Barcelona win Spanish league for 19th time

Real Madrid's 3-2 defeat against Villarreal allowed Barcelona to win the Primera Liga title for the 19th time. The Catalans have already won the King's Cup and will dispute the Champions' League final against Manchester United on May 27th.


AFP - Barcelona blew away the cobwebs of the Frank Rijkaard era to lift their first title in two years, triumphing with a swagger and some eye-catching football that left their fans and neutrals purring.

Real Madrid were dreaming of a third successive league title but Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola defied his inexperience using the attacking talents of Lionel Messi, Thierry Henry, Samuel Eto'o to perfection as they gunned down their rivals and helped win a 19th league title.

Barca led for most of the season and their attacking style drew comparisons with Johan Cruyff's 'Dream Team', in which Guardiola played a part.

The inexperienced Guardiola, a former Barcelona midfielder promoted from youth team coach, replaced Rijkaard at the young age of 37 and was pitted against Real's far more experienced coach Bernd Schuster.

Real had failed in their bid to lure Valencia's David Villa and Manchester United's Ronaldo and had an early setback when Brazilian Robinho jumped ship to Manchester City on September 1.

Barcelona signed Dani Alves for 30 million euros from Sevilla and his capture, along with Gerard Pique's from Manchester United, proved pivotal to their title success.

Both rivals began by losing their opening matches, with promoted Numancia defeating Barca 1-0 while Real lost 2-1 at bogey side Deportivo La Coruna.

Guardiola was left waiting for his first win as Barca drew 1-1 with Racing Santander and one point from a possible six represented their worst start since the 1973/74 campaign.

Real defeated Numancia 4-3 to get an early edge in the title race but from there on in it would be Barca who set the pace winning nine games in a row.

A rejuvenated Eto'o scored four goals in the first half during a 6-0 thrashing of Valladolid in early November.

With 12 games gone Real trailed Barca by three points and hit a rocky patch at the end of November losing 3-1 against derby rivals Getafe followed by a 4-3 home loss against Sevilla.

In contrast Barca cruised past Sevilla (3-0) and Valencia (4-0) to open up a nine-point gap ahead of 'El Clasico' at Camp Nou in mid-December.

Schuster, complaining about referees and injuries, tempted fate by saying Real had no chance of beating Barcelona. Real lost, and Schuster was sacked.

Juande Ramos, a free agent after being sacked by Tottenham Hotspur, was handed a six-month contract at Real and had a baptism of fire with his first league match against Barcelona at Camp Nou.

Eto'o and Messi fired a goal apiece in the final seven minutes to seal a 2-0 win as Barca opened up a 12-point gap at the top in mid-December.

At the halfway stage Barca set a new record of 50 points, beating the previous best of 47 points set by Real last season.

Ramos, however, got Real back on track and the champions went on an 18-game unbeaten league run.

Barca had a nightmare February, losing at home to derby rivals Espanyol (1-2) and then away at Atletico Madrid (4-3) to let Real back into a title race that had looked over.

Real came off their cloud when key Portuguese defender Pepe was suspended for ten games as punishment for violent conduct in the 3-2 derby win against Getafe.

Just four points adrift of Barca going into the second 'Clasico' at the beginning of May, Real blew their chance to close the gap - but could do little to counter a Barca 6-2 masterclass.

"We gave a footballing lesson in one of our best displays of the season," said midfielder Xavi. "It is justice because of what we have been doing since the beginning of the season."

It was sweet revenge for last season when Barca had to perform the guard of honur at the Bernabeu to salute Real as champions before crashing to a 4-1 defeat.

A demoralised Real waved the white flag with a 3-0 defeat at Valencia but Barca missed the chance to celebrate the title in front of their own fans conceding two late goals in a 3-3 draw with Villarreal.

Barca needed just a point to secure the title this weekend.

In the end, Real did them a favour by losing at Villarreal on Saturday to hand them the championship.

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