Can Villareal challenge for La Liga ?

For the past 6 seasons, La Liga have been a two horse race. Either Real Madrid or Barcelona gets away with the title. The last team other than these two to win the La Liga was Valencia in 2003-04. Teams find it very difficult to keep up with the ‘Big 2’ of Spain.

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They are regularly spending money on the best players in the world. They have huge stadiums which generate high revenues and their income from merchandise sales and TV rights have made it impossible for the other clubs to compete with them financially. Spanish clubs currently sell their TV rights individually and the two top clubs currently account for around 50 per cent of the total rights income of the top division.

But talking about the performances on the pitch, Villareal have started brightly. They have just lost 1 match out of the 10 matches played so far this season with 7 wins and 2 draws. Giuseppe Rossi and Nilmar have formed a lethal striking partnership upfront for the Yellow Submarines. They have 13 goals and 4 assists combined. In Santi Cazorla and Borja Valero, they have the creativity in the midfield which creates chances for the front two. While the defense is supported by Spanish Internationals Carlos Marchena and Joan Capdevilla. Their defense have conceded just 1 more goal than Barcelona(7) and they have scored just 1 goal less than Barcelona(22) so far in the league. Their strength is their attacking style of play. Their manager Juan Carlos Garrido, who was appointed on 1 February 2010, was previously coaching their B team for 8 years. He has enormous experience and knows the club better than anyone.

For a team that got promoted to La Liga in 2000-01, beating the drop is not the priority, but getting into the top 5 places is. Apart from two 15th place finishes, Villareal have finished in the top 10 every year and once even finished runner-up to Real Madrid in the league in 2007-08 to everyone’s surprise. It’s hard to believe this is just their 12th season in La Liga. They have out performed all their rivals for getting a place behind the ‘Top 2’ in the league this season. A 4-0 win against Espanyol, who lie 5th in the league table, 2-0 against Atletico Madrid and 4-1 against Bilbao. They are yet to play their Valencian rivals Valencia who might dent their hopes for a finish above them. But now comes the biggest test of the season so far, Nou Camp awaits the Yellow Submarines this weekend. If they can shock Barcelona with a win then no one would argue that  Villareal is good enough to challenge for the league. Even if they take a point, it would atleast show that they are capable of playing the biggest teams and matching them. The next two matches can decide whether Villareal will be in with a shout or not as they play their city rivals Valencia after playing Barcelona. Villareal got a point in their last visit to the Nou Camp, can they get it this weekend? Only time will tell.


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