Villarreal: The sinking of the Yellow Submarine

While much of Europe focuses on the winners of the major leagues around the continent, the most surprising story of the season came at the wrong end of La Liga as one-time Champions League semi-finalists Villarreal were relegated.

No one would have predicted relegation for the Yellow Submarine. They had not finished outside the top eight since 2002/2003, qualified for the Champions League on three occasions and reached the semi-finals losing out to Arsenal in 2006. Even in the season before their relegation Villarreal finished fourth qualifying again for Europe’s premier competition.

Over the last decade Villarreal have become known for vibrant attacking football helped by players like Juan Roman Riquelme and Diego Forlan. Despite the constant selling of their best players El Submarino Amarillo maintained great consistency replacing their best players with other stars like Nihat, Nilmar and Rossi.

This season though it has all caught up with them. They sold Spanish international Santi Cazorla to Malaga for €20 million and his replacement Jonathan De Guzman failed to live up to expectations. The biggest blow was the injury to top striker Giuseppe Rossi. The Italian tore knee ligaments in October and suffered a relapse when he was due to return for the final few games of the season. Villarreal failed to replace him with Marco Ruben finishing top scorer with just nine goals. They managed just 39 goals in 38 games and their 14 draws proved very costly.

A lack of stability in the managerial position certainly didn’t help Villarreal’s cause. Juan Carlos Garrido started the season in charge but having lost all six Champions League group games, missing out on the Europa League and then a humiliating Copa Del Rey exit to third-tier Mirandes he was sacked. His replacement Jose Molina only lasted until March as the league form failed to improve.

The experienced Miguel Angel Lotina took charge but with the squad unaccustomed to a relegation battle and the new boss becoming more and more defensively minded they were unable to get the results they needed. The last game summed up Villarreal’s season. Just needing a draw against Atletico Madrid at home to survive Lotina opted for a cautious approach which was undone when Atletico scored in the 88th minute and Rayo Vallecano snatched a last minute win at Granada to send Villarreal down.

So what next for them? They can take heart from Deportivo’s promotion from the Segunda back to the top division after just one season. There may also be major rebuilding work to do with the squad. The likes of Senna, Rossi, Nilmar and Zapata are bound to attract attention from clubs in top leagues in Europe. With the backing of wealthy ceramics tycoon and club President Fernando Roig though Villarreal will be favourite’s for an immediate return and could become one of the major teams in Spain again.

By Chris Newman

Seven stars on the verge of missing out on Euro 2012

With only a couple of months before Euro 2012, and the teams and groups decided, the last thing to be confirmed are each nation’s squads. With the tournament only being played once every four years, it may be some players’ last chance to feature, with all the major superstars keen to playin Ukraine and Poland. However, some more than others are in danger of missing out through injury, poor form or selection issues at club level; here are the top seven sitting on the fence.

Fernando Torres

The World Cup winning striker has lost his way since the last major international tournament, and is no longer guaranteed a place in Vicente del Bosque’s Spain squad. With a barren spell at Chelsea blighting El Nino’s career, the likes of Alvaro Negredo, Roberto Soldado and Fernando Llorente could get the nod ahead of Torres.

Jermain Defoe

One of the most clinical strikers in the Premier League when given an opportunity, Defoe has had a frustrating season in and out of the Tottenham side. With Emmanuel Adebayor and Rafael van der Vaart ahead of the Englishman in Harry Redknapp’s preferences, Defoe may well miss out on the competition due to lack of playing time.

Mario Balotelli

During the qualifiers Cesare Prandelli used the Manchester City forward on a regular basis, and Balotelli started to lead the line towards the end of that campaign. However, the national selector recently left Super Mario out of his squad for a friendly against the United States, claiming Balotelli’s immaturity and indiscipline as the reason.

David Villa

Spain and Barcelona star Villa would have been a certainty had he been fit, but a broken leg in the Club World Cup in December has the Camp Nou man cutting it fine. Villa should make it back to club action before the end of the season, but with the number of Spanish attackers available, is not guaranteed participation.

