One of the most keenly debated topics concerning football in Europe centres upon which is the continent’s best or strongest league.
It is continentally accepted that European football’s five major leagues are the Bundesliga, the English Premier League, La Liga, Ligue 1 and Serie A.
Nevertheless the quality or strength of those leagues relative to one another is difficult to establish, although one potentially useful measure is the performance of clubs in European football’s two major club competitions.
La Liga clubs excel in Europe
In the group stages of the Champions and Europa Leagues so far this season, La Liga clubs have played a combined total of 14 matches and lost just one, which provides an excellent indication of the current strength of Spanish football’s top flight.
Of Spain’s current representatives in European competition, only Atletico Bilbao have suffered a defeat, as Ernesto Valverde’s side lost their first Europa League group stage game 3-0 to Sassuolo.
With the exception of that game, the overall record of La Liga clubs in the group stages of European competition this season is, played 13, won eight and drawn five.
Quartet in fine Champions League form
Furthermore both Atletico Madrid and Barcelona have maintained 100% records in the Champions League.
After consigning Celtic to their heaviest ever European defeat by opening their Champions League campaign with a 7-0 win over the Scottish Champions at the Nou Camp, Barca recovered from a goal down to beat Borrusia Monchengladbach 2-1, as Arda Turan and Gerard Pique scored against the Bundesliga side.
Whilst the Catalan giants sit atop of group C, Atletico also occupy such a lofty position in Group D, as similar to Barcelona, Diego’s Simeone side have been successful against German opposition. Specifically courtesy of a Yannick Carrasco goal Los Rojiblancos beat Bayern Munich 1-0 whilst they also overcame PSV Eindhoven by that same score line, with Atletico producing two typically determined and resolute displays, to enhance their excellent Champions League record over recent years.
Specifically in two of the last three editions of the competition, Atletico have reached the final, only to be beaten on both occasions by their city rivals Real, who are currently second in Group F having won one and drawn the other of their opening two games, which is a record shared by Spain’s other representative in the Champions League, Sevilla.
Jorge Sampaoli’s side frustrated Juventus to earn a 0-0 draw against the Serie A league leaders, before beating Olympique Lyonnais 1-0 at the Sanchez Pizjuan, as Wissam Ben Yedder scored the decisive goal for Sevilla, who are competing in the Champions League after having won the Europa League for three successive years.
The triumphs of Sevilla in the Europa League combined with Real Madrid winning two of the last three editions of the Champions League – 2014 & 2016 – and Barcelona the other – 2015 – means that La Liga clubs hold a three year monopolisation of winning European football’s two major club competitions.
La Liga’s clubs Europa League exploits
Ultimately a continuation of that dominance is altogether possible, given the extremely positive manner in which La Liga clubs are currently performing in Europe, as they paint a fine portrayal of the strength of their league, within which Celta Vigo are currently 13th.
Although struggling domestically however, Eduardo Berizzo’s side have started their first European campaign in over 12 years extremely well, by collecting four points from two Europa League group stages games. Amidst the intensely competitive group comprised of Ajax, Panathinaikos, and Standard Liege, Celta Vigo is flourishing. Two points adrift of Ajax in second place, they assumed that position after confidently beating Panathinaikos 2-0 at home courtesy of goals from John Guidetti and Daniel Wass, who along with fellow Dane Pione Sisto is a key player for Celta Vigo.
Given their lowly position in La Liga, that they have commenced their current European campaign so encouragingly, further testifies the strength of Spanish football’s top division, whilst so too does Villareal’s unbeaten start in the Europa League. El Submarino Amarillo has responded brilliantly to the disappointment of their Champions League play-off round defeat to AS Monaco by beating FC Zurich and earning an excellent 1-1 away draw against Steaua Bucharest, despite an error from goalkeeper Andres Fernandez.
Whilst both Celta Vigo and Villareal are in good positions to progress to the knock-out phases of the Europa League, Atletico Bilbao enhanced their prospects of achieving that by beating Genk 1-0, after being dismantled by Sassuolo for whom the Spanish full back Pol Lirola starred. Although their defeat to Sassuolo was humbling, Bilbao graciously accepted and learned from that potentially demoralising European experience to produce a vastly improved performance against Genk for which they were rewarded, as Benat Etxeberria scored the decisive goal.
Strong evidence of the competitiveness and quality of La Liga
Therefore both the performances and results of each of Spain’s seven representatives in European competition this season have proven the current immense strength of La Liga, which is as rich in competitiveness and quality this season, as it has been during any other.
The table below is constructed so as provide a comparison between the performance of La Liga clubs in Europe this season and those of the other four top European leagues, which statistically confirms the relative strength of La Liga.
|Number of Representatives in European Competition
|Accumulative number of games played in European Competition
|English Premier League
Therefore at present, La Liga clubs are reigning supreme in European competition.
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