Madrid clinch 35th league title

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MADRID, April 30, (AP): In a dominating season for Real Madrid, it was fitting that it didn’t even need their best players to win the Spanish league. Using their backups ahead of the Champions League semifinals, Madrid earned a record-extending 35th Liga title with a comfortable 4-0 home win over Espanyol on Saturday. Players and coaches celebrated with the crowd at Santiago Bernabéu Stadium long after the match ended, but there was not a lot of time to rejoice. On Wednesday, Madrid is back at the Bernabéu to host Manchester City in the second leg of the Champions League semifinals. Madrid lost 4-3 in the first match in England.

In this photo provided by the Spanish Royal Football Federation, Real Madrid player Marcelo lifts the trophy celebrating the team’s La Liga title after a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Saturday. (AP)

“We know we have an important match ahead of us, but today we have to celebrate,” said Brazilian veteran Marcelo, who reached a milestone with his 24th career title with Madrid, the most in the club’s history. “We have to enjoy it, this could help us on Wednesday,” said Carlo Ancelotti, who became the first coach to lift trophies in the top five European leagues. The Italian manager won with AC Milan in Serie A, Chelsea in the English Premier League, Paris Saint-Germain in Ligue 1, and Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga. Rodrygo scored twice and Marco Asensio and substitute Karim Benzema added on to give Madrid their second league title in three seasons, and third in six years. Madrid have an insurmountable lead with four rounds to go.

They are17 points in front of Sevilla, which drew with Cádiz 1-1 on Friday, and 18 points ahead of Barcelona, which host Mallorca on Sunday. Madrid have nine more league titles than Barcelona. Ancelotti rested most of his regular starters against Espanyol, including Benzema and his attacking teammate Vinícius Júnior.

Only goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and midfielders Casemiro and Luka Modric made the starting lineup. Benzema, Vinícius and Toni Kroos entered the match in the second half, and Benzema closed the scoring in the 81st for his league-leading 26th goal. Casemiro had to play improvised as a central defender because David Alaba was out injured and Nacho Fernández and Éder Militão were suspended. Marcelo started at left back and surpassed the 23 titles won by great Francisco “Paco” Gento, who died this year at age 88. The 33-year-old Brazilian tied Gento when Madrid won the Spanish Super Cup in January, a few days before Gento’s death. Marcelo gave the pass to countryman Rodrygo to open the scoring from near the penalty spot in the 33rd minute. Rodrygo added to the lead 10 minutes later and Marco Asensio scored the third goal in the 55th.

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