Prior to today’s Europe League semi-final draw it has to be said that among the teams remaining in the competition most Reds fans first choice would have been Villarreal over the two-time defending Europa League champions Sevilla, or a tough away trip to Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk.
Villarreal may seem like a minnow in the football world, playing in the boutique 25,000 seat Estadio El Madriga, but looks can be deceiving as the Castellón based side sit comfortably in fourth place behind Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid in La Liga having only lost one game more than Diego Simeone’s side, while boasting the best defence in Europe.
We regular hear that the English Premier League is the most competitive in the world, as Leicester and West Ham have proved this season, yet for some reason when we think about Spain’s La Liga we only ever really think of the two giants, Barcelona and Real Madrid, hardly giving a thought to Atletico Madrid, Sevilla or Valencia never mind a team that plays in a canary coloured strip called Villarreal.
To give you a stat that might frighten you just a little, clubs from La Liga regularly progress to the later stages of European competitions as is evident once more this season with four Spanish clubs through to the semi-finals of the Champion’s and Europa League.
Should you need further proof that Villarreal are the real deal, we can tell you that they had to beat both Napoli and Bayer Leverkusen to get where they are now.
Villarreal have already locked up a Champions League spot for next season, unlike Liverpool whose winning of the Europa Cup is their only chance of playing in the competition next year, and given the fact Villarreals nickname “The Yellow Submarine” is that of a Beatles song it is perhaps fitting that the two sides should play each other for a place in the finals.