Real Madrid stutter to hand title to Barcelona

BARCELONA were crowned Spanish champions without playing last night when their nearest challengers, Real Madrid, failed to beat Barca’s city rivals Espanyol at Estadi Cornella-El Prat.

Holders Real needed an away victory against the Budgies to prevent Tito Vilanova’s men from taking their title but were held to a 1-1 draw with Espanyol’s Cristian Stuani opened the scoring in the 23rd minute before Argentine Gonzalo Higuain levelled in the 58th.

But Real couldn’t find a winner and the result left Barca seven points clear at the summit ahead of their trip to Atletico Madrid today, with Jose Mourinho’s side now only having two league games remaining. It is the first trophy Barca have won under Vilanova, having lost to Real Madrid in the Spanish Supercopa at the start of the season and suffered semi-final defeats in the Champions League and Copa del Rey to Bayern Munich and Real, respectively. Vilanova, who last week returned to New York for follow-up tests having spent two months in America earlier this year undergoing radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatment for cancer, was promoted from assistant to head coach after Pep Guardiola left last summer.

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It is the fourth time in the last five years that Barca have been crowned Spanish champions and the 22nd time in their history – ten behind arch rivals Real.

Barcelona can match Real Madrid’s record haul of 100 points from last season by winning their last four matches. Lionel Messi has scored 46 goals in 31 games for Barca and has his own record of 50 goals from last term within his grasp.