El Centrocampista

CELTIC, RANGERS, BARÇA AND MADRID – How La Liga has become the new SPL

With Real Madrid and Barcelona set to add two more Copa del Rey clásicos to their busy season, many fans in Spain now feel La Liga is simply a two-horse race similar to that seen in the Glasgow-dominated Scottish Premier League. 

The two clubs have opened up such a big gulf between the rest of the league, similar to that of Celtic and Rangers in past seasons, that some of their stats go from unbelievable to a rather ridiculous. To show a quick example – between the two they have scored 25% of La Liga goals this season, yes, 106 out of 424.

Another astonishing stat is discovered when comparing Barcelona to Osasuna.

The Navarra squad have conceded 12 goals at the Nou Camp in two games,  eight more than Barça in this whole season (in all competitions!), in fact it is actually more than the Catalans have conceded in their last 30 La Liga games at home, going back to May of 2010.

Checking the figures of Real Madrid  we can see that Cristiano Ronaldo, who has 20 goals already, has scored more times in La Liga than 12 other teams as a whole! He also ties with Málaga in that category and doubles Granada, who have only found the back of the net ten times this term.

Angel Di Maria, arguably Madrid’s best player so far,  has delivered more assists in the league with 13, than 11 La Liga teams.

In fact Madrid also doubles every La Liga team in goals scored with 56, except Barcelona of course.

Talking of the Catalans, Pep Guardiola’s side have conceded half the number of goals leaked by every other team with eight, except, you guessed it Real Madrid.

Barça lead La Liga with a +42 in goal difference, Madrid is second best with +41, no other team has more than +10.

Barcelona also lead La Liga in shots on target with 125, Madrid have 123, while no other team has yet to reach 100.

The ‘big two’ also lead the league in fewer shots received. In this statistic, Barcelona defensive numbers are just ludicrous. For example, the average La Liga team have conceded 206 shots, Barça only 102 while an average team receives 74 shots on target the Catalans have conceded just 32.

Taking a deeper look to percentages, the superiority just keeps growing. Apart of scoring 25% of the Liga goals so far, Madrid and Barcelona have delivered 28% of the assists, have scored 23% of the penalties (Madrid have scored 20% of La Liga penalties this season), have taken 17% of the shots on target, and have made 17% of the clean sheets. In fact the list goes on.

There is really not surprise that La Liga hasn’t been won by another team since the 2003/04 season and we have to look back to 2008 to see a side outside of these bitter rivals that finished in the top two at the end of the season. Ominously,  we can probably already mark 2012 as another year on that streak.

The comeback victory in the Cup by Real Madrid over big-spending Málaga, was rather a statement victory against those who believe that Málaga may challenge the duopoly in the league.

The Andalucian’s still hold a slim hope of stopping two more Clásicos this year, but it would be a brave person who bet on Manuel Pellegrini’s side.

La Liga is fast-becoming akin to the Scottish Premier League, but instead of fighting in one city as Celtic and Rangers do, this battle covers two cities and sometimes even spills over into Europe itself.

The stats after all, speak for themselves…


  1. leroye

    7 January, 2012 at 12:33

    well its just simple…FCB and RM stand even lenghts apart form any top team in any other league…so you could also add that the CL is a 2 horse race…

    • Jafar

      7 January, 2012 at 13:07

      Though it’s obvious that they are the two best team in the world,you can still not consider the CL as a 2 horse race yet. Because Madrid has to to perform really well in it but that’s just a matter of time from the looks if it.
      The if they played in a another league the result would be about the same

      • Iain McMullen

        7 January, 2012 at 14:47

        I don’t think the Champions Leahue is a two horse race either – although the two Manchester clubs would have been very dangerous if they hadn’t gone out in the group stage.

        Barça are undoubtedly favourites but Real Madrid have still got to do perform in the latter stages consistently for a couple of years to put them in the same category on the European stage.

        That’s not to say they won’t do it – just that they have more things to prove.

        Saying that however, I can’t see past either of those two lifting the trophy in May.

  2. molecule

    7 January, 2012 at 13:59

    One stat where Real Madrid doesn’t stand out is in goals conceded. They’ve given up 15 goals so far, which is comparable to Valencia and Granada’s 16 goals; Sevilla, Levante and Athletic have given up just a few more.

    Barca’s 8 goals conceded is in a category of its own. This was the main thing that set them apart from Real Madrid last season, too.

  3. Heath Chesters

    7 January, 2012 at 14:22

    Until there’s more parity when it comes to TV money (for a start), things will remain the same.

    When Real Madrid and Barcelona are getting €140m per year each and mid-table teams are getting less than €20m a year, how are they ever likely to compete?

    Things will only begin to slowly change when and if La Liga sees the same sort of distribution of money seen in Germany and England.

    Whilst it’s possible to argue that in England, it’s the same four or five teams that are challenging every year, that still makes for a much more competitive title race.

    I simply can’t see the big two in Spain ever wanting to relinquish the financial dominance they have over the other clubs in Spain though. It’ll be interesting to follow the continuing discussions and negotiations regarding proposals for a more united package for TV rights in the future.

    It’s always a glimmer of hope when smaller clubs like Levante and Granada manage to perform well above expectations, whilst working with a shoestring budget. Neither will ever realistically compete with the big two though… never in a million years.

    If we ever see more parity with TV money though and the likes of Valencia and Atlético sort their finances out, then we just might see more challengers at the top. Málaga can’t be ignored longer term, not whilst their owner continues to pump money into the club.

  4. Iain McMullen

    7 January, 2012 at 15:51

    Unfortunately, apart from the odd year every so often, it’s not going to change in my opinion. The two clubs are just far too big and carry far too much weight with the financial advantages they have.

    Even without the huge disparity in TV rights they earn over the other sides – Real Madrid and Barcelona will never be challenged for advertising revenue and merchandise etc.

    Similar to Manchester United in England – they have only been seriously challenged Chelsea and now City, both of who have had to rely on the huge financial investment of Abramovich and Sheikh Mansour respectively.

    Arsenal’s title triumphs and challenges have long gone and Liverpool have been nowhere near (despite finishing second the other year).

    I suppose Spurs are the exception to the rule this season slightly and could be serious contenders, but again, they have invested heavily over the years.

    Valencia are easily la liga’s third best side at the moment but are still way off both Barça and RM in reality.

    Even before the age of multi-million pound contracts, you have to go back a long way to find more than a few years when either Barça or Madrid weren’t champions.

    The early 1980s when the Basque sides won two each in consecutive years spring to mind but those four years were followed yet more sustained dominance from the big two.

    Other than that four-year period, since 1944 the longest spell without RM or Barça winning the la liga is just two years…

  5. Javier J. Hernández

    7 January, 2012 at 23:44

    Thanks a lot to Heath Chesters, leroye, Jafar and Iain McMullen for their great opinions that have make this article a better piece. I don’t believe the CL is two horse races, sadly La Liga is and is really about the money as you guys mention it. My article was just to prove with stats how that different is shown on the pitch.

    Also I agree with molecule Madrid goals conceded could be a factor on this Liga, if they keep allowing goals at home they could miss some key points. Also, from a statistical point of view, is really hard to repeat their first leg visitors form so they do need to improve their defence at home if they want to win La Liga.

    I personally thank you all for reading my article and sharing your thoughts (I would have love it you were all talking about stats) as I’m always happy to talk about that. However, is great to read so many valid opinions. Cheers.

  6. Millionman

    8 January, 2012 at 01:07

    Maybe real Madrid and Barcelona should join a league that includes rangers and Celtic, amongst others.

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