MADRID - Barcelona won their third
consecutive La Liga title on Wednesday, making it a hat-trick of
league crowns for coach Pep Guardiola in his first three seasons
Following is an analysis with five main reasons for their
Barcelona's well-oiled machine, built around the midfield
trio of Spanish internationals Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio
Busquets, has continued its unrivalled domination of possession,
frustrating rivals forced to chase the ball for long periods.
The club set a La Liga record of 16 successive wins in
February and have only been knocked off their stride twice.
Promoted Hercules stunned the champions 2-0 in their first
home game, while between the first and second legs of the
Champions League semi-final, they went down 2-1 at Real
Sociedad, ending a record 23-match unbeaten run away from home.
With five 1-1 draws, against Real Mallorca, Sporting Gijon,
Sevilla, Real Madrid and Levante, Barca have only dropped 16
points all season while racking up 29 victories.
Pep Guardiola's outstanding achievement has been to maintain
the hunger for success in a squad that has already won every
His decision to off-load striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic in
favour of Spain's David Villa has been vindicated and it led to
a tighter squad unit without any of the controversy that dogged
He conducted the campaign with a first-team squad of only 18
outfield players, adding Ibrahim Afellay in January, exploiting
the versatility of players such as Javier Mascherano and Sergio
Busquets to cover at centre-back after Eric Abidal's surgery on
a liver tumour.
The former Barca midfielder refused to rise to Real Madrid
coach Jose Mourinho's constant sniping, until his
uncharacteristic outburst on the eve of the Champions League
semi-final when the bad blood between the clubs boiled over.
The World Player of the Year has scored 31 league goals, and
52 in all competitions this season.
The tirelessly enthusiastic 23-year-old has avoided any
serious injuries and once again has shown an unerring ability to
score important goals.
The team's domination of possession combined with Messi's
more central role means he sees plenty of the ball and he has
also weighed in with 19 assists, more than any other player in
The main beneficiaries have been his strike partners Villa
and Pedro, who have scored 18 and 13 respectively.
Messi's inability to exercise the same influence for
Argentina speaks volumes for the way his Barca team mates play
to his strengths.
Barca only conceded more than once in a game in their two
defeats and opponents have managed 20 goals against them in 36
Spain goalkeeper Victor Valdes is virtually assured of a
third consecutive award for having conceded the fewest goals in
La Liga, and has once again shown that a Barca number one has to
be as good with his feet as his hands.
Spain centre back Gerard Pique has grown in stature,
especially in the lengthy absence through injury of captain
Carles Puyol. He epitomises the "build-from-the-back" playing
style of the team.
Makeshift centre backs Busquets and Mascherano rose to the
task while the irrepressible Dani Alves has provided bite and
attacking thrust. The Brazilian right-back has the league's
second highest number of goal assists with 14.
Barca's 5-0 thrashing of Real Madrid in November was perhaps
their outstanding performance of the season and gave them an
unassailable advantage in the head-to-head record between the
A 1-1 league draw at the Bernabeu, in the first of the
four-match series in three competitions in 18 days played out
over the last month, was the first time Guardiola had failed to
win against Barca's arch-rivals.
Barca's dominance over the only side able to compete with
them in financial terms is reflected in their impressive
"Clasico" record in Guardiola's three years as coach - six
wins, two draws and one defeat across three competitions.
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