The Andalucians have been going well lately, but they’ll be fully tested by los Periquitos...
Juan Carlos Garrido’s Villarreal are in terrific form, and had it not been for the frightening pace of Barcelona and Real Madrid, they would surely get more praise from the worldwide media than they are currently awarded. With 21 games gone, they boast a tally of 45 points, which is title-winning form in most leagues, but only enough for third in the Primera Division.
Finishing third now has to be the Yellow Submarine’s aim, though they are only six points back from los Blancos. Earning a spot in the top three guarantees Champions League football for next season, and given the form Garrido’s men have shown, they certainly deserve it.
El Madrigal remains a fortress under the former ‘B’ team coach. Only Valencia have prevented Villarreal picking up maximum points at the venue over the course of the season to date, and in the coach’s near year long spell at the helm of the east coast outfit, only Barcelona have won at the venue.
It’s been the away form of the players that has really given cause for optimism in recent times. A terrific success against Espanyol last weekend, which came courtesy of yet another Giuseppe Rossi screamer, left the coach proud.
“It’s difficult to envisage a better game,” Garrido explained after the win at the Cornella-El Prat, which was Villarreal’s fourth away success of the season in league play.
While Villarreal’s star has ascended once more this season, it looks increasingly likely that Levante’s will drop come the end of the campaign. Luis Garcia’s side have shown in bursts they have the ability to compete in La Liga, but ultimately they have lacked the firepower or defensive resilience to pick up points.
Optimism was gained last weekend, when a 2-0 victory over Getafe ended a five match winless streak. Los Granotes may not have seen the majority of the ball, but they were positive when they were in possession, getting plenty of shots away and scoring twice in the second half through Valdo and Felipe Caicedo.
“This is the lift we wanted,” confirmed Luis Garcia after the match. “It has served to break the dynamic and we are very happy. We have been more intense and could have scored even more goals.”
While the coach is clearly pleased with what was achieved last weekend in Valencia, he was quick to note that “what lies ahead will be very long and will make us suffer”.
Stationed in the relegation zone, three points shy of safety, now would be a bad time to become detached, so the next few weeks are liable to be pivotal to los Granotes, who won’t expect a great deal from their short trip to Villarreal this weekend.
A muscular injury will deprive Villarreal of Marco Ruben for at least the next two fixtures. Nilmar returned to the bench last weekend and could take his place. Juan Carlos, Marcos Senna and Carlos Marchena are all missing.
Felipe Caicedo is missing due to suspension, which is a big blow to los Granotes. Manolo Reina, first choice goalkeeper for much of this campaign, is doubtful due to a hamstring problem, while Juanfran should be fit.
Hector Rodas and Sergio Gonzalez are both out with hamstring injuries.