Villarreal did their best to bring some much needed comfort and joy to Celtic supporters on the weekend they had to endure Rangers formally claiming their 53rd Scottish League title. GGW readers of the post “Villarreal Sleep in Europe” will know that Villarreal finally, in Round 33 of La Liga, managed to squeeze into one of the Europa League places, for the first time in an often dreadful and usually disappointing season. On Sunday they faced a potentially tricky game away to Racing Santander. But for the first time this season Villarreal managed to pull off the trick that title winning teams do all the time. Playing away, they were the better team without playing well, but gritted their teeth and ground out a deserved win. Even when they went 1-0 down to a stunning goal from Real Madrid bound youngster Sergio Canales, they kept plugging away, turned their superiority into goals and in the end were comfortable winners by 2-1.  Several names stood out in a not brilliant 90 minutes.

Godin celebrates his goal

Diego Godin the Uruguayan World Cup defender, has been the Villarreal player of the season beyond dispute. He tops the overall La Liga statistics for successful tackles and has been commanding as ever in defence. But in the last few weeks he has shown his shot-shy forward colleagues how to do it, scoring three vital goals, to add to his single strike in his first two seasons. His rasping volley against Racing steadied the nerves and allowed Villarreal to go on to victory. Only just turned 24 he is undoubtedly one of the best centre backs in world football and should shine on the South African World Cup stage. There is little doubt  some of the “Might is Right” giant clubs will come for him in the summer and one can only hope that he means it when he says he wants to stay with Villarreal for his whole career. And that President Fernando Roig is brave enough to resist the 25m euros he will be offered.

Santi Cazorla. Could yet catch the World Cup plane

Santi Cazorla gave all his many devotees hope that he might yet scrape onto that plane to South Africa. For the last few games he has been used very sparingly as he has fought his way back to fitness after a long-term back pain problem. On Sunday he was brought on ‘earlier’ this time, with 35 minutes left. He used this opportunity to show his class and played a highly crucial part in Villarreal turning a deficit into victory. If he manages 90 good minutes on Saturday against Barcelona Del Bosque might well put him on that plane.

The third name, Sergio Canales, may be less familiar to GGW readers but if so, take good note of it because this young man is sensational and is going to become a world class star. He has just turned 19 and last season played only 6 games for Racing. But, as per Kenny Dalglish not all future superstars are seasoned players before their 19th birthday. This season a series of sensational strikes set off a Winter Window feeding frenzy for his services with both Chelsea and Manchester City willing to go well into double figure million fees to secure him. However his agent, who is also his father and a sensible man, sold his son to Real Madrid for a mere 8 million and with a written agreement that he will probably stay one more season on loan at Racing. On Sunday, closely marked by in-from Argentinean centre back Gonzalo Rodriguez, he used wonderful close control to do what didn’t seem possible and scored a fabulous goal to give his side an undeserved lead. Later on he did something even more difficult and made a monkey out of Godin, requiring Diego Lopez to make a scrambled save. Yes, this boy is one to keep an eye on.

On Saturday Valencia had virtually sealed the 3rd Champions League slot with a win that also knocked Deportivo La Coruna completely out of the Europa League places fight. But on Sunday Mallorca showed the shaky nature of their recent form by dropping 2 points by only drawing at home to lowly Malaga. That left them on 56 points, 4 ahead of Villarreal with 4 games to go. Later that night Getafe on 47 points met 5th placed Sevilla on 54 points. That game, where the lead changed hands several times, turned out to be a good personality test for Villarreal supporters. The romantic dreamers who believe a Champions League spot is still possible were praying for a Getafe victory that would leave Sevilla only 2 points ahead of Villarreal, with Getafe a further 2 points back. The Realists who would be delighted to settle for a guaranteed Europa League place were praying for a Getafe defeat that would leave the wee Madrid club 5 points behind Villarreal. Even the official party following the game on radio on their charter flight back from Santander couldn’t agree on the best outcome for the Yellow Submarine. In the end, a 93rd minute penalty winner for Getafe confirmed suspicions that those up there who decide these things can be romantics.

With Getafe winning 4-3, the points position behind Valencia is Mallorca 56, Sevilla 54, Villarreal 52 and Getafe and Athletic Bilbao both on 50. Mallorca’s next two game are away against Athletic then home against Real Madrid. They could definitely drop up to 6 points there. Sevilla’s next two home games are against unpredictable Atletico and predictable Barcelona so at least 3 points could be lost there. Getafe have 3 games against relegation threatened teams then finish with a Madrid derby away against Atletico. So if Villarreal win their last 4 games then yes, it is possible they could do what seemed massively impossible only weeks ago and finish 4th.

Next Up Barcelona

However their next game is at home against a Barcelona that can’t afford not to win if they want to stay top of the league, with Real Madrid having a home game against Osasuna. Barcelona have a massively emotionally and physically draining game on Wednesday, fighting for their Champion’s League Trophy against Mourinho’s disciplined Inter Milan. It is moot whether victory or defeat will best motivate them against Villarreal. What can be certain is that either way they will be desperate to win to keep their League hopes alive. The game between Villarreal and Barcelona will be shown live around the world. All GGW readers should clear their diaries and ensure they are available at 9pm UK time, 10pm Spanish time on Saturday night to watch Villarreal play in what should be their game of the season. Villarreal go into the game with 5 victories in their last 6 games, very confident that they will succeed in their aim to qualify for Europe. Many players as well as fans are also conscious that the team can repay Pellegrini for all the marvellous performances his teams gave them over the last few years and help him win his first European trophy. Be sure they will be doing it for Manuel not Madrid, for their respected former manager not the richest club in the world, but most of all they will be doing it for the Yellow Submarine so it can once more sail into European waters next season.

The next Post will show how Kaka prevented  a headline “Celtic reject sinks Real Madrid title hopes” and questions whether Real Madrid are yet worth a bet to win La Liga