The debate over which country boasts the best league in the world, England or Spain, can never truly reach a conclusion.
When comparing both the Premier League and La Liga, several factors need to be taken into account. The league’s best team, top sixth, depth and standard of play are all factors that must be taken into account.
And, whilst being based in England is a factor that could make me biased, the general consensus has been that the Premier League is superior. In terms of viewing figures around the world, it does have an edge over the Spanish top flight.
However, recent activity at the top of the European game suggests that the English have fallen behind their counterparts.
A look at the two champions in both countries, Manchester United and Barcelona, is to give the Spanish a notable advantage. Comparing the two teams fortunes in Europe is the easiest way to see how the cream of the crop in each nation is fairing, and Pep Guardiola’s side are streets ahead of Sir Alex Ferguson’s men.
The fact that this Barca side is one of the greatest club teams of all-time is to make things slightly unfair, and we all know that one team does not make a division.
Enter Real Madrid, the second best team in Spain, and league leaders by a staggering 10 points. Los Blancos are also second-favourites to claim the European Cup, behind their great domestic rivals.
In England, it’s Manchester City who lead the league ahead of their illustrious rivals, but in Europe they are fighting for scraps at the second table after failing in the Champions League – just like United.
Lower down the pack, and Arsenal and Chelsea saved face for the English with progression into the last 16 of the Champions League, whilst Villarreal and Valencia both failed to progress. Does this show a lack of depth in the Spanish game? Not a chance.
Whilst Villarreal failed to take third behind City in Group A of the Champions League, Valencia booked their place in the Europa League with a third place finish behind Chelsea and Bayer Leverkusen.
And, alongside Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao, the trio of Spanish sides claimed convincing wins in the last 16 of the competition.
For England, Tottenham Hotspur failed to reach the knockout stage of the competition, whilst Stoke met their demise against…a Spanish side in the last round (Valencia).
The general theory has been that Barcelona and Real Madrid play great football, but other Spanish teams would struggle against the likes of Stoke City and Blackburn. Los Che proved that myth wrong with a win at the Britannia Stadium.
It’s perhaps the way that Bilbao brushed United aside last night which is of greatest concern to the English game, and perhaps gives most reason to believe that football in La Liga has moved ahead.
Currently fifth domestically, Marcelo Bielsa’s side play a free-flowing brand of football that quite frankly caught the Red Devils on the hop at Old Trafford. Last year’s Champions League finalists were embarrassed, and lucky to escape with a 3-2 deficit.
But Bilbao aren’t alone with this style. Levante has taken La Liga by storm this year and are currently fourth, whilst Malaga, Osasuna and Rayo Vallecano take up the next spots below.
Traditional powerhouses Atletico Madrid, Sevilla and Espanyol come next in the table, whilst the Yellow Submarine are stuck in a relegation fight at the bottom of the table.
A new breed of team has risen through the ranks in Spain in a way that we haven’t seen in England, and whilst more teams now challenge the original ‘big four’ on these shores, there is a very definite six or seven that you know will finish above the rest.
And, whilst you know that only one of two teams will win the league in Spain, it’s the supporting cast that have taken the division to another level this season - a level that’s currently beyond English football.
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