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Barca on course for treble

FC Barcelona coach Josep Guardiola believes the group of players that delivered the club their fifth Spanish Liga and Copa del Rey double would have succeeded with or without him at the helm.

‘Keys’ to success 
After watching his largely second-string side go down 2-1 at RCD Mallorca on Sunday, Guardiola heaped praise on those who secured the Azulgrana’s 19th league success. “I’m certain that with another group of players I wouldn’t be talking as a league champion now, but with another trainer they would,” the 38-year-old said. “The keys to victory lie in their talent, humility and their eagerness to always work hard, no matter what the game. We’ve won the Liga and the Copa del Rey within three days of each other and we’re very satisfied with the work we put in. We’ve had so many games in the past few months that we haven’t had time to enjoy the successes we achieved during that time.”

Difficult opponents 
Having been on the verge of the championship only to succumb to a last-gasp equaliser against Villarreal CF last weekend, Barça took the title thanks to the Yellow Submarine’s 3-2 triumph over Real Madrid at El Madrigal on Saturday – and Guardiola was quick to recognise the challenge sustained by last season’s champions. “I can’t deny that it’s been a really great season for us but I’d also like to congratulate Real Madrid because they forced us to be on top of our game throughout,” he added. “They taught us a lesson for the future that we must always keep fighting until the end. Had it been any other team chasing us, we probably would have won the title sooner.”

Final preparations
With two titles now wrapped up in his debut season in charge of first-team affairs, Guardiola is now looking to win a historic treble as he prepares his side for a UEFA Champions League final against Manchester United on 27 May. “Winning the championship now suits us as we can switch focus and begin concentrating on the Champions League,” the former Barça midfielder explained, before suggesting he was not prepared to risk certain players before the final. “My idea is that a lot of the team won’t play until the final in Rome. I don’t want to risk many of them, taking into account the number of missing players we have. We’ve got to this point having given everything emotionally and physically. I’ve talked to those concerned and they agree that it’s a great way to be ready for the final.”