Europa League Provides Chance For Spanish Sides To Show Domestic Strength

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By Phil Kitromilides ( @PhilKitro )

At the start of last season Sevilla played Manchester United a friendly at Old Trafford. To the surprise of many British based journalists the Andalusians played some excellent football at beat the Red Devils 3-1 in what was the first match of David Moyes' fateful tenure.

Reading a report of the game on the website of a leading English newspaper, I remember being struck by their description of Sevilla as a "plucky La Liga outfit". The word "plucky" is usually reserved for  gargantuan mismatches in cup competitions, where part-timers have struck gold by drawing the likes of, for example, Manchester United.

Yet Sevilla are a huge side, a team that in the last decade have won the Europa League/Uefa Cup three times, not to mention the Spanish and Uefa Super Cup and the Cop Del Rey.

This myopic view of some of the biggest teams in Spain was further on display, a year before as Arsenal were praised by a leading English pundit for finding Santi Cazorla from "nowhere".

Quite apart from the fact that Cazorla and been a member of Spain's European Championship and World Cup winning squad, the midfielder had shone for Villarreal as they sparkled domestically and on the continent.

The point being of course that Spain is much more about the obvious big two (or three if we are counting current champions Atletico as we probably should), with the depth of quality in La Liga clear for all to see.

The Europa League has been a competition where La Liga sides have thrived; in the 14 finals since the turn of the century nine finalists have been La Liga clubs. This year once again the tournament is a chance for the like of Sevilla and Villarreal to show what they can do, while Champions League drop-outs Athletic Bilbao will also have a point to prove. The likes of Carlos Bacca, Luciano Vietto and Aritz Aduriz are some of the meanest strikers on the continent at the moment, and they will be looking to pass any tests put in their wat.

The Spanish league is often misguidedly derided as being un-competitive, yet the Europa League affords teams a chance to continue to dispel that poorly conceived
myth.

There is no doubt that La Liga is sometimes poorly managed, and the question of equality in distribution of TV revenue is one which will continue to hinder its development as a global brand until a more egalitarian solution is found.

Yet the quality is difficult to dismiss and there is no doubt that the Spanish representatives in the Europa League will continue to demonstrate that La Liga boasts the best teams in the continent.