La Liga comes to an end: The chances for Villarreal to play in each European competition next season, explained

Villarreal is approaching a week full of highlight and under the spotlight. with everything to be decided still. Emery will field his team on Saturday (11AM CST) against Real Madrid at Valdebebas with a chance to finish fifth, sixth or seventh; four days later, The Yellow Submarine will measure up against Manchester United for their first true trophy ever in the Europa League.

Due to the multiple options Villarreal is managing based on what happens that last La Liga week, we at Villarrealnews thought it would be helpful to explain the different scenarios that could play out.

Matches of interest this Saturday:

  • Real Madrid vs Villarreal (7th)
  • Celta de Vigo vs Betis (6th)
  • Osasuna vs Real Sociedad (5th)

Basically, there are two sets of outcomes: If Villarreal win the Europa League, La Liga’s finish doesn’t matter when it comes to European competition. If they don’t, several possible options comes into play.

If Villarreal wins the Europa League: Emery’s men will qualify to the Champions League for the 2021/22 season, regardless of what they end up doing in La Liga. Spain will then have five teams in the Champions League next season.

If Villarreal loses: The scenarios are varied–multiple things could happen if La Liga is the only path for the Yellow Submarine to play in Europe next year.

  • Europa Conference League: Villarreal has, at the very least, already ensured his participation in this competition. The worst case scenario is that they play the Conference League if they either lose to Real Madrid, tie but Betis AND Real Sociedad tie or win, or win–but Betis AND Real Sociedad win as well.
  • Europa League: Villarreal could qualify to the second tier of European competition if:
    • They tie against Real Madrid, and Betis lose. A tie would not do anything to place above Real Sociedad as they have the direct goal average tied, and the overall goal average that counts after that is +20 for Sociedad and +17 for Villarreal. However, if Celta de Vigo beats Betis at home and Villarreal manages a point in Valdebebas, Villarreal will end the season in sixth position.
    • They beat Real Madrid, and Betis OR Real Sociedad don’t win: Villarreal could even finish fifth in this scenario. A win against Zidane’s team would mean Villarreal would end fifth if both Betis AND Real Sociedad don’t win, or sixth if only one of them wins. A win in Madrid is unlikely as Real is playing for their only title chance this season, but everything is possible.

Other news from the past couple of days as we inch closer to the final in Gdansk:

  • It seems as Rulli will play the Europa League final after all. Even though Asenjo had been featuring in the last few La Liga matches (and done so quite well actually), our own research showed that Emery usually gives the Europa League goalkeeper the chance to play the final too–even if it means that player has a 2-3 week break between semifinal and final. It happened with Beto and Soria at Sevilla in two of the three finals Emery won down South. He confirmed it in yesterday’s press conference: Rulli will be on goal on the 26th.
  • Juan Foyth is also likely to play next Wednesday, Samu is unlikely. The Argentinean showed at training on Tuesday and even conducted exercises with the team for about 15 minutes. He is looking fit and will use every bit of the next seven days to get ready for the final.
  • Chukwueze is looking less likely to feature–it will likely be a day-of decision. Much like Manchester United’s Harry Maguire, actually. There were soem false accounts that he was ready to go and training–that’s not the case.
  • Carlos Bacca was front and center this week after his hat-trick against Sevilla last weekend in La Liga. The Colombian has one year left in his contract, and the rumors are he may look for another team where he can play more this summer. A lot of chatter ensured this week as well around whether he or Paco Alcacer should start against Manchester United. Some are saying Alcacer should play as he is the higher-caliber player, but others are asking for Carlos to start as he is the one who is in form. Whoever you see playing against Real Madrid, will likely feature on Wednesday.
  • The numbers don’t lie though: Bacca has nine goals in all competitions this season, scoring a goal every 145 minutes; Alcacer has scored 12 goals in 2020/21, but he has done so through seeing more playing time–a goal every 177 minutes. He does link up with the team better though, as he has assisted in five occasions, against two by the Colombian.
  • On the 15th of this month, we celebrated the 24th anniversary of Fernando Roig’s purchase of the majority stake of Villarreal. If you’d like to know more about Roig’s tenure in Vila-real, check out my piece on his life with the club here.

Moments in Villarreal History. Part 2. Fernando Roig: 400,000 Euros and a lifetime loving Villarreal.

May 15, 1997.

A wave of chance sweeps Vila-real.

The team of Villarreal and the town of Vila-real were little more than just another name on the list of many teams and towns that made up the Spanish Second Division. A charming team in a small town that every now and again made the news, if only casually. A well-played Spanish Cup leg against a First Division team. An anecdotal temporary first place in the Second Division. A player who looked good, to be inevitably poached in the summer by a better team, one higher-up in the ladder.

Villarreal’s club profile looked vastly different than the what one can see now: 

– Ticket holders: Approximately 3,000–roughly a seventh of 2021

– Club annual budget: 2 million Euro, about 2% of the current one

– Club valuation: Roughly 400,000 Euros. The club is now worth over 200 million.

The stadium was not La Ceramica; it was El Madrigal. The training facilities of Miralcamp and Pamesa, both based in Vila-real, flat out did not exist. When it rained, there was a need to find a pitch to train on, anywhere possible, ideally with a roof over it. 

Different times.

