Barcelona are two points clear with their star man leading the Spanish goalscoring charts, but the former Madrid striker thinks they can be caught
Former Real Madrid striker Fernando Morientes believes his old side will win La Liga this season – but it all hinges on Barcelona’s Lionel Messi.
With 18 games played, Zinedine Zidane’s side are two points behind table-topping Barca after three draws in their last three games.
One of those draws was the goalless Clasico at Camp Nou, where neither Messi nor any other player came up with a decisive moment, though Morientes knows this is rare.
“The heart tells me that Real Madrid will win La Liga,” he told reporters.
“It depends on Messi. When Cristiano Ronaldo was here, everything was very close.
“The two teams are both playing at a very high level. The season will really start in February.
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“From there, you can see how good the teams really are. The one that is better prepared will take the title.”
As the decade draws to a close, Madrid have lifted the title just twice in the 2010s – in 2011-12, and 2016-17.
It has been a decade of Spanish football dominated by Barca and Messi. They have won seven league titles, with Messi being top scorer six times and showing no sign of slowing down with 13 goals in 13 league appearances so far this season.
Morientes was speaking alongside former Madrid defender Fernando Sanz, now a director at La Liga.
With just seven points separating the top four, Sanz believes the title race is open to more than two teams.
“Why only Madrid or Barcelona? We are watching a league in which [the holders] Barcelona are losing games,” he said.
“It is well matched thanks to work from La Liga. All the first division teams earn much more from television rights, and the smaller teams can keep hold of their players and buy from elsewhere to reinforce them.
“This has led to La Liga being very competitive, and it is more complicated for Madrid and Barcelona.
“It could be won by Sevilla, Valencia, Atletico… they are a way off, but they have a good squad and can win a lot more points.”
Last season, Barca won the league title by 11 points, finishing 26 points clear of fourth-placed Valencia.
That victory also marked 15 years since the last time a team other than Barca, Madrid or Atletico won the league.