The days of the 100-point league are no more

Not so long ago, I felt (and even wrote) that we were closing in on a LaLiga where Real Madrid and Barcelona would beat everyone else home and away, and - with a global television audience on tenterhooks - fight it out for the Spanish title in their two top-flight Clásicos. This was during the years of the 100-point league, when they would both alternate between comfortable victories and crushing routs. But no, such a state of affairs hasn't come to pass. It's not just the rise of Atlético Madrid; it's also that Real and Barça aren't racking up the points between them as before. Yes, Los Azulgranas' ceiling this term stands at exactly 100. However, the most the men from the Bernabéu can get is 90; Atlético, 91.

In other words, 92 will be enough for Barcelona to ensure they're champions come May. Reaching the magic figure of a century of points is no longer a must for them; indeed, it'd be a surprise if they managed it, because once they have the title sewn up - presumably with games to spare - they'll likely take their foot off the gas and keep something back for the other fronts they're challenging on. Either way, it'd be fair to say Barça are still doing the business: the 100-point mark does remain doable, and even if their football isn't as perfect as the Guardiola years (when they'd induce a state of nigh-on paralysis in their opponents), their formidable frontline ensures they win matches by the shedload.

So Barça are where they ought to be; it's Madrid who aren't. They're battling it out with Atleti, on paper Spain's third side. Little wonder: they've paid the price for a chaotic policy of transfer ins and outs, one lacking (and with no apparent attempt at) any sort of coherent sporting plan. Then there's the chopping and changing in the dugout: from Ancelotti to Benítez, from Benítez to Zidane. And I don't think Cristiano Ronaldo is the same player, either. Don't get me wrong: he's still extraordinary. But he has fallen off just a touch, and that's seen his displays dip on the road. Put together, it all leaves us going into El Clásico with an unexpected gap between the teams. One club approaching it with 100 the limit; the other, 90. Shame.