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Real reels as Barca runs riot

REAL Madrid's humiliating loss to Barcelona is likely to lead to changes in the offseason on and off the field.

Barcelona thrashed Real 6-2, with Lionel Messi and Thierry Henry scoring two goals each, in the Spanish league on Saturday, scoring the team's highest number of goals at the Santiago Bernabeu to surpass its 5-0 win 35 years ago. The result also matched the most goals Real has ever conceded at home.

"We felt powerless. It hurts a lot to lose like this," captain Raul Gonzalez said. "We fought until the very end, but we were up against a better team. Losing like this at home makes you feel helpless."

Only one topic of conversation reverberated yesterday in newspapers, radio programs and people on the street - the "humiliation" of the two-time defending Spanish champion, which is now unlikely to win a title this season.

"Goalfest, Humiliation and Champion!" Barcelona sports daily Sport screamed, while Marca newspaper's front page said: "It's Over. The best team in the world leaves the Bernabeu as champion."

In Barcelona, fans celebrated deep into the night with throngs of people gathering at the city's airport to welcome the team back from the Spanish capital.

Changes are expected at Real with a presidential election beckoning in the summer, especially after the team was also routed by Liverpool to go out of the Champions League at the first knockout stage for the fifth straight season.

"There is a world of difference between Real Madrid and Barcelona," former Real coach Bernd Schuster wrote in Marca. "This had to happen so that some people take count of what we've been saying for some time."

Juande Ramos replaced Schuster in December and Real went on a long unbeaten run to draw within four points of Barcelona before Saturday's "clasico." But the former Tottenham coach said the result showed Real couldn't compete with Europe's best.

"Wins and losses must be spread proportionally. Real Madrid was responsible for the great string of results, not a coach or a player," said Ramos, whose contract expires at the end of the season.

Barca took its goal tally for the season to 100 in 34 league matches, seven short of the record set by Real in 1989/90.

Samuel Eto'o (27 goals), Messi (23) and Henry (19) have combined for 69 goals to become the league's highest scoring trio, surpassing the 66 by Real greats Ferenc Puskas (28), Alfredo di Stefano (21) and Luis del Sol (17) during the 1960-61 season.

Pep Guardiola's team will be league champion if it wins next Sunday at home to Villarreal and Real loses at fourth-placed Valencia on Saturday.

Barcelona has 85 points from 34 matches while Real is on 78 points. Sevilla is in third spot on 60 points after it won 2-0 at fifth-placed Villarreal on Saturday.


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