It’s not that dramatic as it sounds, though. FC Barcelona were leading the league for the most part of the season and their fierce rivals, Real Madrid had to play the second fiddle all the way to the end of January and the previous La Liga round.
Barcelona had already lost three times in La Liga and drawn four, while Real had only lost one but succumbed to a draw seven times. After 20 games played the teams were tied in points, 43 each. While Barcelona had gotten the results, the manner of which they had played was less than satisfactory. So, more or less out of the blue, two time title winning manager Ernesto Valverde was shown the door and replaced by former Betis boss Quique Sétien. Sétien’s rule started with narrow wins over Granada at home and Ibiza on the road in Copa del Rey. The first time Barcelona was tested was last weekend in Valencia’s Mestalla Stadium – and it was a complete failure.
The visitors held up the ball for most of the game, but didn’t manage to create scoring chances. Valencia on the other hand seemed to know exactly how to counter and exploit Barcelona’s weak defensive organization and won fair and square 2-0 – and even missed a penalty. Losing to Valencia on the road is not a disaster, but there’s not a lot of time to learn the ropes at this time of the season.
The rivals Real Madrid smelt the blood in their fixture after seeing Barcelona going down. Admittedly the opponent was not as good as Valencia, but minnows Valladolid. However, Real did what they had to and grinded a hard fought 0-1 victory at Estadio José Zorilla, which took them on top of the La Liga – a place they intend to hold and make Barcelona rue the day they fired their manager leading the league.
It is too soon to judge Sétien’s work yet, but it doesn’t look good to lose the top spot right away. Real Madrid have constantly improved and their last loss dates back to mid-October. Plenty of football still remains in La Liga, but it seems that Barcelona has become the challenger rather than the favorite.
Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid (1×2): 1.87 – 3.40 – 4.35
Barcelona vs Levante (1×2): 1.12 – 8.50 – 20.00