Barcelona win La Liga again – How the 2018/19 Title was won

Barcelona

Barcelona were crowned Spanish champions for the eighth time in eleven years this weekend. They retained their nine point advantage over Atletico Madrid by beating Levante and are now a staggering eighteen clear of Real Madrid with Los Blancos losing five times as many league games as the Catalans.

There have been a few wobbles though in a season when many expected the Madrid clubs to close the gap. Here was how Barça won La Liga 2018/19:

Dembele Winners ensure positive Start

Barcelona got their title defence off to a pretty impressive start by winning all of their opening four games. Although they fired eight past Huesca, their early performances weren’t fully convincing though particularly on the road. They edged past Valladolid 1-0 on the dodgiest of pitches on match-day 2 before coming from behind to see off Sociedad 2-1 in September. Both games were won by Second Half goals from Ousmane Dembele, the source of considerable negative media attention at the time. Those goals were key though and offered an early indicator that he was going to be a big part of Barça’s season.

The Wobble – Barça go 4 without Victory

Barcelona failed to win any of their league games between match-days 5 and 8 with Ernesto Valverde’s rotation policy failing to deliver. They suffered just their second ever defeat in La Liga under Valverde in September as lowly Leganes stunned the Catalans at Butarque. Real Madrid were beaten at Sevilla on the same night though and neither Madrid club could really take advantage of Barça’s blip with the derby clash between Atleti and Real ending level on match-day 7.

Messi-less Barça thrash Lopetegui’s Madrid

As far as making statements of intents go, hammering your biggest rivals 5-1 with your star player watching on from the sidelines is a pretty good one. Luis Suarez scored a hat-trick as Los Blancos were humbled at Camp Nou with Leo Messi sidelined through injury. The result spelt the end for Julen Lopetegui with Real Madrid already in danger of slipping out of title contention with a club record goal drought having pushed the former Spain boss closer to the exit door even before the Clasico humiliation.

Betis Win at Camp Nou, Sevilla go Top

Despite the big win over Real Madrid, there were still many doubts lingering over Barcelona in November. Their frailties were again exposed as a brilliant Real Betis won 4-3 at Camp Nou. Barcelona looked to be on their way to successive defeats a fortnight later as they trailed 1-0 at the Wanda Metropolitano going into the final minute. However again Ousmane Dembele popped up with a vital goal to deny Diego Simeone his first league win over the Catalans. Neither side would end the weekend in top spot though as Pablo Machin’s Sevilla beat Valladolid the following day to go 1st heading into December.

Defensive Improvements & 8 Straight Winter Wins

That would be as good as it got for Sevilla though with the Andalusians winning just two of their next thirteen league games to fall well out of contention. December and January would be the months when Barcelona really broke clear of the rest. They regained top spot with victory over Villarreal on match-day 14 and wouldn’t relinquish it again. The win over the Yellow Submarine was the start of eight league victories in a row and significantly four straight clean sheets. Barça had gone eleven league games without a clean sheet immediately prior to that with an increasingly assured Clement Lenglet forming a solid partnership with Gerard Pique, another key factor in their eventual title success.

Life in the Title Race? – Resurgent Real close the Gap

Real Madrid were starting to show signs of life at last though with Karim Benzema inspiring what was now Santi Solari’s side to five straight league wins culminating in a 3-1 victory away to Atletico Madrid on match-day 23. That victory saw them move above their city rivals into 2nd. Barcelona meanwhile were held to draws in their opening two games in February by Athletic and Valencia, both of whom were recovering well from poor starts.

Magical Messi Hat-Tricks in Seville & another Clasico Win

The life in Real Madrid’s title challenge didn’t last long though. They followed up their victory over Atletico with a shock home loss against Girona. A disastrous week soon followed in which they were effectively knocked out of all three competitions with Barcelona winning at the Bernabeu in La Liga and the Copa del Rey.

Either side of those games, there were two simply sublime hat-tricks from Leo Messi. Both came in tough away games in the city of Seville as Barcelona won 4-2 at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan and 4-1 at the Benito Villamarin. A Catalan derby win over Espanyol followed to make it six straight league wins over what was on paper a really tough part of their season.

Doubt removed as Barça end 10-man Atleti’s Resistance

Atlético Madrid responded to their Madrid derby defeat by winning six of their next seven league games without conceding to at least maintain slim hopes heading into their trip to Camp Nou on match-day 31. Victory would have cut the gap to just five points but Diego Costa’s colourful rant at referee Jesús Gil left the visitors with more than an hour to see out with ten men. They put in a strong rear-guard action but any doubt as to the destiny of the title was removed when Suarez and Messi fired in late goals within a minute of one another.

Barcelona win La Liga with 3 Games to Spare

Barcelona finally sealed the deal and got their hands on another league trophy on Saturday as they beat Levante 1-0 at Camp Nou. Again there were a few nervy moments but fittingly it was Leo Messi who clinched the title win with his 34th league goal of the season.

It’s still just three defeats in La Liga for Barça under Ernesto Valverde in just shy of two full seasons. There were a few more wobbles this time around early doors as opposed to last season when they topped La Liga after every match-day besides the opening two. However it has still been a remarkably comfortable title triumph again and there will be plenty of soul-searching across Madrid this summer as they figure out how to close what is a significant gap.


Article via Mark Sochon – Contact: marksochon(at)hotmail.co.uk | @marksoc1 on Twitter

Spanish football writer
About Mark Sochon 1603 Articles
Mark is a freelance writer based in Madrid. He has also lived in Seville and Barcelona and has written extensively about Spanish football. His work has been published by the likes of Guardian Sport & World Soccer.

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