Liverpool gatecrash the Spanish party
Anfield is a pressure cooker. Villarreal flew there with a one-goal lead and still wound up losing. There are no objections to be made, although there is plenty about which to be sad. It hurts to see Villarreal, an exemplary club on so many levels, just miss out on another European final. The last time this happened Riquelme failed to convert a penalty late on against Arsenal. On this occasion the intimidating setting that is Anfield was to blame (there's a reason players are warned before they walk down the tunnel that ‘This is Anfield’). We can always wonder what might have happened had Denis Suárez been awarded a penalty with the scoreboard reading 2-0… But it wasn’t given. So the almighty Liverpool, a club that will have its day in the sun once again, make their way to the final. Viva Villarreal!
So Liverpool deny us what would have been an all-Spanish affair, two European finals featuring four LaLiga outfits. Obviously Sevilla are through. It couldn’t have been any other way. This is their competition after all. They’ve won it four times, are the two-time defending champions and have now reached their fifth final in ten years. The atmosphere in the Sánchez Pizjuán is electric on nights like these and the enthusiasm brushes off on the team, as time and time again they rise to occasion. Undoubtedly Sevilla is a good club with a good manager and a good team, but above all else it is their relationship with the Europa League that has allowed them to find their comfort zone, their safe place, their promised land where they have achieved self-realisation.
Three teams out of four. When the debate arises about what the best league in the world is it is fair to point to the UEFA rankings, which objectively state how powerful each division is. Spain is pulling further away from the rest of the pack all the time. The Premier League, with its newfound television-rights wealth, is the biggest threat to Spain’s dominance. Liverpool symbolise this. However, our championship is far from a poor one. LaLiga has been embracing the best influences from South America and Europe for a long time and possesses top-quality managers. Let’s enjoy the ride.
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