Did Luis Suarez and Gareth Bale define Spanish title race?
Last updated on .From the section European Football
Barcelona won the Spanish title on Sunday with a game to spare after a dominant second half of the season.
Heading into the winter break in December, the Catalans were a point behind league leaders Real Madrid, who also had a game in hand.
At that stage, Real's attacking trio of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale were outperforming their Barcelona counterparts Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez by a distance. In La Liga and the Champions League, the Real trio had a combined total of 52 goals in 21 games compared to their Barcelona rivals' tally of 40 in 22.
Those goalscoring exploits put Real in a position of dominance. But after the winter break, all that changed as Barca overtook their rivals and went on to reach the Champions League final while Real went out at the semi-final stage.
The reason? Well, in part at least, the answer lies with Suarez and Bale. After three goals in 11 games before the break, Suarez returned in the new year - playing more regularly in a central striking role - and scored 19 in 24.
Just as Suarez helped the Barca trio raise their goals-per-game ratio from 1.81 per 90 minutes to 2.37 (64 in 27 in 2015), so Bale's dip in form led to his pre-break record of nine goals in 17 games - more than one in two - dropping to six in 23, roughly one goal every four games.
That had a major impact on the overall scoring rate of Real's front three and, despite Ronaldo continuing to score at a prolific rate, including a hat-trick on Sunday at Espanyol, their strike rate per 90 minutes dropped from 2.47 goals to 1.39 (39 in 28 in 2015).
So, why the change in fortunes?
Spanish football writer Andy West explains: "It really has been a season of two halves for both clubs, with Barcelona coming together superbly after January, while Real Madrid have headed in the opposite direction.
"The key for Barca was Luis Enrique finally toning down the rotation policy which bizarrely saw him pick a uniquely different starting XI in each of the first 28 games of the season.
"From January onwards they have developed coherence and consistency, with Messi's new position on the right wing fundamental.
"Real have suffered from a string of injuries - especially Luka Modric - and a dip in form for some key individuals such as Ronaldo and Bale.
"Those factors have gradually eroded their confidence and diminished their effectiveness as a team unit."
- Madrid have conceded 35.
- Barcelona play every game with a recognised CDM.
- Madrid do not.
- Clearly Bale's fault.
Hazard having the best season of his career: 35 games: 14 goals, 8 assists.
I agree Suarez has been a massive factor in Barca reclaiming the title, but from Madrid's perspective, I think their inability to defend as well as Barcelona has cost them the title rather than 'out of sorts' Bale..
Barcelona has three (Messy, Jaws & The Other One).
In fact, just send McNulty anywhere for that matter! He's a big reason why the BBC have no cred on BBC Football anymore!
Re. Sterling, he isn't the sharpest and unfortunately he seems to be receiving poor advice. Within 2 years he will be languishing in the backwaters of one of the big teams and will have lost his England place. Sad to see, but no great loss for LFC, I think they have got the most out of him. Greedy hangers on
The difference is that Messi is:-
a) a team player
b) not a diver/whinger/cheater/sulker
Messi, thank you for restoring my faith in football.
Kroos definitely isn't a DM. He was playing in front of Khedira and Schweinsteiger at the WC.
The problem is Real have too many similar players. James wants to be playing in a CAM role as does Isco. The only DM of note is Khedira who seems to be completely out of favour.
This shows the gulf in class between Liverpool and Man Utd fans. Huge difference...
Was Ronaldo on the pitch commiserating his teammates when they went out against Juve?
Nope, he went straight down the tunnel.
Barca are also a "team", always congratulate each other when they score, the scorer always go straight to the player who assists, without exception.
RM do not do that.
Anywho...Messi is better than Ronaldo. Suarez is better than Benzema and Neymar is better than Bale. No big surprise than Barcelona won the league.