FC Barcelona quickly demonstrated their eagerness to recover the Liga title they had lost to José Mourinho's Real Madrid CF and, with the Merengues beginning on the back foot, Tito Vilanova's team went on to earn a fourth championship in five seasons with a 15-point advantage. Elsewhere, Club Atlético de Madrid continued to flourish under Diego Simeone while Real Sociedad de Fútbol proved the surprise hit, Philippe Montanier's men finishing fourth.
Champions: FC Barcelona
After Madrid won the 2011/12 Liga in style, Barcelona wanted an immediate response under new coach Vilanova, whose commitment never wavered during a campaign in which he successfully battled cancer. Profiting from Madrid's worst start for 11 years, the Blaugrana – along with Simeone's confident Atlético – surged ahead in the standings. Indeed Barça claimed a record for an unbeaten opening to a season, posting 18 wins and a draw, and with an 11-point lead by January, their 22nd championship already seemed a foregone conclusion.
Setbacks against Madrid in the Copa del Rey and Liga in February and March served to shake the Catalans from a spring slumber. As they closed in on the crown, the target of a record-equalling 100 points came into view, a goal attained with five straight victories at the end. For the first time since they achieved the feat in 1984/85, Barcelona never once relinquished top spot.
Cup final: Real Madrid CF 1-2 Club Atlético de Madrid (aet)
With their Liga title long since surrendered and their UEFA Champions League hopes extinguished in the semi-finals, Madrid sought solace in the Copa del Rey, where they played Atlético in what was a fifth final between the capital clubs. Atlético showed their belief by replying to an early setback when Cristiano Ronaldo – later sent off – scored at the Santiago Bernabéu.
Diego Costa equalised before half-time and, having ridden their luck in a frantic second half, the Rojiblancos found the winner through Miranda's near-post header in extra time. "This win is for all those fans who have been waiting 14 years for us to beat Real Madrid," said Atlético captain Gabi, who also saw red. Soon after, Mourinho announced he would be leaving Madrid at season's end.
Player of the year: Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)
Messi fell just short of matching his record haul of 50 Liga goals from last term, yet the Argentinian international continued to set spectacular standards. Before succumbing to a hamstring injury, he became the first player to score against every opponent in the division consecutively, while he also netted in 21 Liga games in a row – obliterating the previous club record of ten. Of Barcelona's club-record 115 league goals in 2012/13, the 25-year-old contributed 46.
One to watch: Isco (Málaga CF)
Improving further on an already impressive 2011/12 season, 21-year-old attacker Isco's stock rose once more during a campaign that yielded a first senior Spain cap. Appearing in all but one of Málaga's Liga matches, the Under-21 international scored nine goals and played a pivotal role for Manuel Pellegrini's side on both domestic and European fronts.
Surprise package: Real Sociedad de Fútbol
On a dramatic final day, La Real pipped Valencia CF to fourth spot and, with it, a UEFA Champions League play-off berth. It was the culmination of a highly impressive season under Stade Rennais FC-bound coach Philippe Montanier, whose exciting team – filled with home-grown talent – drew flattering comparisons to Barcelona for their fearless attacking play. Notable victories against Barça, Valencia, Málaga and Atlético, plus solid home form, enabled the Txuri-urdin (White and Blues) to start dreaming of a first UEFA Champions League group stage appearance since 2003/04.
Leading scorer: Lionel Messi, FC Barcelona (46)
Relegated: RCD Mallorca, RC Deportivo La Coruña, Real Zaragoza
Promoted: Elche CF, Villarreal CF, UD Almería
Praise was rightly directed towards Mourinho's 2011/12 Madrid when they collected a record 100 points. Rather than being intimidated by the figure, Barcelona used it as motivation and promptly replicated the feat to cap their title triumph.
"There are records we won't be able to break, like being league leaders from the first to the last week of the season. After everything we've come through, I think we should be pleased. It has been a very good season."
Tito Vilanova sums up Barça's memorable campaign
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