Football: Real Madrid confirmed as La Liga champions 0

Real Madrid clinched the Spanish title on Saturday for the fourth time in 12 years, beating Cadiz 3-0 before previous champions Barcelona lost 4-2 at Girona.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side romped clear of last season’s winners and shock challengers Girona to clinch their record-extending 36th La Liga trophy.

AFP Sport breaks down the keys to Los Blancos’ domestic success this season:

Brilliant Bellingham

Nobody expected Jude Bellingham to have such an instant impact in Spain after his move from Borussia Dortmund last summer.

The England international quickly established himself as a key player in attacking areas for Madrid with ten goals in his first ten league matches, replacing the departed Karim Benzema.

Although his numbers have dipped in the second half of the campaign, Bellingham remains Los Blancos’ top scorer with 18 in La Liga, and Ancelotti also regularly exalts his strong work ethic.

Catalan capitulation

Barcelona looked revitalised last season under Xavi Hernandez, but the champions struggled badly in the first half of the season.

Their previously rock-solid defence gave way with alarming regularity and Madrid’s consistency, falling to just one defeat in the whole campaign to date, made their march to the title feel an inevitability.

Barcelona found new life after January but it was too little, too late for Madrid’s arch-rivals.

Mentality masters

Real Madrid are admired for their never-say-die attitude and assuredness in big matches. In their key La Liga battles against Girona and Barcelona, they triumphed on every occasion.

Ancelotti’s side hammered Girona 3-0 in September in a show of strength and then crushed the Catalan minnows 4-0 in February to completely deflate their title bid.

Against Barcelona, Bellingham delivered stoppage-time winners in both league match-ups, firing Madrid to a 2-1 away triumph in October and a 3-2 victory in April at the Santiago Bernabeu.

And when Madrid were not playing well in some of the lower-key matches, they managed at least to draw. “To win a league, the games you can’t win, you can’t lose either,” noted Ancelotti.

Durable defence

Real Madrid were dealt multiple set-backs this season in defence with Thibaut Courtois, Eder Militao and David Alaba all sidelined with long-term injuries. Despite that, they boast the strongest record at the back in La Liga.

Antonio Rudiger has raised his level to marshal the defence, while right-back Dani Carvajal is in arguably the best form of his career.

Defensive midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni has dropped into the back line without fuss when required and always looked solid despite playing out of position.

Madrid’s squad players have also contributed in key moments, with Lucas Vazquez shining at right-back in the recent Clasico.

Carlo’s calls

Madrid coach Ancelotti has got his biggest decisions right this season. The coach’s first call was to deploy Bellingham as part of a three-pronged attack with Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo Goes, a role which his previous bosses had not envisioned for him.

The Italian managed Rodrygo’s issues in front of goal well, keeping faith in the Brazilian, who made a point of celebrating with his coach after ending his drought in November.

Ancelotti has slowly phased out ageing great Luka Modric while still calling on him at the right times.

He kept squad players including Brahim Diaz and Joselu involved and hungry and both scored against Cadiz on the day Madrid won La Liga.

Source: AFP