Defending La Liga champions Real Madrid CF struggled against Getafe on Sunday, as goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was forced to make numerous important saves to salvage a goalless draw. Los Blancos managed to hold off a much more energetic Getafe side but dropped two crucial points that might have cost them the championship.

Real Madrid visited Getafe while enduring an injury crisis and manager Zinedine Zidane was forced to find other solutions. Apart from the injuries, several key players were also out due to suspension or COVID-19 isolation.

Courtois had to fend off massive efforts from Mathias Olivera and Nemanja Maksimovic among others. At the other end of the pitch, Vinicius Junior threatened David Soria before half-time but a tired Real Madrid side hardly put pressure on the hosts.

After a scintillating week that saw Los Blancos advance to the semi-finals of the Champions League and claim victory in El Clasico, their steam has run out. The two points they dropped on Sunday means that they are now left with 67 points, three points behind Atletico Madrid (70 pts.) in the La Liga race.

Not only that, FC Barcelona (65 pts.) also has the opportunity to reclaim second place once they play their game in hand.

Atletico Madrid struggled to keep the 10-point lead that they had in January, but Real Madrid is running on empty. The bigger threat is now FC Barcelona, who have enjoyed a renaissance of sorts apart from the El Clasico setback.

There are seven games left in the season, and Diego Simeone will need to keep calm if he wants to claim the title. Ronald Koeman and his Barcelona side are gaining more confidence as their internal issues begin to get sorted out following their recent presidential election.

Meanwhile, Zidane is still missing captain Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane, Fede Valverde, Dani Carvajal, Lucas Vazquez and a slowly recovering Eden Hazard. Midfield wonders Toni Kroos and Luka Modric are overworked and burnt out. They also have the UEFA Champions League to worry about.

It will truly be a survival of the fittest in La Liga as the title race enters the final crucial weeks.

Zinedine Zidane
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane AFP / JORGE GUERRERO