Real Madrid collapse revives interest in Spanish league

25th February 2008, Comments 0 comments

In the bars and on the trains, in the schoolyards and at the workplace, throughout Spain on Monday morning there was one principal topic of conversation: the surprising collapse of Real Madrid.

25 February 2008

MADRID - In the bars and on the trains, in the schoolyards and at the workplace, throughout Spain on Monday morning there was one principal topic of conversation: the surprising collapse of Real Madrid.

Most Spaniards seem to be far more interested in the setbacks of the reigning champions than they are in the forthcoming general elections (on 9 March), according to most newspapers.

The election campaign has been greeted with widespread apathy and indifference, and the turnout is expected to be low.

In contrast, public interest in the battle for the league title is higher than ever, now that previously untouchable Real are on the slide - and now that Barcelona are catching up with them.

Just one month ago Real were nine points ahead of stuttering Barca, and apparently cruising to their 31st Liga title.

But the whites have, surprisingly, lost three of their last four games, while Barca - inspired by the return to form of strikers Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto'o and Ronaldinho - just can't stop winning right now.

On Sunday Barca reduced Real's lead to just two points by thrashing Levante 5-1.

Straight afterwards, Real crashed 1-0 at home to modest neighbours Getafe - and the alarm bells were ringing in the Estadio Bernabeu.

"We really should be worried about our present form," veteran midfielder Guti told Canal Plus.

Real are also in trouble in the Champions League, having lost 2-1 away to AS Roma in the first leg of their second round tie.

Online polls in different websites show that most Spaniards feel that Barca can actually overtake Real in the battle for La Liga - in a similar way to how Real dramatically overtook Barca last season.

A poll taken by the digital version of Marca showed that a massive 77.2 percent of readers believe that Real can now be overtaken by the Catalans, with only 22.8 percent voting no.

Not surprisingly, there is even more conviction up in Catalonia that Barca can come from behind.

An online poll taken by Catalan daily paper Sport - read mostly by Barca fans - shows that 86 per cent of them agree with the statement that "Barca started to win the league on Sunday."

Only 14 percent of the 3,018 readers who voted in the poll disagreed with the statement.

According to radio station Cadena COPE, "La Liga has exploded back into life, just when it seemed to be all over ... The final months of the season are going to be just as interesting as last year."

[Copyright dpa 2008]

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