Barcelona clinched their 27th LaLiga title and first in four years after a 4-2 win over city rivals Espanyol on Sunday capped off a remarkable domestic campaign built around a rock-solid defence, a Huge change from the club’s traditional style of play.
Barca have a history of success with teams playing an attractive brand of attacking football, but this season they have had to adapt to a different reality and manager Xavi Hernandez has put tradition aside to focus on relentless defending .
The change in mentality may not have been comfortable with Xavi saying Barca’s style was ‘non-negotiable’ when he was appointed as coach in November 2021.
He often looked frustrated but resigned in interviews, trying to defend his team even after wins, seeming to have to explain that he had to prioritize his defense because of the urgency to get the club back on track. victory.
A former Barca player himself, Xavi was a symbol of their attacking style as a flamboyant midfielder who won every major title with the club and with Spain.
Barcelona were crowned LaLiga champions for the first time since 2019 after beating Espanyol 4-2
Robert Lewandowski scored two goals in the first half to give his side victory
The Barcelona players circled the center circle after the game and joined arms in celebration
He scored the game’s first goal at 11 minutes from Alejandro Balde’s assist and it was Balde who netted the game’s second at 20 minutes.
“We haven’t betrayed any pattern of play,” said Xavi after his side secured a gutsy 1-0 win at Real’s Santiago Bernabeu in March with an outstanding defensive performance against their bitter rivals who benefited from 65% possession but couldn’t break Barcelona.
“I’m not happy not having the ball. Sometimes it’s the rivals and the circumstances that get you there, but defending is also part of the game,” he added.
Top scorers and stingiest at the back
This season Barcelona have won 27 of their 34 games and although they are the second top scorers in the division with 64 goals and boast top marksman Robert Lewandowski, the basis of their success lies in the other end of the field.
They have conceded 13 league goals, by far the best defensive record in Europe’s top five leagues. At home, their defensive figures are even more impressive with only two goals conceded, one from a penalty and the other from an own goal.
At the heart of their rear are three players who are having exceptional seasons – goalkeeper Marc Andre ter-Stegen and defenders Ronald Araujo and Jules Kounde.
The trio hold the key to quelling their rivals’ attacking threats, especially Araujo who has been arguably Europe’s best defender this season.
Barcelona were the last Spanish champions in 2018-19 when they still had club greats Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez at the helm of their attack.
As Barca fell into a deep financial crisis, they both had to leave due to Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules and the club’s fortunes declined.
Xavi signed Lewandowski, Kounde and winger Raphinha and re-signed Ousmane Dembele to add an extra spark to a core built around the youth and talent of midfielders Pedri and Gavi.
Led by the experience of Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba and Ter Stegen, this team formed into a strong unit and beat Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup in January to earn Xavi his first trophy as a manager. coach before winning the La Liga crown.
Five minutes before the break, Lewandowski netted his 21st goal of the season and his second of the night to make it 3-0 before halftime. He faded a lot after the World Cup but came back strong in the race and will end the season not only as a champion but also as La Liga’s top scorer.
Jules Kounde secured Barcelona’s fourth in the 53rd minute and Barcelona eventually released allowing Javi Puado and Joselu to make the scoreline more respectable.
Alejandro Balde (front) scored the away team’s second goal after Lewandowski netted after 11 minutes
Jules Kounde (second from left) would score Barcelona’s last goal after half-time to see them win
But there were some unsavory scenes after the match as Espanyol fans stormed onto the pitch
After celebrating in the central circle, the Barcelona players had to leave the playing area
Despite this, it means Xavi (right) won La Liga in his first full season as manager
Fans took to the streets to celebrate the club winning their first La Liga title since 2019
Barcelona will face Real Sociedad next week, one of their four remaining games before the end of the season
Barcelona took the lead at the start of the season with an unbeaten streak that was only interrupted when Real Madrid beat them in the first Clasico of the season.
They faltered, crashing out of Europe ahead of the World Cup. but in his first full season, Xavi steadied the ship and his team only lost twice more.
They beat Real Madrid in the second meeting of the two teams and with a brace over Atletico Madrid they were home and dry.
“It’s a great feeling,” Xavi said. It’s a job well done. It started in July and after months of hard work and sacrifice, we reached our goal. The fans and the club deserve it, it gives us stability and security that things will go well.