The summer is slowly but surely winding down and as we rapidly approach mid-August, teams are gearing up for the start of their respective domestic competitions. And as far as the Spanish clubs are concerned, there’s still some time left on the clock before it strikes midnight. La Liga will officially kick-off on Friday 16th of August with Barcelona raising the curtain against Athletic Bilbao at the iconic San Mames.
It will no doubt be a fairly interesting opener for the defending champs as the Basques’ ground has been a tricky destination for years now. The Catalans only have a 29% win ratio against Bilbao in La Liga and it’s possible that they will play that game without their talisman Lionel Messi since the Argentine has suffered a slight injury upon his return from holiday.
And despite the Spanish league not even being underway yet, there’s a feeling in the air that it’s likely that we see a repeat of last season – Barcelona are very much in the driving seat once again.
But both Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid have brought in some serious reinforcements and since neither have won La Liga in a couple of years now, they will both be eager to get their hands on the trophy. So what makes Barcelona such a straight-up favourite in the first place? First of all, it’s consistency.
If we cast our gaze back just a bit, we can see that Barcelona have won eight La Liga titles since the season of 2008/09. And more recently, they’ve won three in the last four years, only missing out on 2016/17 in the process. It’s difficult to pinpoint why exactly that dominance is so clear but it’s really difficult to compete with Blaugrana over the course of 30+ games per season.
The Champions League is a place where only the best teams meet but it’s not always the competition that sees the best ones win too. In Europe, one bad night can cost you everything and Barcelona have surely had bad nights in the last couple of seasons, last winning the trophy in 2014/15. And while that does happen to them in the odd game in La Liga as well, it’s nowhere near as often and more importantly, they can afford it because the domestic term is such a marathon.
Looking at the past 11 years, Barcelona only had five losses per season at most with the goal ratio always being heavily in their favour and their overall points only dropping below 90 in three of those seasons, once being in 2018/19. But interestingly enough, only in one of those instances have they lost the crown to one of their rivals and that’s when they finished second. In fact, the last time they finished anything other than first or second was way back in 2007/08 when they were third with only 67 points under their belts.
This shows incredible consistency that not many can replicate. That much is visible from the recent standings and results. Even when we delve more into it, it becomes that much more visible. In the 38 matches Barcelona and Real Madrid played since 2008/09, the Catalans have won 19 and in 34 they played against Atletico Madrid, they’ve won 21. Being consistent overall and being consistent against your biggest rivals is what takes Barcelona over the finish line year after year.
And of course, when everything is said and done, they still have Messi. This factor may be the biggest in the whole equation. Messi has been their top goal-scorer in La Liga nine times since 2008/09 and of course, he is La Liga’s all-time top goal-scorer with 419 goals to his name. Quite frankly, it’s almost impossible to compete with him over the course of the whole season and it shows. Messi’s quiet day is not really the same as everyone else’s quiet day and these figures are proof enough of that.
When everything else fails, Messi is that cheat code to get them over the line. And then you have Barcelona’s newest signings with the likes of Antoine Griezmann and Frenkie de Jong who are looking to strengthen the squad even further.
From the looks of it, the favourites are well placed to get the treble of La Ligas with the upcoming season but as we know, anything can happen in football. Maybe a fourth competitor steps out of the shadow and makes a surprise entrance in the race for the crown.
If recent history tells us anything though, it will be another Barcelona coronation.