The final whistle in the Santiago Bernebeu stadium on Wednesday confirmed another all-Madrid final of Europe’s top competition. Real Madrid stuttered past a lacklustre Manchester City, thanks to a fortunate Gareth Bale strike, or unfortunate Fernando deflection, depending on which team you support.
The Madrid defence lived up to its austere reputation as they kept yet another clean sheet. The 1-0 win was their sixth clean in six home games this season in Europe. Atletico’s uncouth victory over Bayern Munich means that for the second time in three years, the Champions League final will be a Madrid derby.
The Europa League has also been a happy hunting ground for the Spaniards. Two Spanish teams remain in the competition. Villareal take a 1-0 lead to Anfield for their second leg with Liverpool and Sevilla, looking to win the competition for the third time in succession, carry two away goals with them for their second leg against Shaktar Donetsk. The possibility of both finals being exclusively Spanish affairs is very real.
The presence of Spanish teams in the final should not be surprising. Of the 120 teams that have contested sixty European Cup finals, twenty seven have come from Spain. Italy has the same number of finalists, yet Italian teams have won the competition just twelve times to Spain’s sixteen. Real can lay claim to ten of those.
The 2015/2016 final signals the dominance of Spain even more when one considers the venue. The San Siro will play host to its fourth final on May 28th this year. Yet next season will mark yet another year in which neither AC Milan or Inter will contest the Champions League. The presence of both Madrid teams in this year’s final means that Madrid has surpassed Milan as the most successful city in European football history.
This season however has given rise to a rather impressive statistic: Spanish teams in both the Champions League and Europa League have only exited the competitions at the hands of other Spanish teams.
Valencia were the first team to go in the knockout stages of the Europa League. They were dispatched by compatriots Athletic Bilbao in the round-of-16. The second leg saw soon-to-be ex Valencia boss Gary Neville dismissed from the touchline for dissent. Bilbao were to exit the competition at the next stage losing out to Sevilla on penalties.
Three of the five Spanish teams that competed in the group stages of the Champions League progressed to the knockout stages. Valencia and Sevilla, despite being eliminated from the Champions League, earned places in the Europa League round-of-32. It was not until the quarter-finals of the premier competition that Spanish teams would collide. Last year’s winners Barcelona faced the 2014 runners up Atletico Madrid in a tense 180 minutes of football. It would be Diego Simeone’s men who eliminated the Catalans as they had at the same stage the last time they made it to the final.
Should Villareal and Sevilla go through in their respective ties tomorrow it would mean that for the whole 2015/2016 European season, no Spanish team was beaten over two legs by a team from another country. Meanwhile, if the Madrid contingent can repeat their exciting final of two years ago, then fans are in for a fantastic night.
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