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Season review: Spain

Published: Wednesday 15 June 2011, 13.18CET
FC Barcelona made it a season to remember by lifting their 21st Liga title and winning the UEFA Champions League, while Real Madrid CF had to settle for a Copa del Rey triumph.
by Paul Bryan
from Madrid
Season review: Spain
Barcelona celebrate with the Liga and UEFA Champions League trophies ©Getty Images
Published: Wednesday 15 June 2011, 13.18CET

Season review: Spain

FC Barcelona made it a season to remember by lifting their 21st Liga title and winning the UEFA Champions League, while Real Madrid CF had to settle for a Copa del Rey triumph.

Most of the talk in pre-season was about José Mourinho's arrival at Real Madrid CF but, despite claiming their 18th Copa del Rey triumph, it was Josep Guardiola's FC Barcelona who stole the show. The Catalan club secured a 21st Liga title and their fourth European Champion Clubs' Cup with a 3-1 victory against Manchester United FC at Wembley.

Champions: FC Barcelona
Prior to their first Clásico encounter of the season – one of five meetings between Barcelona and Madrid in 2010/11 – the Azulgrana trailed Mourinho's men by a point. They won 5-0, however, and never looked back from the summit. Despite falling three points short of their 2009/10 tally, Barcelona still managed to record the longest winning streak (16 games), the longest unbeaten run away from home (23 games) and the most away wins in a Liga season (14).

Cup final: Real Madrid CF 1-0 FC Barcelona
With that 5-0 reverse still fresh in his mind, Mourinho altered his tactics for the league visit of Barça four days prior to the cup final. A 1-1 draw followed and so the Portuguese tactician looked to stifle the opposition once more at Mestalla, Madrid fielding three defensive midfielders. It led to an intense encounter on a warm April night with Cristiano Ronaldo's extra-time header proving the only goal of the game for a Madrid side that ended the match with ten men following Ángel Di María's late dismissal.

European places
FC Barcelona – UEFA Champions League group stage
Real Madrid CF – UEFA Champions League group stage
Valencia CF – UEFA Champions League group stage
Villarreal CF – UEFA Champions League play-offs
Sevilla FC – UEFA Europa League play-offs
Athletic Club – UEFA Europa League play-offs
Club Atlético de Madrid – UEFA Europa League third qualifying round

Player of the year: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid CF)
The Portugal forward continued to defy belief with his goalscoring form for Madrid. Ronaldo traded goal after goal with Barça's Lionel Messi throughout the season yet produced a late surge – scoring eleven times in his last four games – to finish the season with a record-breaking 40 goals. The previous best of 38 had been jointly held by Athletic Club's Telmo Zarra and Madrid's Hugo Sánchez. "Repeating these figures will be very difficult but nothing is impossible and I'm going to continue to work hard to achieve it," said Ronaldo.

One to watch: Vicente Guaita (Valencia CF)
Having lost first choice goalkeepers César Sánchez and Miguel Ángel Moyà to injury in November, Valencia turned to youth-team product Guaita. The 24-year-old made a lasting impression and received particular acclaim after his side's 1-1 draw at Manchester United FC in the UEFA Champions League group stage. He ended the season having made 28 appearances for Unai Emery's side, keeping seven clean sheets in the process.

Surprise package: UD Levante
The promoted side kicked off their campaign with three straight defeats and at the midway point of the season were second bottom, in danger of immediate relegation. They returned from the winter break in inspired form, though, and won eight of 12 games between late January and mid-April. They finished 14th, their highest placing for over a decade.

Leading scorer: Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF (40)

Number: 20
RC Deportivo La Coruña's 20-year stay in the top flight came to an end on the final day. The 1999/2000 Liga champions reached the UEFA Champions League semi-finals in 2003/04.

Relegated: RC Deportivo la Coruña, Hércules CF, UD Almería

Promoted: Real Betis Balompié, Rayo Vallecano, Granada CF

Quote
"I can't say if this team is up there with the greats of the past as I haven't seen Di Stefano's Real Madrid, the great Liverpool sides or even much of the Barcelona side with Cruyff during his playing days. All I know is we enjoy it when people talk about the way we play and if they are still doing so in 15 years that would be a fantastic achievement."
Josep Guardiola looks at the bigger picture after his side's UEFA Champions League triumph.

Last updated: 08/07/11 16.42CET

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