Sevilla set themselves up for a trip to the last 16 of UEFA Champions League after securing an impressive victory over Real Madrid.
Real had won 7 out of 8 prior encounters between the two teams, but Sevilla are looking like title contenders in LaLiga this year and have proved their mettle against one of Europe’s most prolific club sides.
The “real madrid schedule” is a victory for LaLiga, who have struggled in the UEFA Champions League. The match was close, with Real Madrid winning 3-2.
In any case, I’ve always preferred the Europa League. Ahem.
The Champions League hasn’t been kind to Spanish football this week. Barcelona and Benfica drew 0-0. Villarreal and Manchester United did what Villarreal and Manchester United do, and Cristiano Ronaldo did what Cristiano Ronaldo does: a late(ish) goal gave Villarreal and Manchester United a 2-0 away victory at the Ceramica, allowing Michael Carrick to walk down as interim manager with a perfect record. And Atletico Madrid lost to Milan after conceding an 87th-minute goal, just about the moment they determined that all they had to do was not lose.
Only two of the five La Liga clubs in the Champions League won this week: the two that may have been distracted and will face each other this weekend. Not Barcelona and Villareal, who face at the Ceramica on Saturday night (though that’s a good match-up), but the teams that meet in the Santiago Bernabeu the following day: Real Madrid, who overcame Sheriff 3-0, takes against Sevilla, which is now in third position. And, despite Sevilla defeated Wolfsburg 2-0 (they had to, since victory was not totally safe until the 97th minute), the game is far from done. Julen Lopetegui’s squad, whose group did not seem to be particularly challenging but in which they have only won one game, must still go to Salzburg and win on the last day.
Finally, it’s not unthinkable that the major league with the most clubs in the Champions League will not have the most teams in the Champions League. In reality, it seems like Real Madrid, which has already qualified for the knockout stages for the 30th time in a row, will be the only Spanish team remaining.
Take a look at this list. It’s not only Sevilla that needs to produce a result; everyone does. Bayern Munich must be defeated by Barcelona. Atletico must defeat Porto while hoping that AC Milan does not defeat Liverpool. Villarreal must win against Atalanta to escape defeat. All of this begs the question, even if it isn’t posed with the zeal you’d expect: what’s wrong with them?
It’s a question that’s been posed before. If you Google “why do Spanish teams fail in the Champions League,” you’ll find answers from years ago. On one level, it’s unsurprising; on another, it’s long overdue. It’s the economics, dumb, as the saying goes.
Dan Thomas is joined by Craig Burley, Shaka Hislop, and others to discuss the most recent news and debate the most important topics. ESPN+ has a live stream available (U.S. only).
Then there are the details: Villarreal, who were unfortunate once again against Manchester United yet were completely dominating for an hour or more, might be accused of misreading the game. Atletico absolutely could — the substitutes don’t help, they only make things worse — but their campaign hasn’t been great and they’re in a tough group, with justice served when the “Messias” (actually, Junior Messias) emerged in front of Milan.
Barcelona are, well, Barcelona — and there was some optimism in a result that put them on the edge of elimination since they performed well against Benfica this time, a sign of things to come under Xavi Hernandez.
Meanwhile, Sevilla is… well, it’s unclear what Sevilla is. They were “equal to the challenge,” according to their management. That’s what they’ve been doing for the most of the season. But there’s something about them that’s difficult to pin down, a sense that something is missing, that they’re excellent, but not great. Reliable, powerful, and organized — similar to the clubs in their Champions League group (Lille, FC Salzburg, Wolfsburg), which might be part of the answer — but what exactly? This season seemed like a chance, at least domestically, and the fact that Sevilla’s sports director, Monchi, suggested a few weeks ago that they would be aggressive in the winter window implies they still believe so.
They’re in third place, have only lost once all season, and have won four and drawn two of their previous six games. Ivan Rakitic is in good form, and Diego Carlos claims that the central defenders can communicate with each other merely by looking at them other. Sevilla is just two points behind the leaders, but if they want to contend for the championship — actually battle for it — they’ll have to defeat Real Madrid on Sunday in what seems to be the season’s opening game (yes, even coming after the clasico). They need the victory more than anything else to convince themselves that they can, to escape the notion of sure, we can, but not when it comes to the greatest opponents.
