La Liga: Barcelona close in on long-awaited title
After the devastating disappointment of Champions League defeat, the Catalans can finally secure the league title this week.
By Halima Ali
Finally, the day is near. It has been long overdue for a team that have left all others in their wake in La Liga, and were seemingly champions elect by Christmas, but FC Barcelona have still yet to officially win their long-awaited title.
A Lionel Messi-inspired 4-2 win against Real Betis at the weekend leaves his side just two points from the prize, which could be secured on Wednesday if Real Madrid fail to win at home against Málaga or at the weekend, when Tito Vilanova’s men travel to Atlético Madrid.
Last season, Barcelona lost the liga crown they had held for three consecutive years to José Mourinho’s team and as the curtain was raised in August with the league opener – the Spanish Supercup – the Catalans were again defeated over two legs by their arch rivals.
Barcelona meanwhile, had undergone a changing of the guard, with Vilanova replacing Pep Guardiola, whose legacy was an incomparable haul of two Champions Leagues, three Ligas, two Club World Cups, two European Supercups, one Copa del Rey and three Spanish Supercups.
The change of coach coupled with the new-found competitiveness of Mourinho’s Madrid meant many expected this to be a transitional year for Barça, a year to re-group and look forward. They were certainly expected to push Los Merengues all the way, but what could not have been predicted last summer was the ease with which La Liga would be won.
Leading from the front from the very beginning, Barcelona were for many months competing with the other madrileño team, Atlético Madrid. But while they too ran out of steam, Barcelona for a time looked unstoppable, particularly in the first half of the season.
By the time Madrid travelled to the Camp Nou at the beginning of October for the first league Clásico of the season, the hosts were already eight points ahead of their archrivals. The visitors, fearing the consequences of a loss that would open the gap to 11 points so early on in the championship race, were seemingly content with the 2-2 result, confident that they would be able to overhaul Los Culés sometime down the road. But the opportunity never arose.
In the last few years, the big two have challenged for La Liga and have at least stayed in touching distance of each other, but the gap became a chasm, with a massive 18 points separating the two sides at one stage in January.
And if Mourinho publicly throwing in the towel in December was not enough to put an end to the race, the points gap was. The declarations of “Hay Liga!” that so often do the rounds, were kept at bay this season, with no one able to say it and mean it.
A season of two halves
But while they blew away everyone before them in the first half of the season, the New Year showed Barcelona to be fallible. With their manager away getting cancer treatment, the team led by assistant coach Jordi Roura began to show signs of weakness. Victories in the league no longer came so easily and they seemed more to be scraping through than destroying all those before them. Barcelona looked beatable again.
And beaten they were. As well as dropping points in the league, they faced Madrid three times – twice in the Copa del Rey semi-finals and once in the league, when they effectively faced a second-string side at the Santiago Bernabéu. Two out of the three games resulted in defeat for the Catalans.
In Europe, they fell to a 2-0 defeat by AC Milan – though they later won the tie on aggregate – and they struggled against Paris St-Germain in the quarter-finals. Barcelona were then given an almighty hiding by Bayern Munich in the semi-finals, losing 7-0 on aggregate.
In Europe, at least, an improvement is needed but nearly a week on, the perfect remedy for such a demoralising defeat is available – a title-winning party that has been anticipated for the last five months is finally upon us.
FC Barcelona 4 – 2 Real Betis
Sevilla FC 3 – 0 RCD Espanyol
Real Zaragoza 3 – 0 Rayo Vallecano
RCD Mallorca 1 – 1 Levante UD
Deportivo La Coruña 0 – 0 Atlético Madrid
Real Madrid 4 – 3 Real Valladolid
Granada CF 1 – 0 Málaga CF
Valencia CF 4 – 0 Osasuna
Celta de Vigo 1 – 1 Athletic Bilbao
Getafe CF 2 – 1 Real Sociedad
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Published: May 7 2013
Category: Featured, Spain News, Sports
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
Short URL: http://iberosphere.com/?p=8502
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Tags: barcelona, José Mourinho, Messi, Mourinho, Real Madrid, spain, spain news, spain soccer, spanish football