Spanish Contingent Starting To Look Strong In Europe
One could be forgiven for thinking that Real Madrid are the only Spanish team to have played in Europe this week. Incessant media coverage coupled with relentless praise, usually reserved for a team that has just won the quadruple, or at least the Champions League, has meant that the other six Spanish teams in Europe have gone about their jobs rather quietly.
That is not to say they have not been successful though – the other two clubs in the Champions League picked up four points between them, while in the Europa League three of the four were victorious.
All this points towards yet another strong year in Europe for the teams from La Primera, with Real Madrid perhaps the favourites at the moment to win any silverware. While the capital club have struggled on the continent in recent years, they put in a spectacular performance to dispose of AC Milan on Tuesday and seem to be finding their feet under Jose Mourinho. The big question will be whether they can maintain their form until the business end of the season and certainly they will be hoping that the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo or Gonzalo Higuain can stay fit.
While Madrid have been dazzling with their goals lately, Barcelona have been slightly underwhelming by their own high standards and the 2-0 win over Copenhagen was far from impressive. It has not been only been a problem in Europe too, as the Catalans have not dismantled teams in La Primera as they have done for the last two seasons. As with Madrid though, the true tests won’t come until much later in the season and with Barcelona likely to finish top of Group D still, they are the favourites with the bookies to triumph next May.
Valencia on the other hand are fortunate to have a chance of making it to next February, after Rangers missed a couple of open goals in their drawn match. Los Che were overrun by the Scottish club at Ibrox and Unai Emery will have to get his tactics right for the next couple of matches if his team are to progress. The good news is that they have two home games left against Rangers and Bursaspor, both of which they should win, before they travel to Manchester United, by which time they might have already secured qualification.
On Thursday evening it was the turn of the rest of the Spanish clubs to participate in the Europa League and three of the four of managed to secure victories. Getafe were the only losers as they were defeated 1-0 by Stuttgart to leave their hopes of qualification hanging in the balance. The Madrid side have managed just three points from their opening three matches and they will have to improve markedly if they to progress at the expense of either Stuttgart or Young Boys.
The same could not be said for Villarreal, who at the moment sit second in La Primera and also top of their Europa League group ahead of Dinamo Zagreb. Their 1-0 victory over PAOK wasn’t exactly memorable but it was their second straight victory in the tournament and another win should see them qualify to the next stage.
Sevilla also secured a 1-0 win, this time over Karpaty, which puts them second in Group J, one point behind PSG. Gregorio Manzano’s team are priced at 20/1 to win the tournament and the starting eleven that the coach put out, coupled with the dominating display, shows that the Andalucians are keen to taste European glory again.
Atletico Madrid have not got off to the best defence of their title and they put in an error-strewn display against Rosenborg. Fortunately, Quique Flores was able to bring Sergio Aguero off the bench and he soon grabbed a goal and then an assist to give Atletico their first win in the group. Much like last season, Atletico have not yet set Europe alight with their performances and they need Diego Forlan to improve his lacklustre form if they are make the latter stages of the tournament again.
Promisingly for the Spanish contingent, all seven of the Primera teams could still be playing in Europe next February, with Getafe the most likely to bow out early at this stage. Madrid and Barcelona look as though they could certainly challenge for the Champions League and Sevilla, Villarreal and Atletico are not yet in top form, but should improve to be serious contenders in the Europa League come the beginning of next year.