Pascual Font de Mora gave everything for this club, and in his infinite wisdom, realized new blood was needed–but the right kind. In stepping down, he went on a search for a leader who would care, who would put his own ambition, and sweat equity, into the club. 

That idea did not come to fruition right away, though. The truth is, a television network almost took ownership of the club. Grupo Zeta, a group that owned the national network Antena 3, was interested. Talks were advanced. Font de Mora was reluctanct to sell, as the group was not based in Vila-real, and it was important for the president and others to have an owner with a local presence.

Eventually, Grupo Zeta backed out of the offer, and left Villarreal in a situation where they had to restart the search to find the right person. Back to square one. 

It was Christmas, 1996. 

Through the months that followed, club man Jose Manuel Llaneza took notice of a businessman who lived in the same town he lived; a man with ownership experience in other sports, like basketball. He was the president of Pamesa Valencia in those times.

Fernando Roig was a man from a family with resources; a soccer family, too. His brother had just resigned the presidency of Valencia, one of two eternal rivals, but who in the 90s was nothing more than an annoying cousin Villarreal was jealous of. 

Fernando Roig welcomed the conversation. As he said years later, “I did not choose Villarreal. Villarreal signed me.”

A few months later, the businessman sat next to Pascual Font de Mora, and at a press conference at local restaurant Avenida 41, made the announcement: Roig was the new president. 

The amount? A little over 400,000 Euros, or 70 million “Pesetas,” Spain’s old currency, for exactly 78% of the stock of the club. 

Rivers of ink followed from the local press. What were Roig’s intentions with the club? Did he understand the long-term goals of the club? Was he willing to put his money where his mouth was and invest in the team?

Roig showed his intentions from day one. In the press conference, he stated he was “here not to create a boys’ club or steamroll other people in the organization.” He was there to “spend money in Villarreal Club de Futbol.”

Even though the initial response from the locals was mostly positive, Roig still had an important side to convince: the passionate, committed, vocal supporter groups, or “penyes,” from the region. They were not so sure about the new owner. 

Roig knew he needed to talk directly and openly to them, take the temperature in the room, and make sure that the supporter groups accepted his purchasing of the club. He put together a meeting with the main groups, and made his intentions, once again, clear as water: “I want to promote this club to the First Division within the next two seasons.” 

A lot of those groups were excited about Roig’s ambition, but also thought he was crazy. A team that had never been promoted could do so in two years, with a more than modest budget in the 90s, back when La Liga was without question becoming the top league in the continent, promoted?

Roig was wrong. The team would not be promoted in its second season. 

He did it in one year.

Roig’s ambition soaked through the town: over 5,000 supporters signed up for a season pass, and higher-caliber players joined the Yellow Submarine. Andres Palop, on loan from Valencia; Thomas Christiansen, ex-Barcelona and a Spanish international; Alberto Saavedra and others ended up in Vila-real and under the management of Jose Antonio Irulegui, who remained in the bench from the previous season. The team managed the impossible and got promoted after a magical night in Compostela. 

Llaneza, years later, admitted that “Without Roig, Villarreal would not be in the First Division.” Andres Palop, the very first La Liga star goalkeeper in Villarreal, remembers how committed the president always was. “From day one, his ambition was contagious. He was always looking out for us, too. If it rained, he would be the first one to go out and find us a place to train indoors until the training facilities were built. He always had advice for us.”

His eye for business and his love for soccer married in Vila-real, and created a partnership that lasts to this day. Roig knows he is human, and understands making mistakes is part of being a leader. “A good club owner is one who makes good decisions most of the time, and when he makes a bad decision, is able to look back and learn from it.”

He also understands that as an owner, it is good when local competition does well, too. In a local interview in 2007, he spoke of the “Importance for local teams around Villarreal to be as high-up in the ladder as possible. The better Castellon, Valencia, Villarreal are doing, the better for the Valencian Community at large.”

In his 24 years in charge, players, staff and fans have spoken on endless occasions about the impact Fernando Roig had in Villarreal. He both exemplifies the passion and ambition of a local club to do well, but do well by doing the right things. Players took notice, and after key players in the first La Liga season like Victor Fernandez, Gica Craioveanu or Andres Palop himself, others followed. 

Marcos Senna, the club’s current ambassador, is probably the biggest advocate for what good management can do to weigh in on a player’s decision to sign. “Llaneza came to Brazil, and convinced me to sign. I met Roig for the first time at my presentation in Vila-real. He was very warm, always joking and talkative. He was one of us.”

“They have treated me so well,” stated the Spanish-Brazilian ex-player to Mediterraneo a few years back. “In Brazil, it would be impossible for me to have a gate named after me. That gesture is forever.”

“Everything he has planned, he has achieved,” 

What he planned, and his impact in Villarreal is not up for debate: Three promotions. A second place finish in La Liga. A remodeled stadium, La Ceramica, with capacity for over 23,000 fans. Five European semifinals, including the famous Champions League battle against Arsenal in 2006. Two brand new, top of the line training facilities.

The beautification of the neighborhood surrounding La Ceramica, and the construction of a square next to the stadium in honor of Pascual Font de Mora. In the plans, a high-standing restaurant inside of La Ceramica, and a museum about the history of the club. 

As Roig himself puts it, “It is nice to look back, but the important thing is to look at the next 20 years. They will be better, and more important, than what is behind us.” 

