Sevilla were dumped out the Champion’s League last night by CSKA Moscow 3-2 on aggregate, leaving reigning World and European champions Barcelona as the country’s sole surviving club in the competition.
Goals from Tomas Necid and Keisuke Honda free-kick, gifted by a mistake from Andres Palop, sandwiched a close range strike from Diego Perotti as the Russian side sent Manolo Jimenez’s man tumbling out of the competition.
It has a been a disappointing show from Spanish sides other than Barca in recent years in Europe’s elite competition, with Real Madrid already on the scrapheap after their defeat to Lyon last week and Atletico demoted into the Europa League after their 3rd placed finish in the group stages.
Barcelona had no such problems progressing, after being dominated for large periods of the first leg at the Gottleib Daimler Stadion, they took Stuttgart apart at the Nou Camp on Wednesday night with a 4-0 victory and look well on course for the Bernabeu final on 22nd May.
They remain favourites for the big trophy, but you have to feel that overall it has been a very mixed showing from Spanish sides in the competition this season, especially with the side Real spent vast sums to assemble over the summer months falling so short of the finish.
I would partly put it down to poor defending.
The La Liga sides no longer have the impressive backlines of previous years gone by and away from home have looked somewhat fragile. Other than Barca, who tend to defend from midfield due to wealth of talent they possess through their central and wide positions, questions can be posed of all of the other sides competing in Europe as to the abilities to win ugly and grind out results away from home.
Real Madrid spent in excess of £200 million last summer, bringing in a wealth of talent in attack. In my opinion they have failed to build a team from the back, similar to what they did with the last line-up of galacticos at the turn of the millenium, and because of this should re-think their spending strategies in the next window if they wish to achieve continental success. The likes of Sergio Ramos and Raul Albiol have not performed well enough and as shown against Lyon, if their strikers misfire then Madrid can be exposed.
Atletico and Sevilla cannot be placed in the same bracket of expectancy as the other two but their supporters would still expect a better showing with one falling out of the group stages even though they have one of the brightest stars in football, Sergio Aguero at their disposal, and the latter falling at first knockout stage to the unfancied CSKA Moscow.
In the Europa League, Atletico and Valencia both look unlikely to progress having both only mustered draws in their home legs and facing tough trips to Sporting and Werder Bremen respectively.
You can’t help but feel that if La Liga still considers itself to be the top domestic league in European football, then a few more of their representatives are going to have to start dominating on the big stage once more.