Real Madrid and Villarreal CF have qualified for the Champions League and Europa League semi-finals respectively.
The business end of the European football season has arrived, with fans looking forward to the Champions League and Europa League semi-finals. These fixtures will take place in the final week of April and first week of May and they’ll feature Spanish clubs once again given that Real Madrid have made the Champions League’s final four and Villarreal CF have done so in the Europa League.
This means that there will be at least one LaLiga Santander club in a European semi-final for the 16th season in a row. Not since 2004/05 has there been no Spanish representative in either the Champions League or Europa League – or, previously, the UEFA Cup – semis.
Since then, the number of Spanish sides taking part in UEFA competition this late in the season has been three teams in 2005/06, three in 2006/07, one in 2007/08, one in 2008/09, two in 2009/10, three in 2010/11, five in 2011/12, two in 2012/13, four in 2013/14, three in 2014/15, four in 2015/16, three in 2016/17, two in 2017/18, two in 2018/19, one in 2019/20 and now two in 2020/21.
This level of consistency is unmatched when looking at clubs from other nations. The Bundesliga has no semi-final representative in either competition this very season, for example. Then, the last time there was no club from Serie A or from Ligue 1 in either the Champions League semi-finals or Europa League semi-finals was 2018/19. The last time it happened for the Premier League was 2014/15. In other words, the other four major European leagues have been on the outside looking in at the semi-finals of both UEFA’s main competitions much more recently than when it last happened for LaLiga Santander back in 2004/05.
There has been variety too, as there are 10 different Spanish clubs who have played a UEFA semi-final since that 2004/05 season, namely Real Madrid, Villarreal CF, FC Barcelona, Atlético Madrid, Sevilla FC, Valencia CF, RC Celta Vigo, Athletic Club, RCD Espanyol and CA Osasuna.
It’s not just that Spanish clubs have frequently reached the final four, as they’ve often gone on to turn their runs into silverware. LaLiga Santander was recently crowned as the world’s strongest league for the 2011 to 2020 decade by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS), based on the fact that, over those 10 years, the Champions League was won by a LaLiga Santander side on six occasions and the Europa League was also won by a team from Spain six times.
This year, Real Madrid will be aiming to achieve further success in the Champions League. Already they have lifted a record 13 European Cups, four of them in the past decade, and they will meet Chelsea in the semi-finals after overcoming another English opponent in the form of Liverpool in the quarter-finals. With Zinedine Zidane having won the Champions League once as a player, once as an assistant coach and three times as head coach, he certainly knows what it takes, as do his players.
Villarreal CF, meanwhile, will be looking to reach their first ever European final as they take on Arsenal in the Europa League semis. They have reached four continental semi-finals before, one in the Champions League and three in the UEFA Cup or Europa League, but they’ve fallen at this hurdle each time. Now, though, they have a three-time Europa League winning coach in Unai Emery and he is hoping to make history with the Yellow Submarine, which would mean knocking out his former club as he was Arsenal boss between 2018 and 2019. That promises to be an enthralling tie as well.