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Sunday, May 28, 2023

Barcelona Finally Wins the LaLiga Title Without Lionel Messi

Barcelona won the La Liga title for the first time since 2019 after beating Espanyol 4-2 on the road in a Catalan match on Sunday.

Alex Balde’s goal at the back post and two goals by Robert Lewandowski in the first half got Barcelona going. After halftime, Jules Kounde added a fourth goal, and Barcelona cruised to a win that put them 14 points ahead of second-placed Real Madrid and put them in position to win the title with four games left.

It’s the first time since Xavi Hernandez took over at the end of 2021 and the 27th time Barcelona has won Spain’s top league. Only Madrid has won it more times (35).

“It’s a great feeling to know you did a good job,” Xavi said. “It began in July. It’s taken 10 months of hard work and giving up things. Tonight, it felt like the right time. People didn’t like that we gave the players five days off, but it worked out well for us.

“The people have earned it. Even the players. The president has also worked hard to put together a strong team. We were much better than the rest of the league, since we won the title with four games left. The team deserves a lot of thanks for this.

“I am very happy and very proud to win the league title.”

In a golden age led by Lionel Messi, Barcelona won the league eight times between 2009 and 2019, but they haven’t won it in the last three seasons.

Last year was their first without Messi after he moved to Paris Saint-Germain. They finished 13 points behind Madrid, who won the league.

But that was seen as a success because they were ninth when former player Xavi took over as coach at Camp Nou from Ronald Koeman in the middle of the season.

Barça backed Xavi in the transfer market last summer after he helped them get into the Champions League and finish in second place in the league.

They sold club assets to pay for Lewandowski, Kounde, and Raphinha’s moves, and Andreas Christensen and Franck Kessie came in as free agents.

Lewandowski’s goals helped them get back to the top of Spanish football. The Poland striker now has 21 goals, which is the most in the league.

“The name of the project makes it safe to keep believing in it. We have been great in some games,” Xavi added. “We want to win the last four games and have a good season finale. The goal has been reached, though, by winning LaLiga and the Super Cup, which is a huge accomplishment.

“We’ve been through a lot. A lot of bad things are said in this club. Now, the work done is worth enough. This is Barcelona, and I know how it works. It was just like a player.”

But it’s Barca’s strong defense that has kept them so steady during a season that was thrown off by the FIFA World Cup in Qatar in November and December.

This season in LaLiga, they have kept 25 clean sheets and given up only 13 goals, including just two at Spotify Camp Nou. They have won 11 games 1-0 on their way to the title.

Barca hasn’t done as well in Europe, losing early in both the Champions League and the Europa League. However, their win over Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup final was a memorable one, and it was the first prize of the Xavi era.

In the Copa del Rey playoff, Madrid got back at Barca by beating them 4-0 at Camp Nou after losing the first game 1-0 at Santiago Bernabeu. In the end, Los Blancos beat Osasuna in the final.

Barça should win the league title next weekend when they play Real Sociedad. The rest of the season will end with games against Real Valladolid, Mallorca, and Celta Vigo.



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