By Richard Martin
BARCELONA (Reuters) – Barcelona can clinch the Liga title with victory at home to relegation-threatened Levante on Saturday — the first step in what they hope will be a clean sweep of trophies this season.
Ernesto Valverde’s side are nine points clear of Atletico Madrid with each club having four games left and Barca, who have the better head-to-head record, could be champions before kick off at the Nou Camp if Atleti lose at home to Real Valladolid.
Should second-placed Atletico draw, a point against Levante would be enough for Barcelona to clinch their 26th league title and eighth in 11 years in front of their supporters, underlining their dominance of Spanish football for more than a decade.
They will not receive the trophy though until their final home game of the season against Getafe on May 12.
The Catalans began the season by winning the Spanish Super Cup and, assuming they win the league, could lift a third domestic trophy when they face Valencia in the Copa del Rey final on May 25.
The prize they covet most though is the Champions League, which Real Madrid have dominated in the last three seasons, especially with the final taking place in the Spanish capital.
Valverde can afford to rest players against Levante ahead of next week’s Champions League semi-final first leg at home to Liverpool, which will provide the high watermark of a season in which no-one has come close to challenging his side in La Liga.
Barca have led from the front since early December, when they crept ahead of Sevilla and Atletico as Real Madrid endured a nightmarish season and were not considered realistic title rivals until a burst of form in February.
Barca soon knocked their biggest rivals back out of the title race though by marching 12 points clear of them with a 1-0 victory at the Santiago Bernabeu in March.
Atletico could not be written off until Barca overpowered them in April with a 2-0 win which took the Catalans 11 points clear at the top and began a procession towards retaining the title, which they also won at a canter last season.
“We’re very happy with how we’ve worked throughout the season, now we cannot wait for Saturday so we can become champions at our home in front of our fans,” said Sergio Busquets after Barca’s 2-0 win at Alaves on Tuesday.
“What we have done in the last few years is historical.”
Barca have only lost twice this season, with their last defeat coming in early November at the hands of Real Betis.
“We deserve this title, we have been the best team throughout the season,” added Barca midfielder Carles Alena.
On Sunday, Real Madrid make the short trip to struggling Rayo Vallecano, while Getafe visit Real Sociedad in their bid to secure a top-four finish for the first time.
(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Ken Ferris)