by Pedro Rodriguez’s transfer to Chelsea and numerous injuries to their first team regulars.
Important players like Andres Iniesta, Claudio Bravo, Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic, Rafinha Alcantara and, most importantly, Lionel Messi have endured spells on the sidelines due to various fitness issues. The extended injury list has forced Enrique to play Barcelona B players like Sandro Ramirez, Munir El Haddadi, Gerard Gumbau and a player who was on the fringes of first team action at the beginning of the current season: Sergi Roberto.
However, despite their setbacks Barcelona have coped well and may be able to welcome back Messi into the fold as the Argentine has begun training, according to media reports.
Real Madrid started their campaign in blistering fashion after the first round draw and won their next four games on the trot, before drawing the following two. Three more wins followed before they succumbed to their first loss of the season against Sevilla.
Rafael Benitez’s arrival has considerably strengthened the defence of the Madrid giants, but at the same time, they aren’t scoring as many goals as they did under Carlo Ancelotti last season. Cristiano Ronaldo has thus far failed to replicate his form of the previous seasons and injuries have been a source of trouble for Los Blancos as well as they have had James Rodriguez, Isco, Danilo and Dani Carvajal amongst others, out on injury spells.
The first El Clasico of the season promises to be an enticing affair at the Santiago Bernabeu this weekend.