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Villarreal spirit taking Spain by storm – does Europa glory also beckon?

Holly Thackeray | March 23, 2016

Yellow Submarine enter new waters

After a dramatic draw with giants Barcelona at the weekend, Villarreal have a sturdy six-point cushion ahead of both Celta Vigo and Sevilla in the scramble for the final opening in La Liga’s top four, with the first three places (though perhaps not the order) seemingly cemented.

In a strange season of surprise success stories, the Yellow Submarine are Spain’s answer to Leicester City, or perhaps more aptly in terms of jostling for fourth, West Ham United.

Amazingly, it is not so long ago that the Castellon club were stranded in the Segunda, but they do have a history, especially recently, of attracting sparkling talents to the Estadio El Madrigal, with Gerard Pique, Diego Forlan Giuseppe Rossi and Argentina cult hero Juan Roman Riquelme all having graced Villarreal’s hallways.

Not bad for a 93 years young team which only made it’s first La Liga splash in 1998 and originally rented a stadium for 60 pesetas per month.

Villarreal CF v Granada CF - La Liga - Madrigal Stadium

Now, this term, they have briefly topped the Spanish summit for the first time and are seeking a stylish finish to the season, having overcome a recent choppy patch by pinching a point from Barca.

With Coral, the Yellow Submarine are odds-on at 1/2 to make it all smooth sailing from here on out and clinch that top four spot. But, could they be a more intriguing bet as 7/1 shouts to win the Europa League?

Estadio El Madrigal menace

Villarreal look value at that price precisely because big names Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool should hold little fear on the continent. Sparta Prague are their upcoming quarter-final opponents, but the Spaniard’s have already scalped the likes of heavyweights Napoli and Bayer Leverkusen.

While, on Spanish soil, Marcelino Garcia Toral’s guys have proven incredibly stubborn, especially at home, where they have beaten Athletic Bilbao, Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Sevilla, and managed to split the spoils with Barcelona.

In their incredible comeback from 2-0 down to draw with the Liga leaders, something not even Arsenal could manage, Villarreal could even rail at injustice as superstar Neymar was gifted a penalty, even though replays revealed stopper Sergio Asenjo had touched the ball.

Villarreal CF v FC Barcelona - La Liga - El Madrigal Stadium

There was also card controversy surrounding Pique, but manager Marcelino took the positives, stating: “We were better than Barca in general. We scored two goals and matched them in everything they did which is so difficult to do. I am extremely proud of this team.

“It’s difficult to compete any better than my team did when facing so much adversity.”

While, telling press of his team’s Europa chances, he said: “The two big favourites are Borussia Dortmund and the defending champions Sevilla.

“Then they are all very good teams. I would not want to touch a Spanish team. So far we have played favourites to win the competition and we have gone forward.”

Villarreal vying for big impact

Striker Roberto Soldado, far from the Tottenham flop of recent terms has been instrumental, providing a surprising 12 assists in all competitions, as well as seven strikes.

Speaking recently, the Spanish sharpshooter was also confident in his side’s big game prowess, adding: “Against the greats we are competing very well at El Madrigal.”

Though Soldado has not been the only one to shine, as strike partner Cedric Bakambu, still 24, has fired in five in his last four outings.
Villarreal CF's striker Roberto Soldado (2-L) celebrates with teammates after scoring the opening goal against Real Madrid during their Spanish Liga Primera Division soccer match played at El Madrigal stadium, in Villarreal, eastern Spain, 13 December 2015. EFE/Juan Carlos Cardenas

The moment to strike for silverware success just might be now for the Yellow Submarine, with their impressive performers apparently being eyed.

Spain international and rampant right back Mario Gaspar is drawing attention for his excellent forays forward and looks set to be a La Roja fixture for years to come. While, talk continues to circle around Denis Suarez’s low release clause, with Barcelona supposedly set to swoop for their former schemer.

These talents, backed up by a solid spine including always reliable anchorman Bruno Soriano and solid centre back Victor Ruiz, mean Villarreal have the guile and organisation to make it a season to remember.

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