Commentary

Wanted for Christmas: A competive race in La Liga or EPL or Bundesliga or Ligue 1

It isn't Christmas, and the league races in England, France, Germany and Spain, four of Europe's big five leagues, are for all intents and purposes over.

Real Madrid's Zinedine Zidane isn't believing it.

"We aren't in too much of a bad place," he said after Real Madrid lost to Barcelona, 3-0, at home in Saturday's Clasico. "Soccer can change very quickly."

The numbers suggest otherwise.

Barca, which won on second-half goals from Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi and Aleix Vidal, has opened a 14-point lead over the defending champions, who are only two points closer to their Catalan rivals than the relegation zone. Atletico Madrid and Valencia are second and third, nine and 12 points off the pace at the two-week holiday break.



Even though Barca lost Neymar to Paris St. Germain and $200 million signing Ousmane Dembele, who has played just 51 minutes, early in the season with a foot injury, it is unbeaten in 17 games -- 14 wins and three ties -- and has outscored its opponents, 45-7. Messi and Suarez have combined for 25 goals, and Brazilian signing Paulinho has stabilized the Barca midfield.

Real Madrid-Barcelona: Highlights

England. Thanks to its 4-0 win over Bournemouth on Saturday, Manchester City has opened up a 14-point lead over Manchester United after 19 games. It's won 17 straight games, the second-longest streak ever in one of Europe’s top divisions, and heads into Christmas with 55 points, putting in on course to smash the single-season points record set by Chelsea with 95 in 2004-05.

The four goals on Saturday gave City 101 goals in 2017, making it the first EPL team in a quarter century to score 100 or more goals in a calendar year.

The record City will be chasing is that held by Arsenal's 2003-04 team. The legendary "Invincibles" (with Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Vieira, Ashley Cole and Freddie Ljungberg) are widely considered the best EPL team ever and the only team to go unbeaten.



Germany. By contrast, Bayern Munich is having a subpar season, so bad it fired Coach Carlo Ancelotti in September and replaced him with former head coach Jupp Heynckes as a caretaker coach.

In his third tour at Bayern, the 72-year-old Heynckes has restored order to a team in disarray. Bayern has won eight of its last nine games. Its 41 points are its fewest at Christmas since 2011, but it leads the Bundesliga by 11 points over Weston McKennie's Schalke 04.

France. In Ligue 1, Paris St. Germain's lead over Monaco is nine points at the winter break, but no one gives Monaco, the defending champion, any chance of catching star-studded PSG, led by Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe, who have combined for 38 of PSG's 58 goals in 19 games.

PSG's big test will come in February when it will face Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League. PSG could run away with the Ligue 1 title but Coach Unai Emery will likely be gone unless PSG wins the Champions League.

Italy. The only major European league where there is a race is Serie A. Juventus, which is seeking a seventh successive league title, stayed within a point of leader Napoli when it beat Roma, 1-0, on Saturday. Serie A is the only major league besides the EPL that will be in action next weekend when it concludes the first half of the season.
7 comments about "Wanted for Christmas: A competive race in La Liga or EPL or Bundesliga or Ligue 1".
  1. Wooden Ships, December 24, 2017 at 5:23 p.m.

    Even so, I still prefer promotion-relegation. Dramas to be had through the last whistle. 

  2. I w Nowozeniuk, December 24, 2017 at 9:45 p.m.

    The top teams in La Liga, EPL, Ligue Un, and Bundesliga have the ability to execute more often than their rival counterparts. In this weeks El Clasico, RM dominated the first half and wasn't able to execute with their chances on goal, while in the second half, Barcelona executed three times with precision and execution. In the moment, that extra special quality always rises to the top.

  3. Vince Leone, December 25, 2017 at 1:28 a.m.

    There is also a lot of interest in the competition for European championship slots. In La Liga, there absolutely is real competition and drama in the race for the 5 European positions behind the top spot.

  4. Vince Leone, December 25, 2017 at 1:32 a.m.

    It's true that Barca and Man City seem to have their leagues championships nearly won, but there is great pleasure in just watching these two teams play. Teams like them don't come along every day and should be appreciated while we have them.

  5. I w Nowozeniuk replied, December 25, 2017 at 11:23 a.m.

    Vince L., I agree with you...the quality of top Euro-teams play is exceptional. I'd rather watch a Barcelona or M-City play a minnow which gives extra than MLS mediocrity.

  6. R2 Dad, December 26, 2017 at 1:52 a.m.

    Reasons why it's not over yet for any of these leagues:
    1) The winter transfer window has yet to close
    2) heavy fixture schedule will produce crucial injuries by March
    3) team prioritization for league or CL play will change rotation strategies/player selection
    4) upcoming world cup will encourage stars to "save" themselves for July at the expense of total club commitment

  7. Wooden Ships replied, December 26, 2017 at 10:43 a.m.

    Well done R2, great points. Agree too with Vince and I w. Surely Paul you’re not yearning for a US sports style playoff system.

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