European Review | Spanish sides in Champions League & Europa League

It is that time of the season when the European competitions are in full flow.

The return of the Champions League and Europa League means that Spanish clubs are once again competing on multiple fronts.

Several La Liga sides played this week, with some doing better than others, although all of them will feel that they go into the second leg with a reasonable chance of progressing to the next stage.

Champions League

PSG 1-0 Real Madrid

The eyes of the footballing world were on this pulsating fixture on Tuesday.

Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappé and Karim Benzema were three of the most talked about players in the days leading up to the game.

Messi’s start to life away from Barcelona has been far from easy.

Whilst newspapers gave him a low rating, he played better than people care to credit.

Although he did miss a penalty.

Mbappé – who may well be a Galáctico in the summer – scored a late winner to give Mauricio Pochettino’s men a slender lead in the tie.

Benzema was not fully fit and he would admit it wasn’t his best performance.

But there is still 90 minutes of football still left to play. At least.

Crucially, there are no away goals, meaning any victory for Carlo Ancelotti’s men would at least enforce extra time.

Next week, Villarreal will host Juventus and Atlético Madrid will face Manchester United in the Spanish capital.

Europa League

Zenit 2-3 Real Betis

One of the most entertaining matches of the entire competition saw Manuel Pellegrini’s men win away in Russia.

Incredibly, all five goals were scored in the first half.

Los Béticos took a 2-0 lead inside 18 minutes thanks to Guido Rodriguez and Willian José, before a couple of quickfire goals from Artem Dzyuba and Malcolm.

A few minutes before the break, Andrés Guardado put the Spanish side back in the lead.

This is how the result would finish.

Unfortunately, as the away goals rule is scrapped, Pellegrini’s men still have much to do at the Benito Villamarín.

But this result has given them a great chance of progressing

Sevilla 3-1 Dinamo Zagreb

Meanwhile, Betis’ cross-city rivals were having some first half fun of their own.

Ivan Rakitic scored a 13th minute penalty to break the deadlock before three goals were notched up in the last five minutes of the first half.

Zagreb’s Mislav Orsic had equalised in the 41st minute.

But goals from Lucas Ocampus and loan signing Anthony Martial gave Julen Lopetegui’s side a commanding lead.

They go into the second lead with this advantage.

Barcelona 1-1 Napoli

Xavi’s start to life in the dugout at the Catalan giants is not getting easier.

After the draw against rivals Espanyol on the weekend, Barcelona failed to capitalise on home advantage for their Europa League encounter.

Polish midfielder Piotr Zielinski gave the Italians a lead going into the break.

Barcelona were able to come back with a Ferran Torres converted a penalty in the second half, but they failed to find a winner.

Going to Italy without this lead makes it a much tougher ask for Barcelona.

RB Leipzig 2-2 Real Sociedad

Finally, La Real achieved a promising result against a tough German side.

Leipzig have been in the Champions League in recent years and are currently fourth in the Bundesliga.

But the Basque side are having a pretty good campaign of their own.

The match was 1-1 going into the half-time break after Robin Le Normand had given Real Sociedad an eight minute lead.

The second half was a tale of two penalties.

Mikel Oyarzabal had scored to give the Spanish side a 2-1 lead before Emil Fosberg converted a spot-kick of his own with less than ten minutes to go.

There is all to play for in this encounter, the second leg may be a classic.

The return leg of the Europa League fixtures are to take place on Thursday, February 24.

James Felton

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