Villaflor: Atletico Madrid as La Liga champions?

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Thursday, May 15, 2014


THERE couldn’t be a better ending than this: the Catalan powerhouse FC Barcelona against the Spanish dark horse Atletico Madrid squaring off in the league’s last match to decide who will be crowned champions of the 2013-2014 La Liga season.

Barcelona will have a slight advantage as the “league final” on May 18, Sunday, will be played at Camp Nou, although Atletico seems unperturbed and hungrier. Barcelona needs all three points, while a draw would be enough to make Atletico champions.

But what makes this match up interesting is that both teams are regarded as dissident clubs by their followers, although Barcelona has been considered as La Liga royalty for the longest time, Camp Nou’s trophy shelves being proof of that.

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This makes Atletico the true antibody of the social organism that is the Spanish league, long-dominated by the Catalan sovereigns and the Spanish King’s imperial club Real Madrid.

The last time a club not named Real Madrid or Barcelona lifted the La Liga trophy was a decade ago when Deportivo La Coruña topped the 2003-2004 season, a back-to-back title win.

But since then the balance of power merely shifted from Camp Nou to the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium: in the last nine seasons, Barca won six La Liga titles, while Real Madrid won three.

Deportivo? By trying to shake up the La Liga establishment, the Galician royalty paid the price and was relegated in 2011. Though the club will return to top flight Spanish football next season after topping the 2013-2014 Segunda Division, it will take long for Deportivo to recover from this tragedy.

Atletico Madrid fans must dread the thought of their club suffering the same fate that befell poor Deportivo.

Still, Atletico lifting the La Liga trophy will be a refreshing sight. A change of scenery at the top flight is always welcome – the league becomes more competitive and unpredictable, and therefore, more exciting. A good example is what happened to the English Premier League. It’s almost hard to guess who among Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea would lift the trophy. You can even add Liverpool to the equation.

So, does an Atletico triumph mean that the same change that swept the EPL would also sweep the Spanish League? Not at all, but that would be a good start to create permanent change in the La Liga, which, no matter how illustrious, had been utterly two-sided, and therefore, predictable for far too long.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 16, 2014.

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