Bilbao’s victory over Man United highlights La Liga’s rising stock

Sharethematch.com looks at La Liga's rise and the Premier League's decline, as well as Steve Kean's progress at Blackburn

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Pep Guardiola's Barcelona are not the only La Liga outfit to impress in Europe Photo: The Sport Review

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La Liga replaces Premier League as the world’s best league

Manchester United’s loss to Athletic Bilbao on Thursday is just another symptom of the swing in superiority among the European leagues with La Liga replacing the Premier League as the outright best.

It has been shifting for a couple of years now, but English teams and fans have consoled themselves that Barcelona and Real were the standout two, the aberrations.

This is clearly not the case.

Athletic Bilbao are a good team and a mainstay in La Liga, currently sitting fifth, but they are not one of the real power houses.

United put out a strong team but were played off the pitch by a club that only selects players with Basque ancestry or heritage.

Whether it’s coaching, tactics, technique or fitness that is the difference, English clubs now have a tough task to close the gap, as do United in the second leg.

Blackburn Rovers boss Steve Kean deserves praise

Massive credit must be given to Steve Kean. The Blackburn Rovers manager has weathered a storm of criticism and vitriol from Blackburn fans and football writers, with even Jack Straw MP calling for his head.

Yet despite the abuse, disgusting chants and protests from fans to get him out, he remains the man in charge of saving Blackburn from relegation.

His reign has seen dramatic highs – including beating United at Old Trafford and Arsenal at Ewood Park – as well as many punishing lows.

Whenever Blackburn have suffered big defeats or come under pressure, Kean has always managed to lift them and get a result in the next game.

Take the recent 7-1 thrashing at the hands of Arsenal, which was then followed by a crucial 3-2 victory against relegation rivals Queens Park Rangers.

Blackburn face another huge clash on Saturday away to fellow strugglers Wolves, in what is the absolute definition of a six-pointer.

If Blackburn can win, then survival is more than a realistic possibility.

Whether Kean is a good manager is still questionable, but the way he has handled the tricky situation at Blackburn has been undeniably admirable.

Alex McLeish’s dismal reign at Aston Villa

Alex McLeish is on the brink at Aston Villa with the club’s recent results doing little to reverse the tide of anti-feeling towards the ex-Birmingham City manager.

As Harry Redknapp found at Southampton – after controversially arriving from arch rivals Portsmouth – fans need to be won over very, very quickly.

McLeish has been in charge for over eight months at Villa, yet the fans refuse to accept him – and poor team performances have only piled more pressure on the Scot.

Villa have been dire for most of the season, lacking any of the attacking threat they showed back when Martin O’Neill was in charge.

Only three players have scored for McLeish’s side in 2012, and one of those – Robbie Keane – has returned to America after his loan deal ended.

In contrast, Villa’s weekend opponents, Fulham, rattled five goals past Wolverhampton Wanderers at the weekend and are on a three-game winning streak.

While Villa are currently eight points clear of the relegation zone, failure to get a result at home to an impressive Fulham side on Saturday could see McLeish handed his P45.

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