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The Games that Defined FC Barcelona's 22nd La Liga Title

Barcelona won the title without kicking a ball after Real Madrid's draw with Espanyol, but getting to that position required lots of hard work, moments of brilliance, and consistent winning.

Sergio Busquets's only goal of the season (against Atletico de Madrid) was both memorable and important
Sergio Busquets's only goal of the season (against Atletico de Madrid) was both memorable and important
Jasper Juinen

Matchday 2: Barcelona 2-1 Osasuna

26 August 2012 | El Sadar

Joseba Llorente got an early goal for Osasuna in Pamplona and Barca were in full panic mode. Victor Valdes was forced into a number of difficult saves and Gerard Pique made a double-block in the six-yard box. Barca's attack lacked precision for most of the match. But in the 76th minute, Pedro Rodriguez and Alexis Sanchez combined to set up Lionel Messi as he turned in a poacher's chance. Just four minutes after the equalizer, the winner would come from (who else?) Messi. He smashed in a grounded cross from Jordi Alba to seal the win. After the comeback victory, Real Madrid would lose to Getafe - opening up the points gap between the two Spanish superpowers for the first time this season.

Top performers: Valdes was great after a famous mistake in the Supercup, while Messi, despite being "below his standards," delivered two crucial goals.

Matchday 7: Barcelona 2-2 Real Madrid

7 October 2012 | Camp Nou

Barca fielded an "experimental" backline due to injuries to Carles Puyol and Pique as well as the continued absence of Eric Abidal. Dani Alves was injured early in the match, so the young Martin Montoya took his place. At left-back, Alba played his first league Clasico, while Adriano Correia played at centerback for the first time ever to partner Javier Mascherano. Lionel Messi gave Barca the lead with a stunning free kick, but Cristiano Ronaldo equalized towards the end of the match. Still, Barca kept their lead over Real Madrid intact.

Top performers: Lionel Messi deserved all the plaudits after netting another brace, but Montoya and Adriano performed admirably given the circumstances.

Matchday 8: Barcelona 5-4 Deportivo

20 October 2012 | Riazor

Barcelona was cruising after starting with a 3-0 advantage in the first half. When Depor got a questionable penalty to make it 3-1, no one was too worried. But Alex Bergantiños pulled another one back before the half was over, and now Barca were really sweating. Lionel Messi was there to calm the nerves, putting Barca 4-2 up right before halftime. A couple minutes after the restart, Pizzi delivered a great free-kick and Depor were within one. A few minutes later and Mascherano was sent off - again, contentiously. But it was Messi again who would come through, starting a dribble from around midfield and ending with a perfectly placed shot to put Barca 5-3 up. Jordi Alba would score an own goal, just to complicate things further, but Barca would somehow stay on. This match demonstrated the Blaugrana's resiliance and attacking potency used to make up for defensive weaknesses.

Top perfomers: Messi, yet again. He had a hat-trick and an assist. Cesc Fabregas deserved special praise, too, for providing three assists.

Matchday 16: Barcelona 4-1 Atletico Madrid

16 December 2012 | Camp Nou

Atletico Madrid came into this match firmly in second place. This was the strongest Atletico in years, led by a hardened coach, Diego Simeone, and a striker who was absolutely on fire: Radamel Falcao. It was precisely Falcao who put Atleti up 1-0 in the opening stages, thus, it was an uphill climb for Barcelona. Five minutes later, Adriano calmly collected the ball on the right wing. He was double-covered. He cut back inside, opened up his body, and fired a missile into the top corner. 1-1. As spectacular as Adriano's goal was, it was his second long-range golazo that season. Sergio Busquets scored his so-far only goal of the season in the most Busquets-like fashion, calmly feinting inside the six-yard box during a mad scramble for the ball, and passing it into the back of the net as everyone else desperately slid past him. Leo Messi would come in and get his requisite brace - one through a trademark dribble, one by stealing the ball from a defender - to complete a great win over a great team.

