The Spanish clubs continue to seek European glory - with a familiar English face settling into place, notes Tim Stannard...
Real Madrid are set to have their initial appeal against being tossed out of the Copa del Rey turned down on Wednesday, but such is the topsy-turvy life in La Liga that previously fuming supporters might now claim that it’s a trophy for stinky losers, anyway. Thankfully for Florentino Pérez, last seen frowning before the world’s media and blaming everyone but himself for ‘Denis-gate’, along came Getafe and the Swedish Getafe to help wipe out the memory of the Clasico loss and the Copa catastrophe.
Scoring 12 across the two games and conceding just the one, Madrid have tempted Marca into claiming “The Force Awakens”, potentially making the president Darth Pérez. Malmo came, saw, got rolled like some smoked herring and returned to their picturesque surroundings having offered up four goals to Cristiano Ronaldo – who was happy enough to be pleasant to Rafa Benítez, admitting that he “was doing a good job.”
No such ups and downs for Atlético Madrid, the footballing equivalent of that straight, empty desert road that everyone drives on in car adverts. Although the Rojiblancos were returning to the scene of one of the most traumatic events in the club’s history in the stadium where the Champions League was lost in the final seconds, there were no hangovers as Atletico beat Benfica to top their group. “I’m proud that we were able to stay in the same hotel, in the same dressing room and to have won,” announced Diego Simeone.
REPORT Benfica 1-2 Atletico Madrid
Bizarre stuff indeed down in the world of Sevilla, the ultimate big-game team. Despite still struggling to rouse themselves, as it were, for the likes of Deportivo, Unai Emery’s men always manage to get going against the big ’uns, with Juventus joining Real Madrid and Barcelona on this season’s victims list.
REPORT Sevilla 1-0 Juventus
To make matters worse, the winner was bagged by Fernando Llorente, a player moved on from Turin after an ineffective spell in Serie A. The victory returns Sevilla to the familiar surroundings of the Europa League, which they will doubtless win to return to the Champions League in an endless spin cycle.
Even without beating Leverkusen tonight Barcelona are already through to the next round of the Champions League, but the same cannot be said for Valencia. However, the mighty men of Mestalla might well be looking to take advantage of a group dominated by a single side, Zenit, and sneak second spot. They’ll get it if they beat Lyon and the Russians don’t lose to Gent.
Fortunately, Lyon have been almost comedic in their French defensive stylings of late and Valencia have El Nevvo in charge for his first game, with the Englishman claiming to be focused and calm on the affair.
LLL has a feeling that something in the hammering department is about to take place in eastern Spain... but if Zenit aren’t at the races, Valencia will be joining Sevilla in Europe’s less glamorous competition.