This is where the lovely game resides. Unlock premium coverage of the world’s best leagues, events, and teams. To watch soccer on ESPN+, sign up today.
FRIDAY, NOV. 26 • Mainz vs. Stuttgart (2.20 p.m. ET) • WBA against Nottm Forest (2.50 p.m. ET) • Bilbao v Granada (2.50 p.m. ET) (2.55 p.m. ET)
Even if you asked if it was truly essential this week in Transnistria, Carlo Ancelotti explained why Karim Benzema, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Vinicius Jr., and Casemiro all played 90 minutes for Real Madrid. Even if they are, it wasn’t because they are the greatest or irreplaceable. Ancelotti has quietly put the pieces back together, beginning his second tenure by being considerably more zealous about defensive tasks than previously, according to Dani Carvajal. He’s looking for “pessimistic” defenders who are prepared for the worst-case scenario, and he’s identified David Alaba to be more than simply a substitute for Sergio Ramos.
It’s difficult not to get the impression that if you take it down to the fundamentals and focus on quality, no one else has a player as talented as Benzema, Kroos, or Modric. Or even Vinicius — Ancelotti has instilled trust in him that few others have, although he claims he has done nothing except play him. The conversation with Kroos and Modric is similar: he argues that the greatest thing you can do with them is nothing. Allow them to play since they are the experts. At the weekend, he added, “Relax, I’m not going to intervene.” “The coach is calmer when Kroos is like this,” he added on Wednesday.
Since age and injuries are not on their side, the question may be how much of the season they and the others are available for. Indeed, it’s unknown how frequently Madrid’s top XI can play and how much of a backup squad the club has.
Because of their superior skill, Real Madrid and Carlo Ancelotti may be the only chance for Spanish football in the UEFA Champions League. Getty Images/David S. Bustamante/Soccrates
Another unanswered issue is if Real Madrid’s current purple patch is due to who they’ve played against, or whether it’s something more long-term. Sevilla, Athletic, Real Sociedad, Athletic, Sevilla, Athletic, Athletic, Athletic, Athletic, Athletic, Athletic, Athletic, Athletic, Athletic, Athletic, Athletic, Athletic, Athletic, Athletic, Athletic, Athletic, Athletic, Athletic, Athletic, Athletic, Athletic, Athletic, Athletic, Athletic, Athletic, Athletic, Athletic, Athletic, Athletic, Oh, and there’s Inter Milan in the mix. It’s time to see what they’re made of since things are about to get serious.
“Serious” has come for Spanish teams, according to some. In reality, it is critical. And it may already be too late. Domestic football returns this weekend, but Europe remains, and there is no turning back this time: failure is the end. Unless it isn’t; except there is still light out there. While none of them are out, all four, along with Betis and Real Sociedad, might finish up in the Europa League (although they too need a final day win to not drop into the Conference League).
And, you know what, not having gotten to this stage isn’t a terrible thing. Six clubs compete in a mini-Spanish league that some think beneath them, especially Barcelona, while they are not. Six clubs in a mini-Spanish league will all believe they can win — or would have won if they weren’t all in it together — and a tournament that three of them have already won in the previous four years.
Unai Emery has been reintroduced to the Unai Emery Cup. Xavi Hernandez, like Johan Cruyff, is attempting to win a European tournament other than the European Cup for the first time. Sevilla is seeking the trophy that they claim made them who they are, the one that they have won more times than anybody else in history. And there’s the tournament whose final they’re solely hosting.
There are six Spanish teams in all. The last dance of Joaquin. Conflicts that might occur. Villarreal vs. Manuel Pellegrini Against Barcelona, Suarez and Griezmann. Sevilla takes on Betis. Betis. Sevilla is up against it. Finally, in the end. The city of Sevilla was never the same after the earthquake. See? Better by a long shot.
Watch This Video-
- uefa champions league winners
- soccer champions league
- 2018 champions league final