Spain 3 England 0: La Liga still strongest in Europe

Malaga joined Real Madrid and Barcelona in the last eight of the Champions League by beating Porto on Wednesday, but there will be no Premier League sides in the quarter-finals

By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer

Rule Espana. As well as Andalucia and the pride of the city itself, Malaga’s win over Porto on Wednesday night also represented a victory for Spain and a triumph for La Liga. With more teams into the last eight of the Champions League than any other country’s top flight, the Primera Division can rightfully claim to be Europe’s strongest domestic competition.

Malaga joined Real Madrid and Barcelona in the quarter-finals to make it three out of four for Spain. Valencia, La Liga’s other representative, made the second round but bowed out to Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16. PSG’s progress gives France a member of the elite eight, while Galatasaray and Juventus represent Turkey and Italy, respectively. Germany saw Schalke succumb in the last 16 to Galatasaray, but both Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich advanced to give the Bundesliga two teams in the quarter-finals. And the Bavarian’s passage at the expense of Arsenal on Wednesday means the Premier League is left without a single side to cheer on in the latter stages.

Arsenal rallied to beat Bayern 2-0, but needed another goal after their shambolic 3-1 loss in London two weeks ago, while defending champions Chelsea and Premier League winners Manchester City were unable to make it beyond the group stage. The one English side unlucky perhaps to have missed out on the last eight is Manchester United, on top versus Madrid until Nani’s controversial red card changed the course of that game at Old Trafford.

But as well as United did against Madrid, Real remain a stronger side and were unlucky not to win the first leg, while the goal scored by Sir Alex Ferguson’s side in Manchester had been offside, anyway.

Madrid and Barca, who spectacularly saw off AC Milan in an epic comeback at Camp Nou on Tuesday, now look like favourites to go on and win the competition, along with Bayern. Those three head the Uefa list of club co-efficients, in which Spain boast four sides in the top 10 (the others being Valencia and current Europa League champions Atletico Madrid, in ninth and 10th).

United, Chelsea and Arsenal are fourth, fifth and sixth in that ranking, yet you need to go down to 17th for the next English side, Liverpool, and City sit further back, in 20th. Disappointing European seasons for several of those teams will likely see a drop in next year’s table, as Spain strengthens on the back of the current campaign.

The Premier League is often described locally as the strongest league in the world, but few outside England believe this to be the case. This is perhaps a freak year for a country whose teams regularly perform well on the continent and English sides will surely be back in the mix in the coming campaigns, but no representatives in the last eight of the premier club competition is a damning statistic for the self-proclaimed leading league in Europe.

So Spain’s Primera Division remains the strongest, although with Financial Fair Play regulations set to make an impact on club outlays and Malaga faced with a European ban, that could change in the next few seasons. At the moment, however, it is perhaps Germany and the Bundesliga’s shrewd spenders in place to challenge La Liga, and not the Premier League.
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