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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

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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

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