Barcelona turn attention to Liverpool after securing La Liga title
After sealing their eighth La Liga title in 11 years, Barcelona are shifting their sights to a third Champions League crown in nine seasons.
The Catalan side secured their 26th domestic league title with a 1-0 win over Levante yesterday morning (Singapore time), thanks to Lionel Messi who came off the bench to score in the 62nd minute.
In the process, Barca have closed in on Real Madrid's record tally of 33. But Barca midfielder Ivan Rakitic is hoping that the players don't let their title victory get to their heads.
"The players and the fans should enjoy this night without going over the top," he said.
"When we wake up tomorrow, we have to prepare for what comes next, we have to think about Liverpool, who have an incredible team and a brilliant coach."
The Croat was referring to the Champions League semi-final, first leg with Liverpool at the Nou Camp on Thursday morning.
With an eye on the match, Barca coach Ernesto Valverde started with Messi on the bench, along with Sergio Busquets.
But the coach inevitably turned to his talisman with the game goalless at half-time, despite the best efforts of Philippe Coutinho.
The former Liverpool midfielder had numerous attempts on goal and clanged the crossbar before being replaced by Messi, who became the club's first player to win 10 league titles.
"Messi is the centre of all our successes," said Valverde.
"It's obvious that while he has been at Barca, the club have won a glut of trophies and league titles. If I had to give a name above anyone else, it has to be his."
Messi, who became club captain at the start of this season, overtook predecessor Andres Iniesta's nine league crowns with the club and joined a select group of players to have lifted 10 titles with one club in Europe's top-five leagues.
Messi's first Barca title came in 2005 when he was 17. He was also a fringe player when he won his second title a year later.
But he has been the talisman behind their last eight triumphs, which Barca's players celebrated by wearing T-shirts with the slogan "Eight out of 11, the extraordinary seems normal". - REUTERS
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