VITORIA, Spain – Barcelona defeated Deportivo Alaves 2-0 on Tuesday to leave itself just one win – or an Atletico Madrid loss – away from clinching the LaLiga title.
The celebration could begin in less than 24 hours if Valencia prevails over Atleti in Wednesday’s contest at the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid. While even a point for the Colchoneros would mean that the soonest Barça could claim the crown would be Saturday, when they host Levante at Camp Nou.
With 80 points from 34 matches, Barcelona have a 12-point advantage over Atleti, though the capital club have a game in hand.
Barcelona, who began the night in Vitoria with captain and star Leo Messi on the bench, dominated from the start and enjoyed a 77 percent to 23 percent advantage on possession over the 90 minutes.
The visitors threatened in the 5th minute.
Luis Suarez lost the 1v1 to home goalkeeper Fernando Pacheco. Philippe Coutinho was there to gather the rebound and looked certain to score, but his strike deflected off Alaves defender Rodrigo Ely and away from the net.
The visitors kept up the pressure and Alaves supporters packed into Mendizorroza stadium remained in their seats until the 15th minute, when Barça keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen had to grab Jony Rodriguez’s effort on a set piece to deny Ely a chance from inside the box.
For all of their possession, Barcelona had few shots and most of them were from distance, as the five-man Alaves back line shut down the space in front of goal.
Barça looked most threatening on the counter and a speedy transition in the 29th minute set up Suarez to force another save from Pacheco.
Seven minutes later, Alaves had an opportunity on a throw-in. Ely flicked-on in the direction of Borja Baston in front of goal only for Ter Stegen to beat the striker to the ball.
The hosts gave Barcelona a fright minutes before the break on yet another set piece. Ely got his head to Jony’s free kick, but the shot went over the cross-bar.
Alaves probed Barcelona for weakness in the early going of the second half and Ruben Duarte tested Ter Stegen with a strike on the counter.
Less than 10 minutes into the half, however, Sergi Roberto managed to unlock the Alaves defense and passed to Suarez. The Uruguayan let the ball roll past him to the oncoming Carles Aleña and the midfielder put the Catalan club up 1-0 in the 54th.
Suarez got the second goal five minutes later, converting from the spot after the referee awarded a penalty for a Tomas Pina hand-ball in the area on a free kick.
Messi nearly made it 3-0 just seconds after coming on for Ousmane Dembele at the hour mark, but Pacheco proved equal to the challenge.
The hosts battled on. Jony raised into the area and left the ball for Darko Brasanac, who came close to clawing back a goal with a shot that skipped over the Barcelona goal.
A subsequent shot by Jony hit the post on one of Alaves’ best occasions of the night.