What does history tell us about Real Madrid’s fast start?
On five previous occasions, clubs have won 10 and drawn one of their first 11 LaLiga fixtures. Where did they finish the campaign?
For a period in the second half against Sevilla on Saturday, it looked as if Real Madrid may drop points for just the second time in LaLiga this season. Ultimately, Madrid did what Madrid do and found a way to win when the game looked to be in the balance.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men have been almost perfect in the league this season, winning 10 and drawing one of their first 11 fixtures. Yet they still remain just three points clear of Barcelona, who seemingly swing from one crisis (by modern football standards, at least) to the next.
You would think that taking 31 points from the first 33 available would be a solid platform for winning any league but do the statistics back that feeling up? Teams (Real Madrid and Barcelona, you may be unsurprised to discover) have posted 10 victories and a draw in their first 11 games on five previous occasions in the Spanish top flight. Where did they finish the campaign?
2017-18 – Barcelona – champions
Barcelona regained the league title from Madrid in Ernesto Valverde’s first season in charge. The eventual outcome was never in any doubt as the Catalans hit top spot in week three and stayed there all the way until the end of the season, eventually finishing 14 points clear of second-placed Atlético Madrid. Barça came within a whisker of winning the league undefeated, losing a nine-goal thriller against Levante in the penultimate round of the season. Lionel Messi hit four hat-tricks and was the league’s top scorer as his team came a goal shy of hitting 100 in LaLiga.
2013-14 – Barcelona – runners-up
One of the most memorable title races in recent memory, as Atlético Madrid did the impossible and snatched the league trophy away from the grasp of the big two. Barça were top for almost all of the first half of the season but were overtaken by Los Colchoneros as their form tailed off slightly. Yet Gerardo Martino’s Azulgrana would have been crowned champions had they defeated Atleti on the final day at Camp Nou. As it was, a 1-1 draw ensured the title was heading to Madrid. What a treat from the fixture computer that year.
Barcelona - 2012-13 – champions
The first of two seasons in succession in which Barcelona started with 10 wins and a draw in their first 11 fixtures. One of the most emotional league title victories we have seen, as manager Tito Vilanova missed six weeks of the season due to cancer treatment. Even so, Barça romped home, amassing 100 points, 15 more than nearest challengers Real Madrid, and netting 115 goals, 46 of which were scored by Messi. That summer, Vilanova resigned from his position because of his ongoing treatment and sadly passed away in April of the following year.
Real Madrid – 1991-92 – runners-up
For the previous occurrence, we have to go back a further 21 years and the days of only two points for a win, rather than three. And one of the most dramatic final-day twists in LaLiga history. Real Madrid, with Hugo Sánchez in their side, got their season off to a flying start but sacked coach Radomir Antic midway through the season. Leo Beenhakker was his replacement and kept Los Blancos top heading into the final day of the campaign, holding a one-point lead over Barça. But Madrid lost 3-2 in Tenerife, while Johan Cruyff’s Barcelona defeated Athletic Club at Camp Nou to defend their title. For Barça, it was a season to remember as they had also won the Euopean Cup for the first time ever just a couple of weeks earlier. For Madrid, it was unbelievably the first of two successive seasons in which defeat to Tenerife on the final day cost them the league title.
Real Madrid – 1968-69 – champions
A comfortable victory for Real Madrid, who won the league title for the 12th time in 16 seasons. Las Palmas pipped Barcelona to second but finished nine points behind Los Blancos in the league standings, a huge gap with only two points awarded for a victory. Paco Gento was the star of the all-Spanish ‘Yé-Yé’ Real Madrid side of the 1960s and won the last of his 12 LaLiga trophies before retiring a couple of years later. In a 30-game league season, Madrid scored only 46 league goals but still finished top scorers in the division, losing only once all year.
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