Villarreal enjoyed a 3-0 win at home to Levante on Sunday evening, courtesy of goals from Leo Baptistao, Samu Castillejo and Adrian, and the La Liga victory further strengthened their pursuit for a top-four finish.
Currently occupying the last Champions League spot in the table, El Submarino Amarillos are breathing down the neck of third-placed Real Madrid, and have actually picked up more points since December 2015 than that of Los Blancos. So could they leapfrog the underachieving Spanish giants come May?
Villarreal not in the top-four by accident
Only Barcelona boast a longer unbeaten run in the division this season, and the Catalans are the only team to pick up more points in the last two months than Villarreal too. Having finished sixth in consecutive campaigns, El Submarino Amarillos are now the best side in La Liga after the usual suspects of Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid, and they could yet even break up the trio’s monopoly in the table if they can continue their form.
Villarreal are without a league defeat in their last 13 games, in which time they have conceded just four goals. Their defensive structure limits their creative expression at times – 33 goals scored in 26 league games – but they can afford narrow wins due to their ability to shut out the opposition. This season, Villarreal have enjoyed 1-0 wins against Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid, and have lost just once at home.
Villarreal rising, Real Madrid falling
They currently find themselves 11 points clear of fifth place in the table and just two points off Real Madrid. It’s worth noting they have made up seven points on Zinedine Zidane’s side in the league since December, so there’s no reason why they can’t surpass Los Blancos in the coming weeks. The two sides meet at the Santiago Bernabeu in April so their battle for a top-three finish could be settled. Considering El Submarino Amarillos were relegated in 2012, their return to the top has been very impressive.
It’s been five years since they were last in the Champions League, but they won’t have fond memories given they lost seven of their eight games that season. Given their performances in the Europa League this time round, they will certainly fancy their chances much more of a deep run in the prestigious European competition, and could well book their place straight into the group stage if they can better Real Madrid’s results in the final 11 outings, forcing the latter to embarrassingly qualify for a competition they have won more than any side.
Could Villarreal pip Real Madrid to the final automatic Champions League spot?