A pair of 5-0 away wins for Barcelona and Real Madrid over Rayo Vallecano and Mallorca respectively last weekend suggests the two La Liga favourites are moving closer to their swashbuckling form of last season.
Lionel Messi’s 72nd and 73rd goals of 2012 helped the Catalans to remain top of the table – albeit only on goal difference from Atletico Madrid – and become even shorter title favourites at 7/25.
Looking at Barca’s fixture list and guessing where they might start to give up some of their eight-point lead over Real is best not attempted by anyone with money on Jose Mourinho’s men for the title.
Easily winnable trips to Levante and Real Betis plus a home date with Atletico Madrid look just about the most difficult assignments for Tito Vilanova’s men between now and Christmas.
A 3/1 bet on Real is better justified by the fact that with nine matches played and 29 to go, there is plenty of room for misfortune or other unforeseen twists of fate to turn the title race.
One possible problem for Barcelona is their reliance on Messi for goals. The great Argentine has scored 13 of Barca’s 29 goals this season and fired a phenomenal 50 of their 114 league strikes last campaign.
Despite having a number of world-class talents in their squad, Messi’s genius significantly outstrips that of his team mates.
Real Madrid are, of course, equally reliant on Cristiano Ronaldo, but you simply never know when an individual player might suffer an injury or a loss of form (as unlikely as that sounds in the case of Messi and Ronaldo).
Probably only the meanest Real fan would wish that on Messi, but the chance of an injury blow to any of Barcelona’s key players between now and May is one of the countless unknown factors shaping a long title race that is still in its infancy.