The yawning gap financially and successfully speaking that separates Barcelona and Real Madrid from the rest in the Spanish championship is clearly reflected in the standings.
A matter of two. This is the phrase that could easily describe what is going on in the Liga BBVA after match day 18. And it is not an unusual picture in Spain, as this has been the pattern since the 2004-2005 season when Barcelona and Real Madrid began to monopolize titles among themselves. Instead of increasing the competitiveness among the others by demanding them to perform at a higher level to be among the best, the only level of competitiveness that has increased has been among the two of them. It was no coincidence that last season they starred a championship that required the record sum of 99 points to clinch the title.
This season everything is starting to look as if those 99 points won't be sufficient to clinch the 2010-11 Liga, and that just these two teams have enough arguments to pass that mark. Only 18 games have been necessary for the defending champions Barcelona (49) and Real Madrid (47) to create a +10 point difference from the third place Villareal (36), when there is still one game to go before the first of two rounds is completed.
Their offensive power is demolishing as well, and it looks like the new champion will not only need more than 99 points to win the title, but also more than 99 goals. Barcelona is closer to cross that line with 57 goals already that make them the top scorers in Spain and Europe as well, with an average of 3.2 goals per game. Behind comes Real Madrid with the not inconsiderable average of 2.6 goals per game.
Defensively speaking, they also have enviable records that confirm how solid their defenses are for opponents. The defending champions have only suffered 10 goals in 18 games, while Real Madrid has taken the ball out of their goal 16 times, five of those against Barcelona in the past edition of "El Clasico".
These numbers make of the Liga BBVA two championships instead of one: the first one composed of Real Madrid and Barcelona fighting head to head towards the title, and the second made up from those fighting for the non-despicable leftovers of four tickets at stake for UEFA competitions: two for the Champions League and the same number for the Europa League.
And it is in these "other" championship -if it can be called that way- that things are more even an unpredictable. Only an eight point difference separates the third place Villareal from the tenth Sevilla (26), where all those in between -including them two- have serious chances to clinch an UEFA championship berth.
Valencia follows Villareal real close, just two points behind (34) them, and along with Espanyol (31) they are starring a pretty tight fight for a Champions League seat, where they can't afford to relax due to the proximity of their contenders. These contenders are Atletico de Madrid, Getafe and Mallorca with 27 points, as well as Athletic de Bilbao with the already mentioned Sevilla with 26 points, teams that rally for a Europa League berth at this time.
Barcelona is after its third Spanish championship in a row, while Real Madrid is looking forward to end with their three year wining draught. Who the champion will be is still unknown, but the options aren't many as like we said early this is "a matter of two".