LaLiga is on lockdown but Real Madrid and Barcelona are still caught up in a war of words as they battle to be Spain’s most dominant club… and Lionel Messi and Co open to being handed the title early as they look to close the gap on their old rivals
- The title race in Spain has been halted because of the coronavirus pandemic
- Barcelona are two points ahead of Real Madrid at the top of the LaLiga table
- Thibaut Courtois says handing the title to Barcelona early would be ‘unjust’
- LaLiga want to resume the season but the champions are open to cancelling it
- Barca are looking to close the gap on Real, who have seven more league titles
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
Thibaut Courtois ramped things up earlier this week with comments to Belgian TV. He is no stranger to incendiary remarks. In the past he has managed to direct them at his own team-mates, revealing that Gareth Bale‘s dressing room nickname was ‘the golfer’, much to Bale’s incredulity. This time he went for Barcelona.
‘We are only two points behind them and if the season were to be cancelled and Barcelona declared champions then it would be unjust,’ he told RTBF.
Real Madrid keeper Thibaut Courtois (left) has hit out at Barcelona amid the coronavirus crisis
Barcelona sit two points ahead of fierce rivals Real Madrid at the top of the LaLiga table
‘We drew with them and beat them this year, we have shown that we are a better team. We are two points behind but I don’t agree with it [giving Barcelona the league].
‘For Liverpool in England it would be different. I could understand it because I don’t know how many points behind the second team is there.’
Barcelona players have privately laughed off Courtois’ comments referring back to Gerard Pique’s remarks after the second Clasico of the interrupted season when he bemoaned Barcelona’s inability to beat what he called the ‘worst Madrid side’ that he had ever faced.
A few days before, Pique had tweeted: ’11 years!’ along with a video of Barcelona’s 6-2 win at the Santiago Bernabeu from 2009 when Pep Guardiola’s side – in the season they won six out of six trophies – thrashed Madrid and Pique scored the sixth.
It wasn’t long before Iker Casillas responded to that tweet with an ’11+2=13′ message referring to the fact that Real Madrid have since skated into a lead of eight European Cups over their great rivals having won the Champions League 13 times to Barcelona’s five.
The fact that it is 13-5 in terms of Europe’s biggest prize makes it slightly easier to stomach for Madrid fans that Barcelona have been closing the gap on them in the domestic competition for some time now.
Iker Casillas hit back at Gerard Pique on Twitter after he posted a clip of Barca’s famous win
Barcelona’s players celebrate with the LaLiga trophy after winning their 26th title last year
The emergence of Lionel Messi has been the catalyst for the change.
Since 2004 when Messi made his debut, Barcelona have won 33 trophies to only 20 won by Real Madrid. And in that time Barcelona have reduced Madrid’s lead in terms of titles won considerably. In 2004 it was 16-29, now it’s just 26-33.
Quique Setien weighed in with a response to Courtois’ comments this week when he pointed out that if the season cannot be finished, the ‘common sense’ thing to do would be to give the title to Barcelona – closing the gap to just six.
Setien said: ‘On the one hand I want to finish the season. But if we don’t play the remaining games then it would be the common sense thing to leave the league as it stands.
‘I want to win it playing all the games but there is the worry that if we play again we could aggravate the situation, there could be a resurgence [of the virus]. We should complete the season [only] if the necessary health circumstances are right.’
Barca have closed the title gap on Real Madrid since Lionel Messi emerged back in 2004
Real’s players throw Zinedine Zidane into the air following their last LaLiga triumph in 2017
Cynics in Spain have suggested that clubs who benefit most from the current table being left as it is have been the ones most eager to point out the possible drawbacks of football’s return. LaLiga president Javier Tebas pointed out as much, in reference to other leagues around Europe, in a recent round table media event.
On Wednesday he told players that ‘going to the chemist was more dangerous’ for them than going to training. It was his response to a statement issued by Eibar players and technical staff about their concerns over returning to work.
For the most part, when there have been any rumblings of discontent over football’s possible return from either of the big two in Spain, they have come from Barcelona and not Madrid.
One columnist from Barcelona-supporting paper Diario Sport quoted an unnamed club official saying: ‘The health of the players is above everything and we will not put it in danger for a game of football.’
Real Madrid’s squad pose with the LaLiga trophy after winning their 33rd title three years ago
The headline on the opinion piece read: ‘Barca investigate the idea of refusing to play official matches’, and it argued that training was one thing but competing was something entirely different in such an uncertain climate. So far Madrid have seemed less preoccupied by the possible risks of a return.
All that it is missing from the current climate is Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid responding to Setien’s claims that Barca would be the common-sense champions if the season is stopped for good.
Zinedine Zidane has so far kept his council over at Madrid, even though it’s no secret that all that mattered to him this season was winning LaLiga.
He will take it worse than most if the chance to close the two-point gap on their rivals in the remaining 11 games is taken away because the season has to be called-off for good.
Published at Sun, 10 May 2020 13:10:35 +0000-LaLiga is on lockdown but old rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona are still caught up in a war of words