Giuseppe Rossi

Another star to pick up a serious injury, Rossi ruptured knee ligaments in October, and has been through a strenuous rehabilitation process since. The Villarreal forward was in Prandelli’s preferences before the setback, and has targeted April for a possible return to action.

Raul Albiol

With Jose Mourinho using Sergio Ramos in the centre of his Real Madrid defence alongside either Pepe or Ricardo Carvalho, Albiol is a serious doubt for Euro 2012. The ex-Valencia man has only made five appearances in the Primera Division this term, and with versatile Javi Martinez and Sergio Busquets also being able to play at the back, Albiol needs a miracle to be included.

Jack Wilshere

The Arsenal playmaker has not played a minute of football this season due to a knee injury in pre-season, although Arsene Wenger has promised that his star will be available before the end of the Premier League campaign. However with Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Scott Parker, Tom Cleverley, Gareth Barry, Michael Carrick and maybe even Paul Scholes in contention for a place in the centre of the park, Wilshere needs to hurry up.

Published – footylatest

Frustration in the transfer market for Tottenham, as there is still no new striker at White Hart Lane

Harry Redknapp and Daniel Levy have not made secret their wishes to bring a centre forward to White Hart Lane this summer, but with no arrival of a new number nine, time is working against Tottenham. With transfer attempts for a number of forwards crashing on the rocks, and a list of targets not interested due to the lack of Champions League football, who will be starting up front for Spurs against Everton come the Premier League opening day on August 13th?

Much was made of the side’s inability to beat some of the lesser teams towards the end of last season, with disappointing results in the last third of the campaign meaning no top four finish. Peter Crouch was effective in Europe but struggled domestically, whilst Jermain Defoe had what he calls the worst season of his career. With Roman Pavlyuchenko not clinical enough when it mattered and Robbie Keane low on confidence and fitness, all four have been linked with a summer departure.

As yet the only attacking arrival has been that of Souleymane Coulibaly, a 16-year-old Ivory Coast youth striker. As bright a prospect as the sprightly African is, he will need time to adapt to his new surroundings, and is not yet ready for the big stage.

Leandro Damaio looked like a player Redknapp would move for, but the Internacional and Brazil forward has decided to sign a new contract with his current employers. Giuseppe Rossi has been linked with a move, but with Barcelona and Juventus circling, and Villarreal in the Champions League, this simply is not going to happen. Espanyol have slapped a £20 million price-tag on Pablo Osvaldo, a £9 million bid for Abel Hernandez of Napoli has been rejected and Dimitar Berbatov’s return has had no clear signs of occurring.

With the effort to keep the likes of Gareth Bale and more-so Luka Modric at the club, Spurs have become distracted from the efforts in attaining a goalgetter. But who should they be targeting?

1 – Lukas Podolski – The 26-year-old has recently been stripped of the FC Koln captain’s armband, and the opportunity to play in Europe would be appealing. 42 international goals for Germany is a record that speaks for itself.

2 – Alvaro Negredo – A Spanish international with a real eye for goal, the former Real Madrid youth player is the main man at Sevilla. With the Andalusians rumoured to be interested in Giovani Dos Santos, a player-plus-cash deal could tempt the 25-year-old to England.

3 – Antonio Cassano – The AC Milan forward is well down the attacking pecking order at the Giuseppe Meazza and needs first team football to have a chance of playing for Italy at Euro 2012. At times has a questionable attitude, but would prosper under the adoration of Tottenham support.

With a couple of weeks and counting to the end of the transfer window, Harry Redknapp needs to assess which of the four strikers at his disposal he will keep, and which realistic targets he can bring to White Hart Lane to fire Spurs back into top four contention, but the club needs to act quickly to start the season with a bang.

Villarreal on the Cusp of European Glory

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? 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 46 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.

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