Immediately in front of him, in that trajectory, is a final. The final he has been looking for since May 15, 1997. And a European final, no less. Regardless of what happens on May 26 in Gdansk, Poland, Roig’s intentions are to keep going. To ask for more, but to be the first leading on that by example. 

If previous behavior is an indicator of what’s to come for Villarreal after this final, all we need to do is look back at his comments after his first relegation from La Liga, and his intentions to come back again, as soon as possible. After Roig gets to a landmark for the club, he moves the goalpost and asks for more. 

“When one has tried Jamon Iberico, the Serrano one tastes dull.”

Sources: Villarrealnews.com, Onda Cero, Mediterraneo

Time for Luis Enrique to call his Euro squad: How many Villarreal players will he bring?

Whether you like it or not, domestic leagues are coming to an end and summer is approaching. In an odd-ending year, that would mean long breaks, pre-season tournaments, traveling to foreign markets to build brand, and lots and lots of transfer rumors. 

In 2021 and on the (hopefully) tail-end of the COVID pandemic, it means the 2020 Euros which the soccer world was not able to enjoy last year. 

This weirdly placed Euro is a bit of an afterthought for a lot of people, as it will happen fast and furious in between congested seasons, but fans from every country will find a way to cheer for their teams, even if remotely, as this Euro will be the first one held in multiple countries, which means very little chances fans will be able to travel. 

With matches in over a half dozen countries, some of them will get lucky to play the entirety of their group stage matches in their country. Spain is one of those cases. La Roja will play all three matches in Bilbao.

With that in mind, and just a few weeks to the Euros, it is time for Luis Enrique to make his choice: who will he bring to the tournament? The manager will make his final list on May 27th, a day after the Europa League final, and once the leagues have ended.

That brings us to Villarreal. Several players have featured for the national side in the past few months, but there are others who are knocking on the door. The Asturian manager is well known for giving chances to young players who perform well, and Villarreal has definitely enjoyed some of those players in a historic past couple of months.

With that in mind, we walk you through the players we believe have a chance, minimally or almost ensured, to play in the Euros next month. 

Pau Torres: Our local centerback has been featuring for Luis Enrique as a solid starting defender unless when injured, as it was the case in March. Laporte has just recently pledged to play for Spain, which means Pau has even more serious competition on defense, but the first ever Vila-real player to feature for Spain should still be included in the list of 26 players for Bilbao. Featured last in the 6-0 thrashing of Germany last year. Chances: All of them.

Gerard Moreno. Another no-brainer. Moreno is the second top scorer in La Liga, and has a goals per shot ratio that currently almost halves Messi’s (a goal every four shots for one out of seven of the Argentinean). Moreno is also the highest Spanish scorer in La Liga in seven years, since Diego Costa’s 27 goals in 2013/14. Played last against Kosovo in March, where he scored. Chances: All of them

Albiol: Pau’s dancing couple in the center of the defense is enjoying a second youth with a season in which he has played everything and has led Emery’s men to their first final, ever. The experience of a World Cup and Euro Cup (twice) winner will prove vital in the final in Gdansk, but until then, there is a slim chance Raul gets recognition for his solid season with a call from Luis Enrique. Laporte, Eric Garcia, Pau Torres, maybe Ramos and others are probably ahead of him, but Raul has certainly done his bit to at least ask the question. Last he featured for Spain was in the 2019 Euro qualifiers. Chances: Some.

Parejo: Villarreal’s core has had a long and demanding season, and has responded every single time. 51 matches speak to a 32-year-old midfielder who knows how he can impact matches, and makes sure to utilize his energy and experience to do just that. Spain has plenty of talent in the midfield, but Parejo, even though his last match for the national team was two years ago, has what it takes to add to the side. Luis Enrique looks at players having good moments, and Parejo is definitely having one. Chances: Some

Sergio Asenjo: Villarreal’s eternal goalkeeper, and one who has gone through injury and recovery countless times, Sergio has only featured for La Roja once in 2016, in a friendly against Bosnia, and one could argue he deserves another chance to be there. Good performances, the latest against Sevilla with several quality saves in 20 minutes, argue in his favor. A lot of competition on goal for Asenjo, including his rival De Gea in the final next week, but he has earned being in the conversation.  Chances: Slim.

Yeremy Pino is the underdog. The 18-year-old from the Canary Islands is having a great end of the season, and is someone who could prove decisive in the dying minutes of the team’s Europa League final. He’s featured in 35 matches this season, and surprisingly even scored six goals in his debut season. Won the Under-21 Euro. Chances: Slim.

Pedraza has proven to be a dagger on the left wing for Villarreal, and he is attracting attention from English and Italian clubs. He knows how to break the rival’s defense and could be a great supersub, but faces a lot of competition. Another recent Under-21 Euro winner. Chances: Slim to none.

Manu Trigueros has spent a lifetime in Vila-real, and even though he can be reckless at times, he definitely has enough talent to be in the 26. Trigueros has never had a chance, but he is in one of the best forms of his career. Chances: Slim to none.

Moments in Villarreal History. Part 1. Pascual Font de Mora: A whole life devoted to Villarreal.

“Don’t worry, I’m leaving the club in good hands.” Pascual Font de Mora responded this way to the many journalists wondering why, after decades of work at Vila-real and for Villarreal, Pascual was calling it quits. In their eyes, the eternal president was giving up, giving his treasure away, and doing so to someone who could not possibly care more about the club than his biggest fan, leader, and protector. It was May 15, 1997.

