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Stuart Dalgleish 25th Aug 2009 - 12:46

Madrid have the millions, Barça have the balance

Real Madrid might have spent money like it's going out of fashion but brilliant Barcelona are still the team to beat in this season's La Liga.

There can be no doubting that Real (11/10 for the outright) have an outstanding array of talent to choose from but just where are all these players going to play?

Forward options include; Kaká (16/1 to finish top scorer), Cristiano Ronaldo (11/2), Ruud van Nistelrooy (20/1), Karim Benzema (6/1) and Gonzalo Higuaín (16/1), and not forgetting Raúl (a whopping 40/1 to top the La Liga goal charts).

It's hard to imagine that any of Kaká, Ronaldo and Benzema will be happy sat on the bench but surely club captain and legend Raúl won't sit it out each week, it's almost written into his contract that he should start each game!

To be fair to the Spanish hit-man his goal scoring record in the last two seasons has been impressive but before that he had a few barren campaigns and his legs aren't what they used to be, you have to think he'll have the respect to know that the aforementioned stars are likely to create more goals than himself.

In the engine room, Real have added Xabi Alonso to go along with Lassana Diarra (or Lass as he wears on his shirt) and I hope for the sake of these two's health that they are deployed together - similar to Alonso with Javier Mascherano at Liverpool - if just one of these two hold the fort then they are in for a very busy 90 minutes each week because you won't get Ronaldo and Benzema tracking back to help out that's for sure.

With all these 'Galacticos' on show you know that Los Blancos will rattle in the goals but it's at the back where they'll fall short of Barcelona.

Pep Guardiola's team were simply phenomenal in his debut season as manager, as they completed a first ever treble of La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League - where they toyed with Manchester United for almost the entire 90 minutes.

In said Champions League final the buildup was all about Messi v Ronaldo and who would prove they are the World's best player - someone forgot to mention Andrés Iniesta.

While Barça's front three get all the headlines, the midfield ace just goes about his business almost unnoticed - but certainly not by me. I've been a fan of Iniesta's for some time now and I'm glad he's now getting the recognition he deserves, he has such a brilliant touch and superb vision not to mention excellent balance; without doubt he is now one of the top players in world football.

Along with Iniesta (who is 40/1 to finish top scorer) in Barcelona's homegrown midfield is the cultured Xavi, who has been pulling the strings for over 10 years now after taking over from his boss Guardiola - who said this on seeing Iniesta train with Barcelona's youth team many years ago: "You're going to retire me (to Xavi), but this kid's going to retire us all." Thankfully for Barça fans both Xavi and Iniesta are both going to be around for a while yet and with Sergio Busquets completing the trio they have one of the finest midfields in the world.

Zlatan Ibrahimović (7/1 to be top scorer) has now been added to the forward line in an extremely bizarre transfer, obviously he's a top player and should score plenty of goals but quite why Guardiola gave Inter Milan a reported £40 million AND Samuel Eto'o is anyone's guess.

Ibrahimović will slot straight into the position vacated by Eto'o in the middle of a front three with the mercurial Lionel Messi (7/1 top scorer) on the right and Thierry Henry (16/1) on the left, if they can get anything the like the 100+ that Eto'o scored with these two last season then the Catalan giants should be celebrating another title at the end of May.

At odds of 10/11 to win the league it might not seem the most attractive price, but with straight forward opening games against Sporting Gijón and Getafe it will only get shorter.

Primera Liga - outright

Primera Liga - top scorer


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