Villareal's goal celebration / PHOTO: www.villarealcf.es

Villarreal, nicknamed “El Submarino Amarillo” – the Yellow Submarine – have gone from Champions League qualifiers to relegation strugglers this season, but they maintain their creative style after a dazzling decade in the top flight.


In many ways, Villarreal are punching above their weight in La Primera, with their 25,000 capacity El Madrigal ground sufficient to hold almost half of the population of the town, set in Valencia’s orange growing area. They were founded in 1923, but didn’t make their debut in the top flight until 1998 and although that first taste of the Primera only lasted for one season, they were back again the following year and began a fantastic decade of unheard of success. The arrival of Juan Roman Riquelme from Barça in 2003 set the tone for the next few years, with big names such as Diego Forlan, Pepe Reina, Robert Pires, Marcos Senna, Joan Capdevilla and Santi Cazorla helping them to a semi final appearance in the 2004 UEFA Cup and most memorably a Champions League semi final defeat to Arsenal in 2006, as well as finishing as runners up in the Spanish League in the 2007-08 season.

Form guide

Last year, under Juan Carlos Garrido, Villarreal finished fourth in the league and after qualifying, made the Champions League group stage this season, though they finished bottom, failing to win a single game in a group with Manchester City, Naples and Bayern Munich.

Villarreal also made a poor start to the league season, marked by serious injuries to Nilmar and Rossi (who between them scored 29 goals last year) and finished the first half of the campaign in 17th spot, having won only four games. They were knocked out of the Cup by Mirandes in December – a result that led to the sacking of Garrido and his replacement by Jose Fransisco Molina. In their two games at El Madrigal since Christmas they have held Valencia to a 2-2 draw and last week beat Sporting 3-0, a result Molina reckoned: “will give us confidence, we needed it and now I think the players will believe in what we are doing”.

Ones to watch

With Rossi out and Nilmar just back, though not included in Molina’s plans as he is about to be sold, possibly to Sao Paulo, Villarreal need goals – they’ve managed just 18 in their first 19 games, with Marco Ruben their leading scorer on six goals, likely to be supported by the home grown youngster Joselu against Barça on Saturday night. Villarreal’s midfield creativity is provided by Borja Valero, who joined in 2010 from West Bromwich Albion after a year on loan at Mallorca. Borja made his full international debut last year and was also named in UEFA.com’s Spanish League team of the season.

Record against Barça

Last season Barça beat Villarreal 0-1 at El Madrigal and haven’t lost there since the 2007-08 campaign, when the hosts won 3-1. Earlier this season, Barça opened the defence of their title

with a 5-0 thrashing of Villarreal at the Camp Nou, with goals from Thiago, Alexis, Cesc and a brace from Messi.

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