Barcelona win 22nd Spanish title after Real Madrid draw

MADRID (AFP) - Barcelona won the Spanish league title for the 22nd time on Saturday after closest rivals Real Madrid could only draw 1-1 at Espanyol.

The result left defending champions Real seven points behind Barcelona with only two games left.

The title is Barca's fourth in five seasons and they could still even match Madrid's league record total of 100 points from last year if they win their remaining four games.

An incredible first-half to the season, in which the Catalans dropped only two from a possible 57 points, was the key as Barca virtually guaranteed the title in Tito Vilanova's first season in charge.

By contrast, Madrid were left to rue early season defeats at Getafe, Sevilla and Real Betis as they fell 18 points behind their rivals by the turn of the year.

And despite a difficult spell on and off the pitch in 2013 as Vilanova had to travel to New York for cancer treatment, Barca have remained consistent in the league thanks to another sterling season from Lionel Messi.

The Argentine has scored in 20 consecutive league games he has been involved in and is just four shy of his own league record of 50 goals in a season.

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