It would not be an exaggeration to state that La Liga runs on a duopoly mechanism when it comes to winning the title. In recent times, we have seen very few teams mounting a proper title challenge to Real Madrid or Barcelona throughout the entire season.

It was Atletico Madrid, which was the last team other than Real and Barcelona, to lift the title in the 2013-14 season. Now, seven years later, former Atletico player Diego Forlan firmly believes that Atletico has another chance to trounce its dominant city rival and Barcelona, and become Spanish champion once again.

Atletico currently sits on the top of the table with 63 points, four points ahead of second-placed Barcelona and six ahead of third-placed Real Madrid. Despite Atletico’s recent slump, in contrast to Madrid and Barca’s resurgence, Forlan, in a media interaction, said that he thinks Atletico has what it takes to lift the title for the second time under Diego Simeone’s tutelage.

“Of course, Barcelona, Real Madrid are big clubs with big players, but Atletico is having a very good season with big players like Luis Suarez, who is scoring a lot of goals. So, hopefully, they can keep on winning games and at the end of the season, lift the title.”


Diego Forlan was an instant hit at Atletico Madrid as he played a vital role in the 2010 Europa League triumph. - Getty Images


Forlan stated that the game between Barcelona and Atletico late in the season on May 9 could be a possible title-decider given that both teams are playing good football and are close to each other.

Atletico’s recent slump

There was a time in the season when the general notion was in favour of Atletico becoming runaway champion, given its stellar display of football coupled with Barcelona and Real Madrid’s tendency of dropping points at crucial junctures. 

However, that seems like a distant possibility now after Atletico faced a rough patch itself and dropped points.

“Look….the season is long, and a team will have ups and downs," said Forlan. "I still think they are doing outstanding, and they need to keep winning games. The gap is close now, but Atletico has a good squad to lift the title.”

The VAR debacle

One cannot deny the impact of VAR has made on the game. Since its inception, La Liga has seen the technology used at innumerable junctures- sometimes judiciously and sometimes not. 

The latest debatable VAR decision came in the Barcelona-Huesca match where Rafa Mir of Huesca was awarded a penalty after he claimed to have been tripped by Barcelona goalkeeper, Marc Andre ter Stegen. However, the footage indicated that there was no contact. Nonetheless, the penalty stood.

Forlan feels that even though the technology has helped the game to an extent, it needs to be used more effectively to attain optimum utilisation from it.

“Although they [officials] have the technology to see the play, to see the foul, to see the penalty, they are still making mistakes. Less mistakes than before…...things are getting better, but they need to get much better. I am not saying it needs to be 100 per cent because it’s not that easy but at least 99 per cent. Now, it’s somewhere between 85-90 per cent and there are some big mistakes with the VAR that you don’t understand why they are still making it,” he said.


The ‘El Pistolero’ effect

Suarez has been tearing up the league in the Red and White of Atletico and in all probability, making Barcelona regret its decision of releasing him, that too to a rival team. Forlan praised his Uruguayan compatriot and highlighted the crucial role that he would have to play to help Atletico end the Real-Barca domination.

“Atletico was always good defensively. What they needed was a solid attack and Suarez has given them that. He has now scored 18 goals, which is more goals than [Diego] Costa and Morata combined last season.”

Forlan also highlighted Joao Felix’s contribution to the team and said that there is immense pressure on him because of the price tag he carries. He said that Felix has age on his side and will become the player everyone expects him to be.

With the season at its twilight, the race for the top spot is heating up. Only time will tell whether the lesser spoken part of Madrid will get bragging rights at the end of the season and end its prolonged period of title drought.