Font de Mora was that and more to Villarreal. He was born in Vila-real in April 1929. Even though many still remember him as a president or board member of the Yellow Submarine, the oldest vila-realencs will remind you that Font de Mora was, before all that, a player for the club. His father, who owned a pharmacy, would brag about his son and his future as a soccer player. As a teenager, he played for a couple of lower-league clubs, to then sign for Club Atletico Foghetecaz Villarreal shortly after it was created.

Years later, that club would change its name to Villarreal Club de Futbol. Font de Mora played for Villarreal’s eternal rival, Castellon, before coming back to the poble. There, the tall and skinny left winger stole the heart of the small local fanbase by helping with two promotions, the last one to Spain’s Third Division. He spent over ten years playing at the club. He never had the intention to leave. 

It was a love story. 

After twelve years playing in Vila-real and hiso official retirement, Pascual stayed at the club, helping with administrative and board-related duties, and eventually becoming the president of his beloved club. His biggest impact came here: he promoted the club again in five different occasions, the last one, a promotion to the Second Division of Spain, in the 1991/92 season. Villarreal was starting to make waves.

In 1997, and with the club changing his organization to a limited liability corporation (Sociedad Anónima Deportiva, or S.A.D.) an almost 70 year-old Font de Mora decided it was time. Time to pass the baton to a leader with more energy, with different ambitions, with the willingness to take the club to the next level. 

If you walk around the La Ceramica stadium, you will find a quaint square that dwarfs in comparison to a structure with capacity for 23,000 fans: The Pascual Font de Mora Square. The plaza reminds you of the yesteryear stadiums where one could sit almost next to the manager and ask him who he was thinking about subbing in. Where mud and playing with a used ball were the norm, and where the heart and passion of players and presidents like Font de Mora moved mountains.

A Mediterraneo reporter in 2005, when Font de Mora passed at age 75, cited British poet William Wordsworth to help him make a point of who, in his eyes, Font de Mora was: 

“Though nothing can bring back the hour

Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower; 

We will grieve not, rather find

Strength in what remains behind”

“El Kaiser,” as he was known, wanted a Villarreal that would “Cross borders, a team that would be known in the entire world,” as his own daughter admitted in later years.

With that in mind, Font de Mora made sure that what remained behind was a club anxious for more. All he had to do was find someone to guide it there. 

Enter Fernando Roig. 

Research: Villarrealnews.com, Onda Cero, Mediterraneo.

[Match Report] Villarreal 4-0 Sevilla: Bacca and 10 more

Usually, when a team is close to a historic match for the club, the idea in the weeks leading up to it is to play things safe, to give bench players more minutes to prove themselves, and unless the need is there in the other competitions, save, as much possible, the starting eleven for that crucial event.

Yesterday, at La Ceramica, and due to the need Villarreal had to keep the three points in Vila-real to opt to the Europa League next season, especially if the final does not go their way, Emery did feature some starting players. Pau and Albiol in the center of the defense, Parejo as the creator paired with Trigueros, and Gerard Moreno, who wanted to increase his goal tally in La Liga, all started.

Emery did have to get creative in some instances, however. Funes Mori, a left centerback, had to play as a rightback; Moi Gomez was placed in midfield, where Capoue or Coquelin would usually play, and Bacca and Yeremy Pino starting from the beginning to add to an attack led by Moreno.

Opposite to Villarreal was Sevilla, who tried to go after the game from the first minute, and push Barcelona in the third position, but who could not capitalize on the talent on the grass to take anything home.

Even though the first twenty minutes of the match had Lopetegui’s men own the clear chances, an inspired Sergio Asenjo took care of business and made multiple acrobatic saves as De Jong, Ocampos and company watched the goalkeeper’s show. Sevilla took a small break to come up for air, and Villarreal took advantage of the situation with a well-placed header by Carlos Bacca, after a corner taken by Parejo. Sevilla looked confused, and Bacca celebrated with the crowd. The Colombian’s celebration seemed meaningful, sending a message to the crowd, and pointing his fingers to the sky.

Just like that, the first half came and went, and the second one started the best way possible for Villarreal. Gerard Moreno acted as a playmaker this time around, and with a millimetric pass to Bacca into space, enabled the striker to score with a classic “9” finish around the goalkeeper.

Right after the two first goals, and with Sevilla out of place and wondering how they got there, Diego Carlos saw two yellow cards, and left Sevilla scrambling to regroup. Lopetegui’s men officially took themselves out of the match.

With the team liking itself and enjoying the crowd, the two goals that followed both occurred in taking advantage of blatant mistakes by the Sevilla defense. Villarreal showed efficiency that will be very much needed against Manchester United if the trophy is to come to Vila-real.

The last goal of the match confirmed Bacca’s hat-trick, and gave the Colombian an opportunity to give the club and the fans at the stadium a parting gift to his home of the past four years. Carlos Bacca performed a master class on what a striker does for a living.

Overall, and even with Sevilla’s red card and an ample advantage, the Yellow Submarine continued to opt for a counter-attack style of play that produced the desired outcomes. After the match finished, the score showed a 4-0 win that shows Villarreal perhaps did not earn the kind of victory that was announced, and confirms that a few players are in amazing form at the moment–today especially, Sergio Asenjo, and Gerard Moreno.

