Race For Europe: La Liga’s promises to be the hottest

Josh Challies

Critics of Spanish football will insist that La Liga lacks competition outside of the established top three, with Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid dominating the scene. The truth is they couldn’t be more wrong.

The race for European football in recent years has been extremely exciting and has seen numerous sides represent their nation on the European stage. Since the 2012/13 season, six different clubs have qualified for the Champions League courtesy of a top-four finish; Sevilla, Villarreal, Valencia, Athletic Bilbao, Real Sociedad and Malaga.

In fact, the wealth of competition for European football is so vast that the top-four has not remained the same in any season since the turn of the millennia, which is remarkable. Atletico Madrid, Sevilla, Valencia and even Deportivo La Coruna have had their time to shine, each rising and falling in different seasons.

Ahead of the 2017/18 season, which commences tomorrow evening, an abundance of clubs are battling for a spot in the Champions League or a place in the Europa League and an argument could be made for at least six teams.

Last year’s fourth-placed side and serial Europa League winners Sevilla will enter the campaign as the favourites to secure a top-four finish but the loss of Sporting Director Monchi to Roma over the course of the summer may hit the club harder than many would expect, as he has been the lifeblood of the Andalusian side’s success over recent years.

Villarreal, who finished five points behind Sevilla last term, will hope to return to Europe’s elite competition after losing in the play-offs to Monaco last year. Led by experienced striker Carlos Bacca, who has joined on-loan from AC Milan, the Yellow Submarines will be confident of continuing the success they’ve enjoyed since being promoted back to the top-flight in 2013.

Basque outfit Athletic Bilbao will have to cope with the loss of Ernesto Valverde but are expected to remain competitive this season, boasting the likes of Aritz Aduriz, Iker Muniain and Inaki Williams, whilst rivals Real Sociedad will also be aiming for another successful campaign after narrowly finishing above their fellow Basque side last term.

Catalan outfit Espanyol finished some way off the European spots last season, seven points behind Athletic, but will hope for a much closer battle this season, whilst all eyes are on Valencia after their woeful few years as they look to battle their way back into the reckoning.

With so many clubs capable of battling for a top-four spot, and the likelihood that there will also be a surprise package in La Liga next season, it means a crucial match is set to take place almost every weekend- so don’t let anyone tell you Spanish football isn’t competitive.

It will take a miracle for a club to pip Atletico, Real Madrid and Barcelona to the title but there’s more to football than the battle at the top and the fight for European football in Spain next year will be fierce. Across the world, there really isn’t a battle like it.

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