Real Madrid handed Barcelona the La Liga title when a second-string side could only draw 1-1 at Espanyol to leave Tito Vilanova’s leaders seven points clear, with their rivals having only two games left.
José Mourinho fielded a weakened team with one eye on next Friday’s Copa del Rey final against Atlético Madrid, Real‘s last chance for major silverware this season, giving the occasion a sense of anti-climax.
Christian Stuani gave Espanyol the lead in the first half, and although Gonzalo Higuaín pulled one back for Real in the second half it was not enough to stop Barça securing the league trophy.
Barcelona, who visit third-placed Atlético Madrid on Sunday, have 88 points with four games left to play. Real have 81 in second, having played two more matches than their rivals.
“We have to congratulate Barça. The league is a competition all about consistency,” Real’s Xabi Alonso told Spanish broadcaster Canal Plus.
“We didn’t start the season well and this meant we couldn’t compete at the end. Now we have to focus on the cup as it is a title we still have to compete for.”
Despite the La Liga crown being at stake, Real started with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Xabi Alonso and Karim Benzema on the bench, and mid-table Espanyol, who have little left to play for this season, sniffed the chance for an upset. The game took a turn for the worse for Real when Raphaël Varane fell awkwardly as he made a tackle and went down clutching his right knee.
The promising young French defender had to be substituted soon after, and in the 28th minute Stuani pounced on a loose ball in the area at a corner to fire the hosts in front.
Espanyol were unlucky to have a second goal ruled out soon after, while Real offered little going forward until Higuaín flicked a header inside the far post from Luka Modric‘s free-kick just before the hour mark.
The equaliser came two minutes after Real’s leading scorer Ronaldo had entered the fray and the visitors steadily increased the pressure on the Espanyol goal, although they rarely looked like finding the winner.
Espanyol had midfielder Víctor Sánchez sent off at the end for a dangerous tackle on Higuaín, giving Ronaldo a final chance to grab a winner with a freekick, but his attempt was high and wide summing up Real’s poor night.