La Liga: Barcelona Are (Probably) Champions of Spain for Third Consecutive Year

Manuel TraqueteSenior Analyst IApril 17, 2011

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MAY 16:  Leo Messi (#10) of Barcelona celebrates with teamates after Barcelona beat Real Valladolid 4-0 to clinch La Liga title after their match at Camp Nou stadium on May 16, 2010 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

The headline might seem premature, but even the most optimistic madridista would concede that the 2010-11 La Liga title is Barcelona's.

With an eight-point lead and only six matches remaining, Barcelona would have to lose half their matches for Real Madrid to even have a chance.

The chances of that happening are pretty much non-existent.

Yesterday's Clásico was Real Madrid's last chance to make the league a bit exciting, but they failed quite miserably. It's a bit difficult to understand why Mourinho set up his team in such a defensive way to get a draw; it's not like Real Madrid had an eight-point deficit to recover or anything!

Real Madrid started the game in a 4-3-3 with three holding midfielders (!) and it was no surprise that Barcelona controlled the entire first half and had the best chances, brilliantly denied by Iker Casillas.

Real Madrid's best chances all came from corner kicks, to which Barcelona were particularly vulnerable yesterday.

Barcelona didn't raise their tempo; after all, they weren't the ones in desperate need for a win, despite what Madrid's negative tactics might have suggested. The Catalan outfit were content to simply control possession and patiently wait for openings in the defense.

Their patience was rewarded in the 51st minute as Villa's constant pressure led Albiol to concede a penalty and getting sent off in the process. The world's greatest player, Lionel Messi, had little trouble opening the score from the penalty spot, getting his eighth goal against Real Madrid in his career and scoring at the Bernabeu for the third consecutive season.

At 1-0 and one man up, it looked like Barcelona would cruise to their sixth consecutive Clásico win, but it wasn't to be. Instead of forcing to get a second, Barcelona were content to just keep possession.

Real finally showed some attacking intent and got a (soft) penalty in the 82nd minute. Cristiano Ronaldo didn't waste it and scored his 41st goal of the season and his first ever against Barcelona.

As the final whistle blew, oddly it seemed that Real Madrid were happy with the draw. The Madrid-based press described it as a draw that "tasted like a win." A very weird sentiment, considering that this result pretty much locked up the third straight title for Barcelona and was Madrid's sixth straight winless match against Barcelona.

Even more weird considering that a club of Madrid's stature with the most expensive squad ever assembled was reduced to use a "defend and rely on set pieces" tactic at their very own sacred ground.

Billions of euros later for Real Madrid, they're still second-best to FC Barcelona in Spain.

With a starting XI formed mostly of academy products, Barcelona will be deservedly crowned champions of Spain for the third consecutive time and look set to break their own La Liga record of points and goals.

With their main goal for the season achieved, Barcelona will now try to win the two remaining competitions, but Real Madrid will stand in their way again in both, starting Wednesday with the Copa del Rey final.

We can only hope that Real Madrid bring back that exciting brand of football they've played throughout their illustrious history instead of yesterday's boring defensive tactics.

If that happens, the next three Clásicos are sure to be spectacular.