Barça crowned Spanish kings
Barcelona eased to their third successive La Liga title with a low-key draw away to Levante tonight to retain their crown with two games to spare.
The party kicked off in the 28th minute when Seydou Keita headed Pep Guardiola's side in front to cap a stylish attacking move. However, in-form Levante put a dampener on proceedings when on-loan Manchester City striker Felipe Caicedo capitalised on a Gerard Pique error to secure a draw.
The point was enough to wrap up the league title ahead of Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid, and they now turn their attention to the 28 May UEFA Champions League final showdown with Manchester United.
"It's always a nice feeling to win the title and the fans really deserve this," said midfielder Xavi. "I imagine we're going to celebrate this title win with them tonight in the streets of Barcelona," the team's schemer added. "Winning the title is always difficult and this one was tough just like the others were before," said Guardiola. "Now we can enjoy this win."
Barça unsurprisingly dominated possession throughout without pressing too hard. A few optimistic crosses were cleared at either end before Xisco Nadal produced the first chance of the game for Levante, volleying from 20 yards, but seeing his effort go wide in the 17th minute. Moments later Levante had another opening when former Barça youngster Xavi Torres smacked one wide from 25 yards out.
In the 28th minute the opener came and went Barcelona's way. It did so in some style, too, as Xavi Hernandez's superb chip forward was met by the advancing Keita. The Malian headed perfectly over Gustavo Munua with the goalkeeper caught in no-man's land. To their credit Levante responded well. Juanfran and Valdo both got forward to put crosses in while Caicedo forced Victor Valdes into a smart save with a shot from inside the box.
Eric Abidal, in his first start since returning from surgery to remove a liver tumour, fired a tame effort from distance at Munua in the 37th minute. Off-colour striker David Villa's barren spell continued as he shot wide from the left and five minutes before the break, Levante were level.
The hosts probed and a lofted ball forward should have been dealt with in straight-forward fashion. However, out-of-form defender Pique got himself in a muddle and when his failure to clear left the on-rushing Victor Valdes stranded, Caicedo was on hand to capitalise.
Lionel Messi was understated, but always threatening. It was fringe man Ibrahim Afellay who looked the champions' most threatening weapon. Messi opened the second half with a shot blocked by Nano before Afellay sent a darting 30-yard effort wide.
The Catalans looked to have regained their lead brilliantly when Messi's trademark nimble footwork saw him dart between a crowd of defenders and beat Munua, only for his delicate effort to hit the post and bounce away.
Messi had the bit between his teeth and sent a shot wide of the right-hand post in the 72nd minute. But from there on in the game fizzled out as Barça played out the game and enjoyed the celebrations that greeted the final whistle.
Hercules go down, Valencia slip
In other matches, Valencia missed the chance to seal third spot in the league following a 2-2 draw at Espanyol. Ernesto Galan scored a 76th minute equaliser for Espanyol to salvage a point and leave Valencia, five points ahead of fourth-placed Villarreal, needing a point from their remaining two games to clinch third and the automatic UEFA Champions League berth.
Villarreal drew 0-0 with relegated Almeria on Wednesday and have guaranteed fourth spot and a place in the Champions League qualifying rounds.
Down at the bottom promoted Hercules, one of only two teams to beat Barcelona in the league this season, were relegated following a 2-2 home draw against Real Mallorca. Hercules led 2-0 but two goals in four minutes late in the second half sees them six points adrift of safety and Getafe's superior head to head record means they join Almeria in being relegated from the Spanish top-flight
Elsewhere Real Zaragoza stay third from bottom, one point from safety, after a painful 2-1 defeat at Real Sociedad.
In the final match of the night, Osasuna staged a sensational second-half recovery to earn a 3-2 victory over high-flying Sevilla that could go a long way to ensuring they will be playing top-flight football next term.
The hosts, who started the day just two points above the relegation zone, looked set for a potentially costly defeat as Sevilla striker Alvaro Negredo netted two headers in a three-minute spell to put his side 2-0 up at half-time.
However, Osasuna gave themselves a lifeline when Kike Sola pulled a goal back seconds after the break, and then in a remarkable late onslaught the Pamplona-based side netted twice in the final three minutes through Sola and Dejan Lekic to take the points.