Title homecoming awaits untouchable Barcelona

Title homecoming awaits untouchable Barcelona

BARCELONA
Title homecoming awaits untouchable Barcelona

Barcelona can clinch the Liga title with victory at home to relegation-threatened Levante on April 27, the first step in what the club hopes will be a clean sweep of trophies this season.

Ernesto Valverde’s side is nine points clear of Atletico Madrid with each club having four games left and Barça, which has the better head-to-head record, could be champion before kickoff at the Nou Camp if Atletico loses at home to Real Valladolid.

Should second-placed Atletico draws, a point against Levante would be enough for Barcelona to guarantee its 26th league title and eighth in 11 years.

Barça captain Lionel Messi will be able to lift the trophy in front of the club’s supporters after Spanish federation president Luis Rubiales said the team would be handed the silverware on April 27, instead of at its final home game of the campaign.

Messi will join a select group of players to have won 10 league titles with one club, while midfielder Arturo Vidal will collect an eighth consecutive title since 2012 after winning four championships with Juventus and three with Bayern Munich.

The Catalans began the season by winning the Spanish Super Cup and, assuming they win the league, could lift a third domestic trophy when they face Valencia in the Copa del Rey final on May 25.

The prize they covet most though is the Champions League, which Real Madrid has dominated in the last three seasons, especially with the final taking place in the Spanish capital.

Valverde can afford to rest players against Levante ahead of next week’s Champions League semifinal first leg at home to Liverpool, which will provide the high watermark of a season in which no-one has come close to challenging his side in La Liga.

Barça has led from the front since early December, when it crept ahead of Sevilla and Atletico as Real Madrid endured a nightmarish season and was not considered a realistic title rival until a burst of form in February.

Barça soon knocked its biggest rival back out of the title race though by marching 12 points clear of it with a 1-0 victory at the Santiago Bernabeu in March.

Atletico could not be written off until Barça overpowered it in April with a 2-0 win which took the Catalans 11 points clear at the top and began a procession towards retaining the title, which they also won at a canter last season.

“We’re very happy with how we’ve worked throughout the season, now we cannot wait for Saturday so we can become champions at our home in front of our fans,” said Sergio Busquets after Barca’s 2-0 win at Alaves on April 23.

“What we have done in the last few years is historical.”

Barça has only lost twice this season, with its last defeat coming in early November at the hands of Real Betis.

“We deserve this title, we have been the best team throughout the season,” added Barça midfielder Carles Alena.

On April 28, Real Madrid makes the short trip to struggling Rayo Vallecano, while Getafe visits Real Sociedad in its bid to secure a top-four finish for the first time.

Barcelona FC, football, Atletico Madrid