La Liga had been dominated by two clubs over the past decade, but Atletico Madrid broke through to win the 2013-14 Spanish title.
The race for the league championship was a three-way battle that lasted the entire season. Super powers Barcelona and Real Madrid remained competitive until the end of the year, but Atletico Madrid remained in front.
Things were not decided until the last week of the season when the leaders went into Camp Nou with just a three-point lead over Barcelona. Atletico Madrid earned a draw, which was enough to escape the hostile environment with a title.
This battle for first—as well as the fight for spots in next year's European tournaments—kept La Liga thrilling to watch from beginning to end. Here is a look at the final standings, as well as the recent roll of honour and breakdown of which teams qualified for what event next year.
via ESPN FC
Champions League: Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Athletic Bilbao
Atletico Madrid should be proud of winning La Liga, something that manager Diego Simeone expected all along. According to Eurosport, Simeone explained in a news conference:
I never thought for a moment that the team would not be able to do it. They always have a response, the bigger the challenge is, the more determined they are to achieve it. From the first moment I walked into the dressing room here I noticed that. [...]
Today will be one of the most important days in the history of the club. To become champions against Barcelona is a great feeling.
Despite this success, there are more trophies to win this season and next, as noted by AS:
Last game of this season: Real Madrid - Atleti, Champions League final. 1st game of next season: Real Madrid - Atleti, Spanish Super Cup.— AS English (@English_AS) May 17, 2014
No matter who wins the 2014 Champions League final between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, the two sides will be right back in the competition next year immediately starting in the group stages.
Also joining them at this stage will be Barcelona, which was eliminated by Atletico Madrid in the quarterfinals of UCL this past season. However, the four-time European Champions will be a top contender once again in 2015 after earning second place in La Liga.
Athletic Bilbao has a chance to compete at the top continental competition as well, but it will not get a free pass to the group stage. Instead, it will have to win a playoff against other top teams from around Europe.
Based on how well Spain has fared in recent competitions, though, you can be sure the club will have a good chance of at least reaching the group stage next season.
Europa League: Sevilla, Villarreal, Real Sociedad
As the fifth-place team in La Liga, Sevilla qualified for Europa League. Of course, this was unnecessary, since the club automatically earned a spot in next year's tournament with their recent championship in that very event.
The Spanish squad defeated Benfica in the final on penalty kicks, giving Sevilla its third title:
Sevilla join Liverpool, Juventus and Inter Milan as the only 3-time UEFA Cup/Europa League Champions! pic.twitter.com/ZOvqW1RCoZ— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 14, 2014
As a result, the club will immediately be placed in the group stage of Europa League and will do their best to defend their championship.
Meanwhile, Villarreal and Real Sociedad will each be placed into the playoffs, though at different points in the qualifying rounds. Dale Johnson of ESPN breaks it down:
Villarreal win at Real Sociedad, so Sociedad will have to start the Europa League in 3QR on July 31, Villarreal final qualifying round.— Dale Johnson (@dalejohnsonESPN) May 18, 2014
Considering Sevilla and even Valencia had strong showings this season in Europe's second-biggest tournament, the Spanish trio should once again be top contenders going forward.
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