July 17 – Despite a season when they were often far from their scintillating best, Real Madrid are Spanish champions once again, ending Barcelona’s two-year grip on the title and prompting coach Zinedine Zidane to declare it felt sweeter than any of the three straight Champions League crowns the club has won under his tenure.
Real clinched their 34th league title with a game to spare after a 2-1 victory over Villarreal having trailed Barca by two points when LaLiga was interrupted by coronavirus in March only to win 10 matches in a row when the season resumed.
“The Champions League is the Champions League but La Liga makes me happier, because La Liga is what it’s all about,” Zidane told Spanish network Movistar after winning his 11th trophy as Real coach and his second league triumph.
“This is a tremendous feeling because what these players have done is incredible. I am lost for words because I am too emotional.”
Real will need to overturn a last-16 first leg home defeat to Manchester City to stay in this season’s Champions League but have now snatched domestic bragging rights away from Barcelona.
Thursday’s title-clinching three points came at an empty Alfredo di Stefano stadium at their training ground which has been used while the Santiago Bernabeu undergoes renovation work. Nor will the team be able to celebrate with their fans for fear of spreading the coronavirus.
“It’s strange for everybody, we would have liked to have been with our fans but it’s not meant to be,” Zidane said. “But I’m sure everyone is happy in their homes tonight. The fans always love to see the team win and we’ve done this for them.”
Barcelona, surprisingly beaten at home by Osasuna, now need even more to stay in the Champions League where they are tied 1-1 with Napoli going into the second leg of the last-16.
They were lambasted by their talisman Lionel Messi who declared: “This game represents the entire year. We have been an erratic and weak team.”
“Madrid did its part by winning all its matches, which is impressive, but we also helped them to win this league. We have to be critical of how we have played. We have lost because of our mistakes and not because of Madrid’s successes.”
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