Quarter-finalists FC Barcelona will be back in next season's UEFA Women's Champions League after Xavi Llorens's side wrapped up their third Spanish Liga title in style.
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After seeing his side win a third consecutive Liga crown with Sunday's 3-0 victory away to Club Atlético de Madrid, FC Barcelona coach Xavi Llorens insisted the 2013/14 title race was "more competitive than it may have appeared".
The Blaugrana – who recently fell to VfL Wolfsburg in the UEFA Women's Champions League quarter-finals – claimed the club's third top-flight win with three games to spare. An 11-point advantage over nearest rivals Athletic Club, and 23 more than third-placed Atlético – who Barça defeated at the weekend thanks to two goals from Western New York Flash-bound Sonia Bermúdez and a further strike from Jenni Hermoso – confirmed the champions' dominance in a thus far unbeaten Liga campaign.
"This triumph cost us a lot of effort, despite us managing to win it with a few games to go," Llorens explained. "The league was more competitive than it may have appeared. It was a hard [season] for us in terms of injuries, competing in the UEFA Women’s Champions League and the disappointment we suffered in the Copa Catalunya at the start of the campaign. However, my players gave absolutely everything and it represents something of great pride to coach them."
The Catalan giants have now gone 55 league games without defeat, last suffering a reverse in the domestic competition on 9 September 2012 against Rayo Vallecano de Madrid. They can now look ahead to the 2014/15 UEFA Women's Champions League, starting in the round of 32 in late September where the likes of WFC Zvezda-2005 Perm, FCR Malmö, Tyresö FF, Ryazan VDV, Stabæk FK, Liverpool LFC and Bristol Academy WFC have already confirmed their berths.
"We're all delighted with this triumph as we have been working towards it since last July and it's been the hardest [of the three championships we have won to date]," goalkeeper and team captain Laura Ràfols said, before praising coach Llorens. "He is the one who guided us to this and who had confidence in the team from day one; we can only give him thanks for that and for his belief in the women’s game."
"This is my sixth consecutive Liga title, and third with Barcelona," a delighted Sonia Bermúdez – formerly of Rayo – said after the win. "It's an emotional moment as the year has been a hard one, however, we now have our reward at the end of it all."