La Liga: Barcelona clinch title, unbeaten after 34 of 38 games

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The 2017-18 La Liga title has been all but decided for weeks months now , but Barcelona made it official on Sunday: for the 25th time in club history (and the third time in four seasons), the Blaugrana are champions of Spain following their 4-2 win away to Deportivo La Coruña.

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Lionel Messi scored a hat trick to put the exclamation point on what will surely be another La Liga player of the season award, bringing his league-leading goals tally to 32 (to go with a league-leading 12 assists) on the season (with four games still to play).

All Barca needed on Sunday was a draw to see themselves go nine points clear of second-place Atletico Madrid, who have just three games remaining and over whom they hold the first tiebreaker (head-to-head points won). After 81 minutes, the score was 2-2 — Philippe Coutinho opened the scoring in the 7th minute and Messi made it 2-0 in the 38th before Deportivo hit back twice, in the 40th and 64th minutes.

Alas, Messi would bag two more goals, three minutes apart, inside the final 10 minutes to move Ernesto Valverde’s side one game closer to competing the never-before-achieved unbeaten domestic season. Up next, seven days from Sunday’s title celebrations, is El Clasico: Barcelona vs. Real Madrid, at the Camp Nou.

Real Madrid have won 33 La Liga titles themselves, meaning one of the longtime, bitter rivals have claimed the title at the conclusion of 58 of the league’s 85 seasons.