The former keeps putting Emery in a bit of a pickle by having to pick Rulli for the Europa League final, when Sergio is performing amazing in Liga; the latter, with another goal that keeps him plugged in–three goals in the past three La Liga matches, and 23 goals in 32 matches this season in the competition. Gerard Moreno is officially, and has been for a while now, a world-class striker who can very well match up to Cavani and his Manchester United.

However, yesterday belonged to someone else. Special mention to Carlos Bacca, an example of someone who has amazing talent, but also knows how to be a leader in the locker, and out on the pitch when given the opportunity. Today, he scored three goals, all different, and showed he still has it. What’s more, he showed he can be a very good super-sub in a match as important as the one in Poland in two weeks. 

A final is a matter of taking advantage of specific moments, and Bacca could very well do that if given a chance and if the match requires it.

The 34 year old is looking at options for the summer, one of them being Boca Juniors in Argentina, but that does not mean he lacks concentration when he is needed. He ended a crucial match with a hat-trick, and one goal away from double digits this season. 

Bacca spoke after the match and admitted he was “Happy. In this difficult moment for me, this gives me happiness, to me and my family. I’ve been through two hard weeks–I lost a family member, my dad tested positive two weeks ago, my sister, too. I kept it inside, I don’t think anyone in the team knew this.”

The last great news for the local team comes in the shape of 5,000 fans of Villarreal, but this time not cardboard cut-outs that have “lived” at La Ceramica for over a year, but fans in the flesh, who came to the stadium for the first time since early 2020. 

The fans were welcomed back into La Ceramica for the first time in over 400 days, and the team definitely felt its support and warmth through most of the match. There were some moments where the vibe was a bit sterile, but that also has to do with thousands of fans who still need to get into the flow of things–just like a team does in pre-season. 

We’ll all get there. For now, three golden points, and now, the aim is to put pressure on Real Sociedad and Betis in the last game of the season against a certain Real Madrid, and next, to look at Poland in a match that will happen 72 hours afterwards–since La Liga declined the club’s request to play on Saturday. As Fernando Roig Negueroles admitted, La Liga told him the change in day would not be happening to not conflict with the Eurovision song contest. 

You read right. 

The best: The team showed it has players in form beyond the starting eleven, and that could be crucial in the final. Bacca punched his ticket as a supersub for Poland.The worst: The first 20 minutes were not good defensively, and so many chances against Cavani or Fernandes will not end well.

The worst: The first 20 minutes were not good defensively, and so many chances against Cavani or Fernandes will not end well. 

Valladolid 0-2 Villarreal: With a big-club win, Villarreal takes Pucela and three vital points

A serious and laser-focused Villarreal took home a victory out of a difficult stadium, both historically for the Yellow Submarine, and also taking into account the home team’s current circumstances, yesterday at Valladolid. 

Sergio’s men needed to at least retain a point to keep in the better side of a relegation battle that gets tighter by the week, but Villarreal’s serenity to navigate the match’s difficult moments, and his ability to capitalize when the tide turned in its favor prevented that.

Villarreal fielded its usual starting eleven, bar Moi Gomez coming in for Chukwueze, injured, and Peña on the right for Foyth, with the same luck.

A good start and a scare

Villarreal managed the first 30 minutes pretty efficiently, keeping the ball and attempting to thread together a play that would break Valladolid’s defense, without Kiko Olivas from the start (who came from Villarreal’s youth system), but still with a solid network of defenders and defensive midfielders ready to destroy.

So much so, that local team’s Yamiq, with a dangerous, shin-high, flat-footed tackle on Moreno, saw a yellow card that will make him miss the next vital match away to Real Sociedad this weekend. The tackle was absolutely terrifying to watch to any Villarreal fans, as a Moreno injury for two weeks could have meant the star of the team would have missed the Europa League final.

Villarreal’s light went out for the rest of the first half after that tackle, and Valladolid actually had a few chances through Weissman, good on the movements the entire match, but unable to make a chance stick. The striker born in Israel has scored six goals this season, and at this point is playing because Sergio doesn’t really have any other pure strikers.

A second half to show intent, and a record broken

Villarreal came out in the second half ready to ask hard questions of Valladolid’s back-four, and after Emery took off Alcacer to bring Yeremy Pino, as the striker just seemed off yesterday (he often does), the 18 year old helped jolt his team back into focus. 

Villarreal seemed more vertical, chances starting to come, and 20 minutes into the first half, Pau Torres, through a long pass over the local defense, enabled Moreno, who while getting grabbed, shoved and pressured, still managed his signature move to receive with his back to goal, pivot from the outside in, and shoot, low and hard. Roberto couldn’t do much, and with that goal, Villarreal was again in the fight for the Top 6.

The goal also meant that Gerard Moreno is now the top scorer for Villarreal in La Liga–ever. 55 goals means he is one over Giuseppe Rossi and Diego Forlan, both with 54. Good company for the Catalan striker.

Capoue to finish things up

One would think that Moreno’s goal would have pushed Valladolid to go for it and try to get a point back, but Sergio’s men showed why they have won one match in the last 19, and presented no alternatives to put up a fight. Asenjo only made two saves in the entire match.

