Madrid still lead La Liga, but fixture pile-up could hit their title hopes

It was just what Real Madrid did not need. With one Primera Division match more than their rivals still to be played, due to the club’s participation in the Club World Cup in December, Los Blancos now have another game to fit in later this season.

That is because Sunday’s Liga match away to Celta Vigo was postponed after severe storms in Galicia caused damage to the Balaidos stadium, which was deemed unsafe to host the fixture.

Good news for Celta, with extra rest for the squad ahead of the team’s Copa del Rey semi-final second leg away to Alaves on Wednesday night. But bad news for Real Madrid.

Zinedine Zidane’s side were knocked out of the Copa del Rey in the last eight by Celta after a 2-1 home defeat and a 2-2 draw at Balaidos. However, Sunday’s visit in La Liga looked likely to be less difficult with the Galicians focused on the cup competition and expected to rest a number of players.

But not now. While Alaves (who beat Sporting Gijon 4-2 on Sunday) have complained to La Liga that Celta will now have an unfair advantage on Wednesday after their weekend fixture was called off, Madrid will also feel somewhat aggrieved and face a more difficult test when the game is finally played.

Some supporters of Los Blancos have boasted that their team still leads La Liga, despite having played two games fewer than their rivals. And while that is indeed true, Madrid would surely rather have the points on the board.

As things stand, Real sit on top of the table with 46 points from their 19 matches, with Barcelona one back (having played 21 games) and Sevilla (also 21) three behind Los Blancos.

Victories against Valencia and Celta away in the two outstanding fixtures would bring six more points, but of course there is no guarantee they will win those games.

The match at Mestalla will now take place on February 22nd, in a midweek fixture when there is Champions League football but not involving Real (who play Napoli a on the 15th). And that rescheduled encounter comes between Liga games at home to Espanyol (February 18th) and away to Villarreal (on the 26th).

Valencia are currently in a sorry state and lost 4-0 at home to Eibar in La Liga on Saturday. Nevertheless, a trip to Mestalla is rarely easy for Real and that fixture brought the Rafa Benitez era to an end last term as the Spanish coach was axed following a 2-2 draw in Valencia.

Home games against Espanyol seldom trouble Madrid, but facing both Valencia and Villarreal away in the space of five days is not ideal for Zidane’s side and the trip to Vigo could also prove problematic – and likely tougher too than it would have been against a side distracted by the Copa, which would have been the case on Sunday.

There is no fixed date for the rescheduled fixture yet and it will depend on the sides’ respective progress in Europe. If Real reach the Champions League final and Celta advance to the Europa League showpiece, the only available date will be between May 15th and 21st, when La Liga ends.

That would be bad timing if Madrid need the points to claim the Primera Division title, while an earlier date could also be an unwanted distraction amid the final stages of both La Liga and the Champions League.

So even though Zidane’s side remain in a strong position on top of the table at this stage, these two games in hand could yet prove to be more of a curse than a blessing for Los Blancos in the race for the title.

source: goal

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