For last few years, whether it’s a club or the country, the success of Spanish football has been stupendous. While the Spanish national team has won the last World Cup and back to back European Championships (2008 and 2012), the clubs have had their share of success in the Champions League. Barcelona won it three times in last seven seasons, while teams like Real Madrid, Villareal, Deportivo de La Coruna along with Barca have made it to the semis eleven times in last nine seasons.
This season was looking no different. In fact, with as many as four Spanish clubs making it to the last 16 of the Champions League, more than any other country, they were looking to assert their dominance even more. However, as the first leg concluded the scenario changed rapidly. None of the four teams got a favourable result, the teams which played at home either lost or drew, whereas, the teams playing away lost. The onus is now on the second leg, where, if the teams falter again would mean none of the Spanish teams making into the Quarters, something which last happened in the 2004-05 Champions League. Let us take a quick look at how the odds are stacked against each of these teams –
1) Real Madrid – To play an away game against Manchester United
1st Leg : Real Madrid 2 – 2 Manchester United
Until the back to back El Clasico wins, the Los Blancos were having an ordinary season, frequently losing points in La Liga and currently placed in the 3rd position. For a club of Real Madrid’s reputation, their performance in the Champions League, which they last won in the 2001-02 season, leaves a lot to be desired. In fact, they were unable to make the Quarters for 6 seasons between 2004-2010. This season, they already find themselves in a disadvantageous position. Not only they have failed to win their home match, but also conceded two home goals which might play a crucial role. Now Real needs a win (or a high scoring draw) in Old Trafford. Sir Alex Ferguson’s Red Devils will be more than formidable at home, where they have so far lost only two games this season. Real’s recent double win against Barcelona will give then the much needed confidence before this crucial game, but still with the first leg result and the venue, it is Manchester United who are favourites to make it to the next round.
2) Barcelona – To play a home game against AC Milan
1st Leg : AC Milan 2 – 0 Barcelona
Before playing AC Milan, Barca had lost only 3 times in 40 competitive matches. Now they have lost three times in their last four matches. Barcelona under their assistant manager Jordi Roura has not looked convincing whenever their natural play has been disrupted. They seem to be unable to adapt to the opponents tactics and look clueless when their game plan is tactically suppressed. Although they are playing at home, a small victory won’t do, they need to neutralise the two goal defeat in San Siro. AC Milan, on the other hand, know that a draw or even a one goal loss will take them to the next round and will have their plans accordingly, making the job even more difficult for Barca. Barca, who have put a tremendous Champions League show in the last decade, winning it thrice, and has appeared in all the semi finals for past five seasons, would need to be extremely motivated and clinical if they want to progress further in the competition. Current form and circumstances, however, seems to be favouring Milan.
3) Valencia – To play an away game against PSG
1st Leg : Valencia 1 – 2 PSG
Losing the home leg and conceding two goals in the process ought to put a team under pressure. Valencia has been unpredictable this season with very inconsistent results, while they have lost 0-5 and 0-4 to Real Madrid and Malaga respectively, they have also been able to win against Athletic Madrid and get draws against Barca, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. However, this time they need a win in Paris, with PSG knowing exactly what they need to do. Valencia will be hoping to cash on PSG’s inconsistent form (which includes recent loss against 10 men Stade de Reims) and absence of key players like Ibrahimovic and Verratti. However, Valencia themselves will miss centre backs Adil rami and Ricardo Costa, making the task even more difficult. With home support and superior quality in the squad, PSG look favourites to qualify for the next round.
4) Malaga – To play at home against Porto
1st Leg : Porto 1 – 0 Malaga
If one has to just go by the scoreline of the first leg, Malaga probably looks the best placed among the four Spanish teams. Malaga lost the away game only by a solitary goal and thus has good opportunity to make amends in the home leg. However, Porto were dominant and outplayed Malaga, as Malaga’s rising star Isco says “Considering what happened, the best thing about the game was the result”. However, it will be a fresh match, Malaga 0-1 down will have 90 minutes to do the needful, given that they had their share of impressive results this season (wins against AC Milan and Real Madrid), the Malaguistas can dare to hope a reversal. However, for now Porto has a slight upper hand with a goal advantage and having outplayed them in the first leg.
As things stand now, it is highly likely that the four Spanish clubs might go down the drain leaving Spain without any representation in the quarter finals. This would come as a big blow for Spain where football is one of the few positives that the nation is holding onto, as the society has been heavily marred by economic and political turbulence.