Barcelona reign in Spain once more thanks to a title-clinching 1-0 victory over Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon Sunday.
The triumph is Barca’s 23rd La Liga crown and the first of a potential hat-trick of trophies for Luis Enrique’s men in the coming weeks with the finals of the Copa Del Rey, against Athletic Bilbao, and Champions League, against Juventus, still to come.
Talisman Lionel Messi inevitably scored the all-important goal Sunday, brilliantly finishing off a typically intricate Barca move after 64 minutes.
The little Argentine was ranked alongside Pele as the greatest player to ever play the game by former Barcelona legend and coach Pep Guardiola earlier in the week.
But as always with Barcelona, a club that prides itself on its team vision of passing football and selfless values, this was a group triumph from start to finish.
Top of the pile
Few have been able to cope with Barca’s front line of Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez as the Blaugrana hit top form in recent months.
The potent triumvirate has already scored 115 goals between them this season.
Although Suarez was missing from the starting lineup Sunday, the ever reliable Pedro Rodriguez was there to fill in. It was he who set up Messi for the game’s only goal.
Further back, Andres Iniesta and Ivan Rakitic have been ably assisted by club legend Xavi Hernandez in midfield.
Meanwhile, experienced campaigners Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano, Jordi Alba and Dani Alves have been exceptional in defense.
With only one game of the La Liga season remaining, Barca’s lead of four points is now unbridgeable for closest closest rival Real Madrid which won 4-1 away to Espanyol Sunday. Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick to take a 45-41 lead over Messi in the “Pichichi” standings and 58-54 overall this season.
And the Catalan club’s triumph is undoubtedly all the sweeter, given that it came at the home of Atletico, which claimed last year’s La Liga title at Barcelona’s Nou Camp stadium on the final day of the season.
“Right now I’d like to thank everyone who helped in achieving this title and our fans,” Barcelona boss Luis Enrique said in comments posted on the club’s Twitter feed after the match.
“There are still two titles left to find out our grade, but winning La Liga is very satisfying to us,” he added.
Yet for all the post-match joy, there were nervous moments for Barca in what was a tense game with high-quality football on display from both sides.
Messi twice came close with headers in the opening half as well as striking the crossbar from a free-kick taken close to the Atletico byline.
But Atletico also had its chances in the opening period. Jose Gimenez’s glancing header brought a fine save from Claudio Bravo in the Barca goal.
The second period saw few chances for either side until Messi opened the scoring with a deft finish beyond Jan Oblak between the Atletico sticks.
Neymar then blazed over when given a golden opportunity by Messi to put the victory beyond doubt.
Claudio Bravo was called on to make one final spectacular save from a dipping Guillermo Siqueira strike and, although Atletico tried to put the squeeze on its opponents, there was no stopping the wild celebrations that were to come.
Barcelona staff invaded the pitch on fulltime and it wasn’t long before Pique was spraying his teammates with champagne.
It was an image that provided a fitting finish to a sparkling league season for Enrique’s men.