Fresh from Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final first-leg defeat to Liverpool, Villarreal will resume their La Liga campaign away to struggling Alaves on Saturday afternoon.
The Yellow Submarine, who lost 2-0 at Anfield in the European Cup, are currently seventh in the table, while Alaves sit 20th, now six points behind 17th-placed Cadiz with five matches left.
Alaves are in their sixth straight season in Spain’s top flight and have largely impressed at this level since earning promotion in 2016, but they are facing a serious fight to retain their status in La Liga for another campaign.
Indeed, a total of 25 points from 33 matches has left the Basque outfit bottom of the division, six points behind 17th-placed Cadiz on the same number of games, so they will have to finish the season in excellent form in order to stand a chance of avoiding relegation.
El Glorioso recorded a 1-0 victory over Rayo Vallecano on April 16 but suffered a damaging 2-1 loss to Mallorca three days later, and they now have league games against Villarreal, Celta Vigo, Espanyol, Levante and Cadiz to finish the campaign.
On paper, it is a relatively kind run of matches, and the final two games of the season, away to Levante and at home to Cadiz, could be crucial, but they must be in touching distance heading into the final straight.
Julio Velazquez’s side have the worst away record in La Liga this term, picking up just six points from 17 matches, but they have been relatively solid at home considering their spot in the table, collecting 19 points from 16 matches, winning five times in the process.
Unai Emery in charge of Villarreal in April 2022© Reuters
It was always going to be difficult for Villarreal to pick up a positive result against Liverpool in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final on Wednesday; the score was actually level at the break, but the Reds netted twice in the second period to secure a 2-0 advantage ahead of the return match.
The Yellow Submarine have it all to do in order to reach the European Cup final, but their recent league form has been strong, picking up seven points from their last three matches, including back-to-back victories over Getafe and Valencia in their last two.
Unai Emery’s side are currently seventh in the table, just three points behind sixth-placed Real Sociedad but only four points ahead of eighth-placed Athletic Bilbao, so there is a fascinating race taking place for the European positions in Spain’s top flight.
Villarreal have the fourth-best home record in La Liga this term, but they have found it difficult on their travels, picking up only 17 points from 16 matches, and the Champions League semi-finalists have lost three of their last four league games away from home.
El Submarino Amarillo recorded a 5-2 win over Alaves in the reverse match earlier this season, but they suffered a 2-1 defeat in the corresponding game between the two sides last term.