With a 1-1 draw against Levante, Barcelona clinched their third consecutive La Liga title with two games remaining and confirmed themselves as the best team in Spain, and possibly Europe. The Catalan side have looked imperious under Pep Guardiola’s tutelage, and will want to continue their dominance over Spanish football in the 2011/12 season and Europe, where they play their third Champions League final in six years (their second in three years against Manchester United).
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The side from the Camp Nou have amassed 91 points this season, winning 29 of their 37 league games to date. Their tally of 92 goals is only outmatched by Madrid’s 94, whilst their defensive record is the best in the league with only 20 goals being conceded by Victor Valdes this campaign. The figures speak for themselves. However more impressive has been the manner of their play and the way in which they have won their title. The Barcelona passing and attacking style of football has been a revelation to watch over the last three seasons, and many a side have found themselves chasing shadows as Blaugrana spells of possession have shattered opponents morale and ultimately ended up with the ball in the back of the net.
The chief instigator of this possession football is Xavi, who accompanied by Andres Iniesta have shown outstanding creativity to create chances for the side’s attackers over the last three campaigns. Guardiola has stamped out the defensive incompetence that crippled Frank Rijkaard’s last two seasons in charge, and in captain Carles Puyol Barcelona have one of the finest defenders in the world and a figurehead around which the team forms.† Add to this the game’s number one player in the form of Lionel Messi, who with 52 goals this season has continued to exceed expectations, and you have a team that on its day is virtually unplayable.
Can Barcelona Win 4 League Titles In A Row? Obviously the answer is yes, but there are a number of factors that will dictate whether they will. Guardiola’s influence over the side has been undeniably, and with rumblings of a new challenge for the ex-Spain international midfielder, the Blaugrana would be a different side without him at the helm. Since Guardiola has signed a one-year contract extension he’s set to stay till 2012, but his desire to stay on a rolling one-year contract means that the speculation about his future will remain. If the coach was to leave the Camp Nou, the momentum and confidence of the Barcelona side may be impacted, with the players having to adapt to a new coach.
If Barca are to be replaced at the pinnacle it will surely be Real Madrid who would claim their throne, and Jose Mourinho’s side have improved this season, and will continue to progress. The El Clasico sides have created a mini-league at the top of La Liga, with nearest rivals Valencia, Villarreal et al put to the sword by the top two. ‘The Special One’ is not accustomed to second place, and will not want the silver medal; Los Blancos will come back even more motivated next term.
The current Barcelona side are the best team to grace European football over the last decade, and will be favourites to retain their title in 2011/12; if, as expected, Guardiola stays on as the coach of the club it is difficult to look past another successful season for Spain’s top team.
The author Gareth McKnight is a columnist for the football blog Soccerlens.com.