Putting the cat among the pigeons

Ousmane Dembélé could be back for El Clásico.
Ousmane Dembélé could be back for El Clásico. / EFE
  • The usual arguments in the La Liga-Premier League debate have been turned on their head this season

If the gauge of what is the best league in Europe is who succeeds in the Champions League, we may have a problem convincing the unconverted that La Liga continues to rule.

It's an argument that is open to personal opinion, a little like the Messi/Ronaldo debate.

I've always maintained that the English Premier League is the best marketed and certainly the most organised while the best players on the planet dine at the top table of Spanish football.

Messi and Ronaldo take in turns to be crowned King of the Game; Antoine Griezmann was the top scorer at the Euros. It has long been a showcase for the world's best.

The detractors claim Spain is uncompetitive; the counter claim is that the teams from the rest of the continent don't compete as well in the European competitions.

Oddly, the traditional arguments are about to be turned upside down. Manchester City are so far ahead of the rest of the Premier League, it blows the 'competitiveness' argument out of the water. At the time of writing they are eleven points above second and an incredible 18 points ahead of fourth place. In Spain, Barcelona's advantage is a more closable five points and they sit only eight points above fourth-placed Real Madrid who nobody believes are spent just yet.

So stick those statistics in your pipe and smoke it!

The problem is the 'Spanish teams excel in Europe' argument. The draw for the knockout stages means that there is a very strong possibility that no Liga teams will advance to the last eight of the Champions League. Neymar decided that it wasn't the ultimate league to perform in any longer and headed to Paris who are now regarded as a frightening force. Real Madrid will not be looking forward to the match-up.

A pairing with Chelsea is not what Barcelona would have wished for. At this rate, come February Antonio Conte may only be concentrating on the Champions League and he can afford to condition his team for the double header with the Catalans.

It may be down to Sevilla, currently La Liga's fifth-placed team, to spring an upset by beating Manchester United, the Premier League's second-ranking club.

As the argument about competitiveness has been reversed, so has the claim to the best collective of players. Messi is still at the peak of his powers and Ronaldo is smashing Europe but it could be contended that the next generation of superstars reside in the Premier League. The pups of Pep Guardiola at City, Liverpool's front four and of course Harry Kane.

The key is getting the superstars fit. There's a rumble that Ousmane Dembélé could be ready in time for El Clásico. He can truly take Barcelona up a notch.

Gareth Bale has been an enigma for far too long and if his body allows and he can unleash his powers, then Real Madrid can make a charge for La Liga and a case for hanging onto their European title.

So, my Spanish amigos, you have two months to get your act together!