La European Liga
One thing hasn’t changed since Spain won the 2008 Euro — their domestic league’s dominance in European club competitions
One thing hasn’t changed inEuropeanfootball— the success of Spanish clubs. Year after year, Spanish teams have been making it to the decisive stages of both the Champions League and the Europa League.
“We are proud, we’ve been doing this for several years now,” Spanish league president Javier Tebas said. “We’ve gotten used to eating caviar. Thedaythischanges,I’msurethatall the headlines will be about crisis in the Spanish football.” Spanish clubs have won eight European titles over the last seven seasons, four in the Champions League and four in the Europa League.Thisseason,AtleticoMadrid and Real Madrid are in the semifinals of the Champions League, and Sevilla and Villarreal are in the last four in the Europa League. “It shows that the work of football officials and coaches in Spain is exceptional,” Tebas said. “We have to give credit to the clubs’ presidents and the football directors, they are responsible for the continuity of this success.”
There have been at least three Spanish clubs in the quarterfinals of the Champions League in each of the last four seasons, and at least two in the semi-finals the last six seasons. The last time there were no Spanish teams in the tournament’s quarterfinals was back in 2005, when Real Madrid and Barcelona were eliminated in the round of 16.
In the Europa League, at least one Spanish club has made it to the semifinals in six of the last seven editions. Atletico Madrid won the title in 2010 and 2012, and Sevilla in 2014 and 2015. Spanish supremacy exists even though La Liga — wealthy in its own right — can’t compete financially with the Premier League, where clubs have greater spending power. (A reason for this is England’s sharing of TV revenue. In Spain, Real Madrid and Barcelona get a higher
percentage — though a more equitable deal has been agreed up starting next season.) “The sporting results are not always correlated one-toone with the teams’ income,” said Lars-Christer Olsson, chairman of the European Professional Football Leagues. “One of the reasons we defend the domestic leagues is to keep the dream alive for all clubs. The smaller clubs should at least have an opportunity to win the biggest titles.”
Olsson and his group have been on a crusade against the creation of the European Super League, which they say would be a revamped Champions League with guaranteed spots for
Europe’s top clubs in detriment of smaller teams who can qualify through domestic tournaments. The Spanish league has been a strong supporter of the group’s efforts with La Liga officials alert to the Premier League’s growing financial power in world football.
BATTLE AT HOME
Barcelona — the surprise exit from Europe — punished Deportivo La Coruna after a run of four losses in five games in all competitions. It was a loss of form that cost them a place in the Champions League semi-finals and an 11-point lead in the La Liga.
Barcelona scored eight midweek, relieving the pressure that had built up over the last month. “We needed the victory,” Luis Suarez said on Thursday. “We had been suffering. It was about time to win again and achieve a good result… We feel a lot better now.” The victory kept the Catalan club ahead of their Madrid rivals, who also won their games on Wednesday. Atletico won at Athletic Bilbao 1-0, and Real Madrid beat Villarreal 3-0. Atletico and Barcelona have79pointseachwithfourmatches left, while Real are a point behind.
Wednesday’s goal-fest was also good for Barcelona’s MSN — Lionel Messi, Suarez and Neymar. While Suarez (30 goals) scored four to keep pace with Cristiano Ronaldo (31 goals) in the pichichi race, Neymar ended a five-game scoring slump and Messi returnedtoamorefluentplaymaking role. “Nothing has changed,” Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. “We were one point away from them yesterday and we are one point away today.” That sounds like a challenge from a team on a streak of eight league wins in a row.
Atletico’s Antoine Griezmann scores their second goal, through a penalty, to knock Barcelona out of the Champions League