Barcelona one point away from 25th La Liga triumph as they visit Deportivo

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Barcelona need only a point against Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday to confirm a domestic double and win La Liga for the third time in four years.

Andres Iniesta will be at the centre of any celebrations, with the Spaniard expected to announce his Barca departure in the coming days.

The Spaniard made an emotional exit from the victorious Copa del Rey final last weekend, bleary-eyed as he was substituted in the second half, and it will be a nostalgic occasion again when he hoists his final trophy with the club.

“The love and respect that people have for me is something I feel deep inside,” Iniesta said. “My aim now is to try to add the league to the Cup.”

It would be Iniesta’s ninth league title won with Barca, 13 years after his first, and his last might yet prove his finest, given Barca also stand five unbeaten games from becoming La Liga’s only ever invincible team.

Real Madrid could yet intervene when the ‘clasico’ comes to the Camp Nou next weekend but Deportivo would appear unlikely spoilers, sitting 18th, nine points adrift of Levante with four games left to play.

Some have suggested Clarence Seedorf’s side would even prefer to have their fate settled against Barcelona than at the home of their fiercest rivals Celta Vigo, whom they visit six days later.

“We are going to play to death to win it,” Deportivo striker Adrian Lopez said.

“We know that we face a Barca that are practically champions and I hope they come a little calmer than usual. I hope they have their heads on the World Cup.”

That may prove wishful thinking given Barca arrive on the back of arguably their best performance of the season against Sevilla and are still trying to make a statement following their Champions League loss to Roma.

Liverpool’s emphatic 5-2 win over the Italians on Tuesday has only underlined the carelessness of that defeat, while Real beating Bayern Munich to edge closer to a third consecutive European triumph makes their absence all the more galling.

Adding a 25th league crown to the Copa del Rey would go some way to softening the disappointment.

Ernesto Valverde reacts

“We have been pursuing the league since the beginning of the season,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said.
“It’s something that is very hard to achieve, it’s the title that gives you most satisfaction.”

With the title, relegation and Champions League spots all-but settled, La Liga’s climax is likely to be found in the race for the Europa League where at least six teams are fighting it out for three places.

Real Betis look secure, five points clear in fifth, but only six points separate Villarreal in sixth and Celta Vigo in 10th. In between sit Sevilla, Getafe and Girona.

Sevilla will be hoping to bounce back from their hammering by Barca with a win at struggling Levante on Friday while their rivals are guaranteed to drop points, with Villarreal hosting Celta on Saturday and Getafe at home to Girona on Sunday.

“We have to work harder,” Sevilla coach Vincenzo Montella said. “We have to be even more focused now to finish the league well and fight to qualify for Europe.”

Betis entertain bottom-club Malaga on Monday.

Provided by AFP Sport

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Barcelona star Andres Iniesta's move to China is just a 'rumour'

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Andres Iniesta’s move to Chongqing Lifan is just “a rumour”, the Chinese club’s coach said, as the Barcelona captain gets ready to reveal his future plans.

Reports in Spain and China say the 33-year-old Spanish international midfielder is close to sealing a transfer to the Chinese Super League (CSL), with Chongqing said to be his most likely destination.

Chongqing coach Paulo Bento, who was in charge of Portugal at the last World Cup, said: “This is a rumour and it is very difficult to comment on rumours.

“But I don’t think there is any fan or coach in the world that doesn’t like a player like Iniesta,” the Portuguese said, according to
Chinese media reports, after Chongqing won 2-0 at Anhui Hefei in the fourth round of the Chinese FA Cup on Wednesday.

Iniesta, who has been central to Barcelona and Spain’s success over more than a decade, looks set to leave his boyhood club at the end of the season.

He is keeping tight-lipped about his future, but he has been strongly linked for months with a move to the CSL and most recently Chongqing, whose only major trophy was the Chinese FA Cup in 2000.

PPTV, a Chinese online broadcaster which holds rights to La Liga in China, last week cited “anonymous internal sources” from Chongqing as saying that “it’s already confirmed that Iniesta will sign up”.

Chongqing Lifan’s chairman, Jiang Lizhang, is spearheading attempts to lure Iniesta to China, Spanish sports newspaper Marca previously reported.

The club have declined to comment on the reports.

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