Villarreal have progressed to the Europa League semi-finals after dispatching Dutch side FC Twente ruthlessly 8-2 on aggregate, setting up a mouthwatering tie against newly crowned Portuguese champions Porto. Juan Carlos Garrido’s team are on the up; they sit fourth in the La Liga standings and are on the verge of competing in the Champions League again, a competition they reached the last four in back in 2005-06. The Yellow Submarine have installed themselves as one of Spain’s top teams, and the fans at the Madrigal will pray for Europa League glory as a precursor for their return to Europe’s top tournament next season.
But what are the Castellon based side’s chances of Europa League success (online gambling sites have them as favourites ahead of the Portuguese trio)? The Spanish club have showcased scintillating and attacking football in the knockout rounds of the competition thusfar, beating some good sides in the process. Along with Twente, Garrido’s side have dispatched Serie A and the Bundesliga’s second placed teams in the form of Napoli and Bayer Leverkusen, winning three out of the four games.
The club’s strikeforce are their shining light, with Giuseppe Rossi and Nilmar forming a formidable and potent partnership. ‘Bambino’ is the club’s top goalscorer with 29 goals in all competitions this campaign and the ex-Manchester United hitman has grown in stature with the responsibility of being the club’s main goalgetter. The Italian has linked up well with Nilmar, with the Brazilian adding 18 goals of his own. Added to this are exciting midfield duo Borja Valero and Santiago Cazorla, who are key features in the Villarreal brand of attacking football.
Despite having a couple of exceptional players at his disposal, Garrido is limited by a lack of strength in depth and with a trip to the Estadio do Dragao on Thursday where the Portuguese side have looked unbeatable this season, The Yellow Submarine must get the tie back to Spain with a fighting chance of progression. Villarreal’s frailties were showcased in the club’s 5-0 capitulation at the Mestalla earlier this month, and if Hulk, Falcao etc get an early goal they will smell blood in the water and look to end the tie as a contest in the first leg.
Rossi and Nilmar have the guile and flair to score against any defence but it will be at the other end of the pitch that could see Villarreal’s European dreams fade away, as the club have conceded a worrying 52 goals in La Liga this season. Carlos Marchena, Mateo Musacchio and co must shackle Porto’s attack, and if they can do this stand a great chance of winning the tie with the Madrigal crowd at their back.
It is a safe bet to say that the most likely winner of the competition will come from this side of the draw, as both have the beating of either Benfica or Braga in the final. A solid performance in Portugal should set the tie up nicely for Spanish progression, with El Submarino Amarillo vying to bring European silverware to the Madrigal for the first time.