Real Madrid’s title challenge may be helped by the exclusion with Eden Hazard and Marco Asensio back while Barcelona is still reeling from the war between players and board … but LaLiga leaders are now fit Luis Suarez and still able to play at the Nou Camp
- Real Madrid will feel that the team is better suited to punish 11 games in 35 days
- They have a two-point deficit to reverse if they want to catch rivals Barcelona
- Leaders are restless off the field and players in the shop window may have no motivation
- Both of the LaLiga giants are heading for the summer chaos with the need for small teams
Real Madrid hopes that when the Spanish football season starts again on June 12, the return of Marco Asensio and Eden Hazard can help them revise Barcelona’s two-point lead at the top of LaLiga.
Everything about Real Madrid’s pre-closure campaign had been as good as Barcelona’s, but they had made 14 goals less.
With Asensio and Hazard alongside Karim Benzema, as Zidane planned at the beginning of the season, there is a belief that it won’t be such a problem.
Marco Asensio (left) and Eden Hazard (right) will help Real Madrid score more goals
Zinedine Zidane’s side seems better equipped to handle the punishing timetable
Madrid also think their squad is better suited to what will be 11 games in 35 days when the season starts again.
Zidane doesn’t have to expose the returning Hazard and Asensio too much, because in Gareth Bale, Vinicius, Rodrygo Goes and Lucas Vazquez, he has four other options for those two positions.
Karim Benzema needs protection as both Luka Jovic and Mariano are currently limited to gym work due to injuries, but elsewhere they look strong with Fede Valverde, Casemiro and Toni Kroos competing for a spot with a rested and revitalized Luka Modric.
Barcelona also has plenty of options, but there are questions about how much transfer speculation affects player morale.
They want Miralem Pjanic and Lautaro Martinez from Juventus and Milan respectively, but they know that players need to be sold or partially traded in order to make the deals and in fact that has Arturo Vidal, Ivan Rakitic, Artur Melo and Nelson Semedo there all involved in the window of the transfer.
Arturo Vidal is one of the players associated with an exit and there may be discontent in Barcelona
The effect on their motivation as players, who have been asked to take an extra step with every 72 hours of scheduled matches, remains to be seen. The effect of a new round of pay cuts should also be taken into account. Barcelona went into a meltdown not long after it closed in early April.
The club was still reeling from the revelation that a social media company hired to monitor the internet was subsequently linked to fake news against some players.
There were also massive layoffs from Vice Presidents, Emili Rousaud and Enrique Tombas, and directors Silvio Elias, Maria Teixidor, Josep Pont, and Jordi Calsamiglia. And Rousaud went on the Catalan radio RAC1 to say, “I really believe that someone has had their hand up.”
Barcelona threatened to sue and Rousaud later admitted that he regretted his outburst. All the while, the board was criticized for the way they handled the necessary pay cuts for the players.
Lionel Messi complained on his Instagram account, “We continue to be amazed that there were people from the club trying to put us under the magnifying glass, which pushed us to do what we always would.”
Lionel Messi took the rare step of publicly commenting that the turmoil was off the field
And if that barb was targeting the president, he got it from those who thought he was too soft for the players whose agreement to take a cut cut related only to the period the country would remain in a lockdown and offered no longer-term solution.
Since then it has calmed down, but there are more wage cuts. There must be. Barcelona is already on track to meet the expected turnover target of 1 billion euros.
Madrid is heading for a similar summer chaos. They will have 36 players on their team next season if no one leaves and all the lanees return, so someone has to move on. They also need to discuss how pay cuts will come out next season.
But it is not the same feeling that every player has a prize on his head. The institution looks calmer and when Hazard and Asensio return fit, Zidane can still overhaul the leaders and win the league he wanted more than any this season.
The games behind closed doors in Barcelona are still played in the Nou Camp
Luis Suarez’s return will be a real boost for Barcelona, which has a two-point lead
The Nou Camp and Luis Suarez could be the biggest obstacles to that happening. It is bad news for Real Madrid that Barcelona’s fourth highest score of all time is back in shape. And it could also work against Madrid that while Barca has to play their remaining matches at their B team’s Alfredo Di Stefano stadium, Barca will stay at the Nou Camp.
The Barcelona players have been consulted about copying Madrid and have requested that they, too, can play their remaining matches at the mini stadium of their second string in their training area outside the city.
But the response was unanimous “no”. They believe their arena is still intimidating even when they are empty and they think it could give them an advantage.
It’s one they need if club harmony is lost as it was at the start of the lockdown and Hazard ends the season in the same style he ended his campaign at Chelsea last year.
Hazard looked like he would miss the rest of the season, but could now play a defining role