What’s more, towards the end of the 90 minutes, and with time running out, Manu Trigueros assisted for the 7th time this season, and Capoue, with a calm and low show to the near post, beat Roberto again to certify the win, and score his first goal for the club. 

Great news for a player who has been vital since Coquelin’s injury, and who actually will not be able to play against Sevilla this weekend, as two minutes before his goal, got his fifth yellow card. Emery is hoping Coquelin will recover in time.

What this means for the Top 6 fight

The week was a good one for Villarreal’s intentions to finish Top 6 and secure a Europa League spot (7th place gets Conference League). The club is still seventh with 55 points, but Betis, tied with the Yellow Submarine (but with better head-to-head), and Real Sociedad, a point ahead and in fifth position, await.

For Valladolid, the Pucelanos sit in relegation spots, and two points away from survival. The last two matches are dire: Real Sociedad away, and Atletico Madrid, at home. 

Luckily, the next two matches, even though they are high-caliber, will also be, in theory, not dig-in, get-your-claws-out relegation contenders–Sevilla at home, and Real Madrid away. Hopefully that means no out-of-order tackles, and no injuries for the final in Poland.

Villarreal should be able to play his brand of soccer, try to get a win out of a Sevilla that doesn’t play to win the title anymore (but wants to finish third for Spanish Supercup reasons), and see if there is a chance to steal a point at the Bernabeu.

Lo bueno: Moreno is the top scorer for the club in La Liga, and is three goals away from breaking the record as well in all competitions. Here’s hoping that happens with a Europa League final hat-trick!

Lo malo: I like Peña, but he made some clear mistakes and gave the ball to the opposition in his own half. Can’t happen in Gdansk if he plays.

The stats don’t lie: Key Villarreal performers in La Liga, and why

As Villarreal gets ready to play a vital match against a Valladolid much needed for points, we look at the official La Liga stats to see where the impact this season has been. In combing through the data, some insights prove obvious, but others are quite surprising, or rather, reinforcing Emery’s dependency on a few key players.

So, what does the data say?

The impact of the Pau/Albiol partnership

In terms of overall team numbers, Villarreal excels in a few departments, but also makes obvious that some help is needed for next season in specific areas. Overall, the data points to Emery’s men being soft on defense–Villarreal is the 3rd worst team in terms of interceptions, with 51 per match. In that department, a creative player like Parejo, with 41 steals, is their top player, even though he is number 27 in the global La Liga standing for that stat. Next in line are Estupiñan and Pedraza, with 35 and 34 interceptions respectively, not even in the top 50 for the competition overall.

The lack of physicality in the team is obvious also in fouls committed. If a team is in the bottom spots when it comes to interceptions, you would expect that some fouls would make up for that lack of success in stealing the ball–but here again, Villarreal is the 3rd worse, with roughly 12 fouls per match. Here’s the formula:

Bottom three in interceptions + bottom three in committed fouls = a lot of chances for the opposition to try to score.

That should translate into goals conceded, but here is where the team excels–Villarreal is the 4th best team in La Liga when it comes to winning balls in the air. The Pau/Albiol partnership have a lot to do with this, and they both sit top of the standings in that department. Villarreal wins around 52 aerial challenges every match, and that means the team does not concede as many goals as they otherwise would, sitting 8th best, with 42 goals conceded. 

That points to a potential challenge this summer: if Albiol needs to take longer rest periods due to his age (35), and Pau leaves for the Premier League or a top team in Spain, Villarreal will likely suffer. The height (6′ 0′) of Aissa Mandi, experienced French centerback coming on a free from Betis this summer, should help with that. 

Mandi is also more exciting to watch when it comes to tackles, and often goes for a 90’s-style diving effort to clear the ball, something that Albiol and Pau don’t do that much. I believe the Frenchman should increase Villarreal’s numbers of both interceptions–and based on his defending style, probably fouls committed.

The team is also 16th in yellow cards, with less than two per match, which makes sense when you iterate the lack of commitment when it comes to taking the ball away from the opponent unless it is absolutely necessary. Instead the decision to sit tight, let the other team get close, and hope Pau and Albiol do their thing.

Moreno is key up front–even more than expected

When one looks at the Pichichi (La Liga top scorer) race, it makes sense to think that Gerard Moreno is the key man for Villarreal–but the dependency goes way beyond goals. The catalan striker, who this week tied for most goals in La Liga with the yellow shirt (equaling Diego Forlan and Giuseppe Rossi’s 54 goals in the competition) is either top or in the podium of the list in a few categories:

  • Goals scored: 21 (1st in the team, 2 in La Liga)
  • Shots on goal: 45 (1st in the team, 3rd in La Liga)
  • Assists: 5 (2nd in the team, 20th in La Liga)
  • Successful dribbles: 65 (1st in the team, 4th in La Liga)

The absolute need to rely on Moreno is exacerbated when one looks at the rest of the team’s performance: the next scorer in La Liga is Paco Alcacer, with six goals; the next shooter, the striker from Torrente again, with 20 attempts on goal.

Overall, Villarreal is 4th in shots on goal, only behind the top 3, attempting 4.3 shots per match–and almost 40% of those are Gerard Moreno’s. The club is also 4th in goals-per-shot-attempted, with 18% of attempts on goal ending as such, and Moreno is a huge asset in that category as well, with an insane 47% of shots on goal ending in one.

