MADRID - Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola and
leading scorer Lionel Messi described their 2011 La Liga crown
as the toughest of titles after securing top spot with a 1-1
draw at Levante on Wednesday.
It was a third league championship in three years for the
Catalan club but it was a far from vintage performance as they
contented themselves with a point at the Ciutat de Valencia
stadium where they also won the 2005 league title.
The draw left them on 92 points with two matches left, six
ahead of arch-rivals Real Madrid who they bettered in
head-to-head matches 6-1.
"Winning the league was been extremely tough and we are very
pleased," Guardiola told reporters.
"We have been tremendous for three quarters of the season
but in the last quarter we have struggled to score goals.
"If we have experienced a dip in form towards the end of the
season, it is because of the inhuman schedule over the last two
years. We have barely stopped."
World Player of the Year Messi has scored 31 times in the
"I'm delighted because it has been a very difficult title to
win," he said.
"We've had to work very hard to be champions and more so
against a great rival like Real Madrid. Now we have to enjoy
Guardiola's three-year reign as coach, his first top-flight
management job, has brought Barca nine trophies including three
league titles, one European Cup and one King's Cup.
Barca have reached the last four of the Champions League
every season and face Manchester United in this year's final in
London on May 28.
Eight of the current Barca squad also won the World Cup with
Spain in South Africa last year.
Barca have struggled with injuries, particularly in defence,
with Carles Puyol, Adriano Correia and Maxwell all sidelined,
along with Eric Abidal who needed surgery on a liver tumour.
"We need to reinforce in some areas, there are things we can
improve on," Guardiola said, looking forward to next season.
Abidal made his first start back in the side against
Levante, and Guardiola described the defender's return as one of
the highlights of the campaign.
"The worst part of the season was what happened to Abidal,"
Guardiola added. "But, his recovery was also the best."
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