Primera Division

Brilliant Barca dominate domestically - La Liga in 2017-18

 
1:44pm on Wednesday 15th April 2020
By
Martin Macdonald

Barcelona were the dominant force in Spain in 2017-18 as they claimed the Primera Division and Copa del Rey titles, though their rivals Real Madrid continued their command over Europe, winning the Champions League for the fourth time in five years.

In a strange, muted season, Barca went unbeaten for most of the campaign and only succumbed to defeat in the closing weeks. Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi held most of the creative and goalscoring responsibilities following the departure of Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain. Messi remained imperious, however, and it would be his hat-trick in a 4-2 victory against Deportivo which would clinch the title for the Blaugrana with four matches to go.

Madrid finished a distant 17 points behind their rivals, but their attention was on Europe from midway through the season. Atletico Madrid split the Clasico giants, as well as winning the Europa League.

CHANGES

The most expensive transfer ever in history saw Neymar leave Barca for Paris Saint-Germain in a deal worth €222 million. Barca invested the funds to bring in enigmatic young winger, Ousmane Dembele, from Borussia Dortmund for over 100 million euros and, in January, Philippe Coutinho for another huge fee.

Real Madrid were uncharacteristically frugal, signing Theo Hernandez and Dani Ceballos while letting James Rodriguez (Bayern on loan), Danilo (Man City), and Alvaro Morata (Chelsea) leave.

Atletico Madrid re-signed Diego Costa from Chelsea and also brought in Vitolo, but they would not be able to play until January due to a registration ban imposed upon them.

Two high-profile players in Yannick Carrasco and Cedric Bakambu left Atletico and Villarreal in expensive deals to China.

Valverde was, by some distance, the biggest managerial change in pre-season, as he took the reigns at the Camp Nou from the departed Luis Enrique.

SUMMARY

With Neymar out of the picture and new signing Dembele injured, Valverde quickly adopted a 4-4-2 formation at Barca, with Suarez and Messi leading the attack - a marked change from the 4-3-3 system which led the Blaugrana to so many trophies over the past decade.

The Blaugrana set the pace early on, and never looked likely to be surpassed at the summit of the table. Messi started the season in his usual style with two goals against Alaves and another two versus Juventus in their first Champions League match.

Their first domestic test of the campaign came via a trip to the new Wanda Metropolitano stadium to face Atletico, where a late Suarez goal earned a 1-1 draw. They were ruthless in their pursuit of points, and enjoyed the added bonus of embarrassing Real Madrid in the Clasico with a 3-0 victory at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Madrid’s early season form led to some questioning the position of Zinedine Zidane as head coach, but their progression and subsequent victory in the Champions League for the third consecutive season meant Zidane would depart at the end of the season with an enviable record.

With Diego Costa and Vitolo waiting to make their January debuts, Atletico were forced to grind out results, relying on the form of Antoine Griezmann.

When you chase it all season you say finally ‘the league is very long’. It is not decided only in a match. From the beginning we have been in the lead. In the end we were the best. The hard part is winning and winning.Ernesto Valverde

Valencia were the surprise package at the start of the campaign, with new boss Marcelino bringing the positivity to the Mestalla with some impressive results. Their progress under their new head coach was evident as they secured draws away at Real Madrid and at home to Atletico.

Who doesn’t like plenty of goals? Real Betis were the team to watch in 2017-18; their results included three 2-2s, three 3-2s, two 5-3s, a 6-3, a 4-0, two 5-0s, and a 4-4, while their best moment of the campaign came away at Real Madrid, when a late goal from Antonio Sanabria secured a memorable 1-0 win. They finished sixth and qualified for the Europa League.

It was a disastrous season for Deportivo, Las Palmas, and Malaga, who all suffered relegation, with the latter finishing bottom after recording just 20 points.

After a trophy-laden career at Barcelona, Andres Iniesta would announce his intention to leave in the summer, and he wept before the Camp Nou crowd in his final match for his boyhood club. Barca won the league with four matches to spare, but their unbeaten run was ended in thrilling fashion by Levante, who defeated them 5-4 in one of the matches of the season.

PLAYER OF THE SEASON

The Argentine lost one of his partners in Neymar, but stepped up in the Brazilian’s absence, scoring 34 times to fire Barca to the title.

MANAGER OF THE SEASON

MARCELINO

Marcelino brought Champions League football, and a good feeling, back to Valencia after years of mismanagement.

TOP GOALSCORER

LIONEL MESSI - 34 GOALS

TEAM OF THE SEASON

GOAL OF THE SEASON

CHEMA RODRIGUEZ keeps his eye on the ball expertly and displays outrageous technique to send a beautiful first-time volley into the top corner.

MOST EXPENSIVE TRANSFER

PHILIPPE COUTINHO

Liverpool to Barcelona

€125m

KEY MOMENT OF THE SEASON

Barca’s brilliant second half display at the Santiago Bernabeu earned a significant 3-0 win and effectively ended any challenge to their position at the top of the table.

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