Pitchside

The matches that won La Liga: Atletico Madrid’s five steps to heaven

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Atletico Madrid celebrate their title

Atletico Madrid won their 10th La Liga title and their first since 1996 thanks to Saturday's 1-1 draw at Barcelona.

But that was just one of the amazing performances that saw them break the Real-Barca stranglehold on the Spanish title.

Here are the five key matches which helped turn Diego Simeone's men into legends:

Matchday seven - Real Madrid 0 Atletico 1

Atletico shocked their city rivals and made a strong statement of intent at the end of September when they ended a run of 23 La Liga derbies and more than a decade without a win thanks to Diego Costa's early strike.

Following up their 2-1 King's Cup final victory over Real at the same venue last May, Atletico proved they had shaken off their inferiority complex with a gritty performance that marked them out as genuine title contenders.

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Matchday 19 - Atletico 0 Barcelona 0

Barca and Atletico stayed locked together at the top after they played out an intense 0-0 draw with few genuine chances at the Calderon, more evidence the Madrid club were capable of challenging their wealthier rivals.

Not even the introduction of a fit-again Lionel Messi at halftime or Brazil forward Neymar with just over 20 minutes left could produce a goal for Barca and both teams moved on to 50 points at the halfway stage of the campaign.

Matchday 26 - Atletico 2 Real 2

Atletico had fought back to lead 2-1 and were closing in on a first home win against Real in nearly 15 years before Cristiano Ronaldo fired into the corner eight minutes from time to maintain leaders Real's three-point advantage over Atletico.

The result ensured Atletico had a superior head-to-head record over their city rivals, which is used to separate teams if they finish level on points at the end of the season.

Matchday 31 - Athletic Bilbao 1 Atletico 2

The match at fourth-placed Bilbao's daunting San Mames arena was seen as one of Atletico's toughest of the season finale and the Basque club had already beaten Barca and held Real to a draw there earlier in the campaign.

Despite falling behind in the sixth minute, Atletico hit back through Costa in the 22nd and midfielder Koke struck the winner 10 minutes into the second half.

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Matchday 38 - Barcelona 1 Atletico 1

Barca drew first blood thanks to a brilliant Alexis Sanchez strike in the 33rd minute before Diego Godin levelled with a superb header from a corner four minutes after the break.

Atletico comfortably held on in the face of sustained Barca pressure to secure a memorable first title in 18 years, prompting wild celebrations in the Spanish capital and setting them up for next Saturday's Champions League against Real Madrid in Lisbon.

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Iain Rogers / Reuters

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