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Mourinho praises Barca for title win

Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho congratulated Barcelona after his side's 1-1 draw with Espanyol handed their rivals the La Liga title on Saturday evening. Holders Madrid needed a victory to prevent Tito Vilanova's men from reclaiming the crown. But Christian Stuani's 23rd-minute strike ended their hopes, despite Gonzalo Higuain's 58th-minute equaliser. "First of all I want to congratulate Barcelona, their coaches, their players, their managers and their fans," Mourinho said on his club's official website. "They have just won the league title, which was ours until now, and I think the least we can do is congratulate them. "Last season we won and wanted, justifiably, to speak about a great league campaign and I think it makes sense at this point is to congratulate the champion. You should give the champions the importance they deserve." Mourinho again defended his decision to bench Pepe, but the defender could yet play in Friday's Copa del Rey final after Raphael Varane picked up a knee injury in Saturday's match with Espanyol. Mourinho said: "It was my decision and that's it. I'm the coach. I don't have to justify anything. "From the first to the last day I'll always be the one to decide. Sometimes Ican share the reasons for my decisions and sometimes not, I'll take that option. On Friday you'll see who plays and it will always be my decision and responsibility. "I don't want to second guess what the medical services have to say but at this point it looks like there is a certain degree of gravity, fairly serious let's say and it is impossible that he will play the cup final or the two or three matches left until the end of the season. "We have alternatives. It is a position in which we have people who are playing well and that's good. We are obviously sorry that he cannot play in match that everyone wants to play, but there's no need to make a drama about it because we have solutions." Xabi Alonso, who replaced Varane in the first half, turned his attention to Friday's game. "The aim now is the cup and we have fight for the title that we have left to play for," he said. "There are six days to prepare and that's what we are thinking about. We are very motivated, eager to play a great match and lift the trophy in our stadium, albeit on neutral soil." Meanwhile, Barcelona have started their celebrations early, with Dani Alves dedicating the title triumph to manager Tito Vilanova and defender Eric Abidal. Alves posted a picture of the pair on Twitter and wrote: "Congratulations to all colleagues for the championship, especially those in the photo! This is for you Tito and Abi.''

Midfielder Cesc Fabregas was happy to claim his first Liga title with Barca following his move from Arsenal in 2011. He tweeted: "Today is a great day, the result of a brilliant season! I am really happy I can celebrate my first Liga title!" Birthday boy Andres Iniesta joined in the celebrations on Facebook. The midfielder posted a picture of himself with a cake to celebrate his 29th birthday, which fell on the same day. He wrote: "The best gift, turned 29 and won the league... The reward for the work of the whole year!!"

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