Top performers: Adriano and Busquets scored two huge goals in memorable fashion.

Matchday 19: Barcelona 3-1 Malaga

13 January 2013 | La Rosaleda

Malaga came into the Camp Nou in fourth place behind Barca, Atletico, and Real. Another team in good form, they also boasted the best defense in La Liga at the moment and one of the best in Europe. Messi would make them look silly - hiding, fox-like from his countryman's Martin Demichelis line of sight, stealing his backpass, and coolly finishing to make it 1-0. Messi himself would deliver a perfect chipped assist for Fabregas to score with great placement to put Barca up 2-0. Thiago Alcantara played a one-two with Messi to set himself up for a great shot from long range and it was 3-0. Diego Buonanotte ruined the clean sheet by scoring from a free kick minutes from time, but the party was not spoiled.

Top performers: Messi scored one and assisted the other two, but the whole team was full of slick passing and precision. How can one forget the "rondo" that Messi, Busquets, and Xavi performed in the middle of the park? Barca were almost toying with Malaga, who proved in the Champions League they are hardly pushovers.

Matchday 23: Barcelona 6-1 Getafe

10 February 2013 | Camp Nou

It's easy to forget how good Getafe have been this season. A modest club, maybe, but they occupy a European spot as it stands. Maybe it's easy partly because Barca made them look second class. Andres Iniesta fired a wonderful through ball for Alexis Sanchez to run onto and open the scoring. Iniesta again would deliver a world class ball for Thiago to settle and Messi to finish, 2-0. David Villa would continue to add to an impressive scoring tally with a trademark smart run and tidy finish from an Alba pass to make it 3-0. Tello would lash another one in after a pass from Messi to make it 4-0. Barca tried to spoil it when a miscontrol from Alba allowed Alvaro Vazquez to pull one back. But the Blaugrana would reply, with Messi dribbling through the area before a defender took the ball from him... only for it to rebound for Iniesta to finish. To round things off, Thiago would settle a long ball with his chest for Pique to tap in during injury time, 6-1.

Top performers: Six goals through six different scorers says it all. Not only that, but four different players contributed assists.

Matchday 34: Barcelona 4-2 Real Betis

5 May 2013 | Camp Nou

As injuries, fatigue, and fixture congestion piled up, Barcelona's did not hit the highs quite as often. Still, the team marched on with good efficency, relying on their rotation options and backups to carry the day. They did at some points, but at others, the stars had to deliver. Dorlan Pabon opened the scoring after just two minutes of play, which was cancelled by an Alexis Sanchez goal not ten minutes into the match. Ruben Perez scored a goal-of-the-season candidate before halftime and some were starting to question the entire season. Barcelona had just come from a painful exit from the Champions League, and while they led La Liga from round 1, they had yet to secure it. Real Madrid had already won, lose here, and the league would "only" be 8 points. Madrid would play in midweek and then on Saturday, and in this doomsday scenario, Barca would kick off against a strong Atletico at the Calderon only two points ahead. Lose and... well, you get the point.

David Villa's finishing that day was not up to snuff, missing chances he would have buried seemingly any other day. His number had already been called when Dani Alves smacked a cross from the right which Villa could not miss. With his last touch he equalized. He punched the air in half-celebration half-anger as he went to the bench. Lionel Messi? Not a bad sub to bring on in his place. Not two minutes from coming in, Messi was presented with a tantalizing free kick, which he thunderbolted into the back of the net. Villa one touch, Messi one touch, 3-2. Now with the wind behind their sails, Barcelona played their intricate stuff, Messi to Iniesta, a ludicrous backheel to release Alexis, who cut it back and served it on a platter for Messi to tap in. Three more points to make it 88, enough to be La Liga Champions this year.

Top performers: Messi, of course. Alexis continued a resurgent second half of the season with a goal and an assist. Iniesta was instrumental again.

So, which game was the most memorable?

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