Gerard is an amazing player who will probably leave this summer or next. His stats are just amazing, and the player is getting to the point where his last big contract may happen now or never. We compared him to the mighty Lionel Messi for the sake of it, and a few things were surprising to see:

  • Gerard Moreno has scored 21 goals, and Messi, 29 of them.
  • However, Messi has played roughly five and a half matches more than Moreno, and adjusted to minutes per goal, the Villarreal striker scores every 116 minutes, and the Argentinean, every 101 minutes.
  • The most impactful insights comes in terms of total attempts to score/goals ratio. Gerard Moreno has to do more with the chances he has, and has managed to take a shot a total of 73 times this season. Lionel Messi has done it 135 times–almost double.

This means a statistic almost unreal–29% of Moreno’s total shots end in goal. Messi’s percentage is 21%. Benzema is at 23%, En-Nesyri at 28%, and Luis Suarez, at 25%. Gerard Moreno is the most efficient of La Liga’s top five strikers. 

Parejo is vital, and the wings, a great complement to Moreno

Not far on importance to the team is Dani Parejo, on top of the ladder in total passes (2,466 total number, 3rd in La Liga), total minutes (2,857, 22nd in La Liga), and dribbles (34 successful ones, Top 50 in La Liga). The midfielder is one of the main reasons Villarreal sits 4th in the competition in total passes, accounting for roughly 14% of the team’s total tally.

Special mentions go to both Moi Gomez and Samu Chukwueze, both in the top three for the team in goals (four each), shots on goal (11 each), and dribbles (the Nigerian is second with 39 successful ones).

Overall, the stats don’t lie: The Pau/Albiol partnership, Parejo in the midfield, and Moreno up top are the main reason Villarreal is where they are; but there is a need for more physicality especially in the midfield to keep the opposition at bay and concede even less. 

Moi and Chukwueze on the wings give the team the verticality it needs to get Moreno just enough chances to get close to goal. A strong back four does the rest.

Source: laliga.com

He likes red cards: Profile on the Frenchman who will officiate the Europa League final.

It made the news last night: the French press announced yesterday that 38-year-old  referee Clement Turpin will officiate the Europa League final on May 26th in Gdansk, Poland. The Villarreal-Manchester United matchup will be mediated by someone with ample experience in Europe and in Ligue 1, but also by someone who, as of late, has been surrounded by some controversy.

Turpin is considered the #1 referee in France, but has been more of a protagonist in a few matches this season. Beyond some fairly uneventful ones, like the 0-1 Porto win over Chelsea in London, or the 2-0 Liverpool win over Red Bull Leipzig in the round of 16, Turpin made world soccer news earlier this month when he sent off four players with a direct red card after a fight broke out in the Lyon win at Monaco’s stadium for 2-3, a match that left the home team out of the title race.

The referee attracted criticism, fairly or unfairly, from both sides for days after the aforementioned match. A few days later, it happened again in Ligue 1 when he sent off Lens’ Clement Michelin in a match that ended with a 0-3 loss at home to Lille, fighting for the title at the moment. 

That loss, three days ago, hinders Lens’ push to qualify for European soccer next season. Goalkeeper Jean-Louis Leca was clear in saying that the performance by the referee was “a scandal.”

Here’s what followed, and a very important piece of information for Villarreal for the final: The goalkeeper followed by stating that “The problem today in France is that when referees make a mistake here, they are criticized; and when they go see the camera they are judged and then criticized. So, referees here in France do not go see VAR.” Social media and journalists both said that Turpin had “Killed the match.”

Beyond the past month, Turpin has been a regular feature in Ligue 1 refereeing, especially in big matches, having mediated in matches for Paris Saint Germain more than any other team in the division. The Frenchman is also the only referee from his country officiating in Euro 2020.

If there is something we should highlight in looking at his refereeing history, is the amount of cards and penalties he has called. He seems to be trigger happy. 

See the Transfermarkt data below for his entire record as a referee. We have compared his record to two top referees like Lahoz and Taylor:

  • 1 red card every 3.5 matches (Mateu Lahoz: 4.4) (Anthony Taylor: 5.3)
  • 1 penalty called every 3 matches (Mateu Lahoz: 4.2) (Anthony Taylor: 3.2)
  • 3.2 yellow cards per match (Mateu Lahoz: 4.6) (Anthony Taylor: 3.4)

The trend is clear: The Spaniard and Englihsman like to show more yellow cards as a way to control the match, whereas the Frenchman seems to enjoy showing the red card more often.

If we isolate the Europa League for Turpin, things get a bit worse: 11 red cards in 22 matches, or a red card every 2 matches.  

Do as you wish with this information, but personally, I would warn the Villarreal players of two things: Do not give this referee a reason to even have to decide whether to give you a red card, and be careful inside the box, as he is more likely to call a penalty. Also, try to avoid getting into arguments with other players, as the wrong hand movement or a specially sensitive player who goes down for a mild shove or something of the sorts may end up getting you sent off.

In terms of specific history with Villarreal and Manchester, Turpin refereed the 0-1 Villarreal win over Sporting CP in Portugal (one red card, by the way), and mediated two matches with Manchester United; against FC Copenhague in 2020, and Sevilla in 2018.

Regardless of the record, with the amount of heat that Turpin has received in the past 11 days between these two matches, it is, at the very least, curious to see UEFA appoint the French referee to the Europa League final. Whatever happens, the decision has been made, and the Frenchmen will mediate between Villarreal and Manchester United.

