The Yellow Submarine are aiming to win their eighth home game in nine attempts when they face the Andalucians...
A storming start to the campaign has seen Villarreal emerge as Spain’s undoubted third force behind Barcelona and Real Madrid. Nevertheless, Juan Carlos Garrido’s men lie 10 and eight points respectively behind the two super powers. If catching up the top two is impossible, maintaining third spot and claiming the automatic Champions League berth that comes with it, is certainly a realistic goal.
Almeria are the next side that stand between the Yellow Submarine and the bronze medal position. Playing at El Madrigal has rarely been a problem for the east coast outfit, who have failed to win only two matches at the venue under Garrido, who took charge in the spring. The teams to frustrate Villarreal on their home surface have been Valencia and Barcelona, two teams to have progressed to the knockout stage of the Champions League.
“We must be very ambitious to maintain this level and fight for a title. We have grown stronger from last season, and the situation is even more positive now,” the coach explained to the media earlier this week. “The truth is that things are going very well, we have made a very good start and we are well positioned. Added to this is the fact that we are playing well, which makes us very happy.”
Villarreal are very much as side on the up after last season’s mediocre performance, though there is a danger that the one week lay-off might have disrupted their momentum. If the Yellow Submarine can perform to the standard they showed in the latter part of 2010, Monday’s match shouldn’t provide any worries.
Almeria could not come into 2011 any closer to the Primera Division relegation zone. The Andalucian side are locked with Malaga on only 13 points from 16 games, above their regional neighbours only because of a superior goal difference.
Unsurprisingly, this poor start to the campaign as already accounted for coach Juan Manuel Lillo, whose last match in charge of his side was an 8-0 home humbling at the hands of Barcelona. Jose Luis Oltra, who suffered relegation from the top flight at the helm of Tenerife last season, has since taken charge.
Oltra has enjoyed limited success in charge of the Andalucian side to date. He has taken charge of four Primera Division matches, beating Sevilla impressively 3-1 away from home but failing to claim three points in any of his other encounters in the dugout. Almeria did, however, finish 2010 on a positive note, defeating Mallorca 4-3 in an exciting Copa del Rey encounter a matter of days before Christmas.
Like Oltra’s Tenerife outfit from last term, there is no lack of entertainment watching the Estadio del Mediterraneo side. Goals are flying in at both ends of the field. Prior to the new coach’s arrival, Almeria had scored two goals or more only twice in 12 league encounters, they’ve since achieved this feat in each of their last two matches.
Goals are no use without the results to accompany them, and it would be a huge achievement if Almeria were to take anything from the weekend’s match in Villarreal.
Villarreal have suffered a couple of crucial blows over the Christmas break. Marcos Senna will miss much of January due to injury, while Nilmar is scheduled to be absent for a similar period.
The Andalucians haven't registered any fresh problems over the festive period. Michel, Miguel Angel Nieto and Hernan Pellerano are still worries.