While Barcelona slipped at key moments, and Sevilla sprinted to the half-way point then stumbled to the finish line, Real Madrid never dropped their tempo and fully deserved to land their 33rd League title.
Barcelona – Real Madrid’s triumphant league campaign saw them pick up their 33rd title on Sunday, and their first in five years. It owed much to a consistency that contrasted sharply with the ups and downs of Barcelona’s disappointing final season under Luis Enrique.
When Real Madrid only had two games left the Barcelona coach pointed out that those remaining fixtures were against sides who had both already beaten Barcelona at home. But Madrid had no problem seeing off Celta Vigo and Malaga and that, ultimately, was the difference between the two sides. Barcelona dropped points against teams they would have expected to beat comfortably while Madrid were far more reliable, especially on the road.
Zidane’s team picked up more points away, 47, than they did at home, 46, scoring a club record 58 goals on their travels. Cristiano Ronaldo’s season was also key. He scored 14 goals in his
last nine matches of the season and 15 in his last 15 league games. “The manager has been very important,” he said. “He has known how to manage the squad in a very intelligent way.” Zidane was blessed with wonderful resources but rotating players is never easy and yet he was able to convince everyone, even Ronaldo, that it was the for best of the whole group that nobody played every minute of every game.
Diario AS published figures on Monday suggesting as many as 20 players played less than 1,000 minutes during the season. “Today is the best day of my professional career. I feel like getting
up and dancing on this table,” Zidane said in the post-match press conference after Real clinched the title with a 2-0 win at Malaga. He was promptly drowned in celebratory champagne by his players. Barcelona, in contrast to Madrid, looked stale and fatigued at times as their squad was stretched, in part by bad planning last summer.
The decision to sell Sandro Ramirez to Malaga and Munir El Haddadi to Valencia, and bring in Valencia forward Paco Alcacer backfired as Alcacer struggled to adapt while both Munir and Sandro – the latter scored 14 goals – had better seasons. Barcelona also failed to properly replace right-back Dani Alves who they let go for nothing last summer.
Alves went on to reach the Champions League final and win the league and cup for his new team Juventus – proving that he was far from finished, while Barcelona never found an answer to their problems at right-back.
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Sergio Roberto did the best job of filling in for Alves but the converted midfielder was therefore unavailable as an option in midfield where Luis Enrique was often short of options. It was not just Barcelona that were left in Real Madrid’s trail. Sevilla set the early pace, enjoying their best first half to a season in their history but they hit the wall dramatically mid-campaign and finished 21 points behind the champions.
Atletico Madrid finished third, below the big two and above Sevilla, but they too were out of the title race a long time ago, ending up 15 points adrift of Real Madrid. Atletico at least know that they will be playing Champions League football in their new Wanda Metropolitan Stadium next season. Third place assures them of that. Sevilla will have to qualify for the
Villarreal had a solid campaign and will go into the Europa League as will Real Sociedad who did well under Eusebio Sacristán. Athletic Bilbao will be Spain’s third representative in the
competition after finishing seventh, but only if Alaves fail to win the Copa del Rey. If the Basque minows can beat Barcelona next Saturday at the Vicente Calderon then they will go into Europe at Athletic’s expense.
Down at the bottom relegation was decided several weeks before the end of the season with Sporting Gijon, Osasuna, and Granada, who lost all of their last seven games under Tony Adams, relegated to the second tier.