Champions League, Europa League, and Europa Conference League: Breaking down who qualifies for what in La Liga

If there is something the Superleague coup showed the sport is that European soccer is changing, and every year, new rules to existing competitions keep getting added. Every now and again, even new competitions are added as well. 

The Intertoto came and went in the early 00s, the UEFA Cup got rebranded and re-formatted as Europa League, and as of next year, there will be a new tournament: The UEFA Europa Conference League. Excited? Sure you are.

This brand new competition will sit right below the Europa League, and it will be a new opportunity for those straggler teams who don’t make the top spots in their domestic leagues, but still have a primal need to play 50 matches per season. Yay.

Something that became clear to me through the introduction of this new competition was that I had no idea who qualified for what between the Champions League, Europa League, and Conference League. I took it upon myself to look at the UEFA rules in Spain, and I come to you with just that: the comprehensive list of who qualifies for what in La Liga, taking into account all scenarios. 

So, grab some popcorn, play that shitty Europa League Champions-League-wannabe anthem on your phone, and read on.

  • UEFA Champions League: As it has been the case for the past couple of years, the top four teams in La Liga will qualify, with no need for any pre-qualifying rounds, into the group stages of the top European competition. This without a doubt will be Atletico, Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Sevilla, although not necessarily in that order.
  • UEFA Europa League: Fifth place will automatically play in this competition. As of right now, that is Real Sociedad. The winner of the Copa del Rey also plays this tournament, but since the winner of the Spanish Cup was Barcelona, and Barcelona will play in the Champions League, the honor goes to 6th place. As of this article, Betis is number six in La Liga, so that would go to Pellegrini’s men.
  • UEFA Conference League: The third tier of European soccer will invite seventh place in La Liga, with a qualifying round being played on August 19th and 26th to get into a group stage that will surely include very few top teams in the continent. However, because of the craziness of the English Premier League, this competition could see a Tottenham or Liverpool, for instance.

But wait–there’s more! Here comes Villarreal with the combo breaker. If Villarreal lose in the Europa League final, everything stays the same. IF Villarreal happens to win the tournament, and:

  • They finish 5th or 6th: They qualify to the Champions League as Europa League winners, bringing the number of Spanish teams in the top competition to five, and the other team in the Top 6 would qualify to the Europa League, and 7th, to the Conference League. So basically, Spain would gain a CL spot, and lose an EL spot.
  • They finish 7th: Villarreal qualifies to the Champions League, 5th and 6th qualify to the Europa League, and there would be no Spanish teams in the Conference League.
  • They finish 8th (not likely but possible): Champions League for the Yellow Submarine, 5th and 6th to the Europa League, and 7th to the Conference League.

And that’s basically it! Who wants to go stick their head in the freezer?

If there is something the Superleague attempt showed, is that European soccer is changing, and every year, new rules to existing competitions keep getting added. What’s more, new competitions are being added as well. The Intertoto came and went in the early 00s, the UEFA Cup got rebranded and reformated as Europa League, and as of next year, there will be a new tournament: The UEFA Europa Conference League.

This brand new competition will sit right below the Europa League, and it will be a new opportunity for those straggler teams who don’t make the top spots in their domestic leagues, but still have a primal need to play 50 matches per season. Yay.

Something that became clear to me through this season was that I had no idea who qualified for what between Champions League, Europa League, and Conference League. I took it upon myself to look at the UEFA rules in Spain, and I come to you with just that: The comprehensive list of who qualifies for what in La Liga. So, grab some popcorn, play that shitty Europa League Champions-League-wannabe anthem on your phone, and read on.

  • UEFA Champions League: As it has been the case for the past couple of years, the top four teams in La Liga will qualify, with no need for any pre-qualifying rounds, into the group stages of the top European competition. This without a doubt will be Atletico, Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Sevilla.
  • UEFA Europa League: 5th spot will automatically play in this competition. As of right now, that is Real Sociedad. The winner of the Copa del Rey also plays the second-tier tournament, but since the winner of the Spanish cup was Barcelona, and Barcelona will play in the Champions League, the honor goes to 6th place. As of this article, Betis is number six in La Liga, so that would go to Pellegrini’s men.
  • UEFA Conference League: The third level of European competition will include the 7th place in La Liga, with a qualifying round being played on August 19th and 26th to get into a group stage that will surely include very few top teams in the continent. However, because of the crazyness of the English Premier League, this competition could see a Tottenham or Liverpool, for instance.

But wait–there’s more! Here comes Villarreal with the combo breaker. If Villarreal lose in the Europea League final, eveything stays the same. IF Villarreal happens to win the tournament, and:

  • They finish 5th or 6th: They qualify to the Champions League as Europa League winners, bringing the number of Spanish teams in the top competition to five, and the other team in the Top 6 would wualify to the Europa League, and 7th, to the Conference League. So basically, Spain would gain a CL spot, and lose an EL spot.
  • They finish 7th: Villarreal qualifies to the Champions League, 5th and 6th qualify to the Europa League, and there would be no Spanish teams in the Conference League.
  • They finish 8th (not likely but possible): Champions League for the Yellow Submarine, 5th and 6th to the Europa League, and 7th to the Conference League.

And that’s basically it! Who wants to go stick their head in the freezer?