Former England star Steve McManaman feels that big clubs like Real Madrid and Barcelona, which feature top players and have big squads, will do better than others when the La Liga restarts next week behind closed doors amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
If one talks about the single most anticipated football fixture in the world - not considering additional factors like a Champions League knockout tie or a cup final, it has got to be the El Clasico, where Spain's two powerhouses, Real Madrid and Barcelona, take on each other. Over the years, the rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona saw some of the most engrossing footballing moments.
With Lionel Messi leading the Barca lines for over a decade now and Cristiano Ronaldo spearheading Real Madrid between 2009 and 2018, the two teams dominated Spain and Europe. Now, with Ronaldo gone to Juventus and Messi left with a Barcelona that is all but a shadow of its glory years, the two footballing giants are having to toil in Europe.
Messi's Barcelona and Real Madrid are at first and second position respectively in the 20-team standings after 27 matches each with two points separating them. Eleven rounds remain to be played.
"The schedule is tight with just 5-6 weeks and so the teams with quality players and big squads, which have better player back-ups, will do better. Barcelona and Real Madrid have these and it is a very close race between the two at the top," McManaman said during a worldwide virtual press conference to mark the the return of La Liga on June 11.
McManaman also said that the three months break due to the COVID-19 pandemic has also given time to some top players in Barcelona and Real Madrid to recover from their injuries.
"Those injured (in Barcelona and Real Madrid) are back. Everybody seemed to be fit and so they will benefit from the three months of break. I hope Real Madrid win the La Liga," said the former England midfielder, who won 37 international caps between 1994 and 2001.
McManaman, now 48, is considered one of the most decorated English footballers to have played for a club abroad. After nine years at Liverpool, he moved to Real Madrid in 1999.
At Real Madrid, he became the first English player to win the UEFA Champions League with a non-English club in 2000.
Two years later, he became the first English player to win the Champions League twice. He also won La Liga twice before moving to Manchester City in 2003.
La Liga organisers want to finish the season on the weekend of July 18-19 "depending on the evolution" of coronavirus.
McManaman said the important thing is to finish the league without any disruption or another lockdown.