How many people thought Villarreal would reach the semi-final of the Champions League this season? Their run in this season’s competition has been extraordinary. After narrowly qualifying from a tough group, they have performed exceptionally against some of Europe’s best. Let’s explore how they’ve reached the semi-final and what their next steps might be. Can they go on and win it? After this season, you’d have to wonder if we’ll start to see a new name regularly competing for trophies in Spain.
— Villarreal CF English (@VillarrealCFen) April 13, 2022
Dominance against Juventus, defiance against Bayern
Their 2nd leg last 16 performance against Juventus certainly got people across the continent to sit up and take notice. That 3-0 win was followed by a defiant defensive display against Bayern to see them reach the semi-final for the first time since 2006. On that occasion, they lost out to Arsenal. Can they go one better this time? They are huge outsiders to progress against Liverpool. The latest Champions League odds indicate they are 20/1 to win the competition and 7/2 to qualify for the final. After those impressive performances, would you really be that shocked?
Should they go all the way, it would probably be considered the biggest shock in recent history. You would probably have to go back to Porto winning it in 2004 for another example of such a shock. However, in that case, Porto had an easier run to the final once they knocked out Manchester United. Should Villareal triumph after facing Juventus, Bayern, Liverpool and then one of Real Madrid or Man City, you’d have to say it far outweighs Porto’s achievement.
They are being led by a rejuvenated Unai Emery
Their remarkable run has been led by a determined Unai Emery. The former Arsenal manager has seemed determined to rebuild his reputation after failing in North London, albeit in difficult circumstances. After winning last season’s Europa League, you saw that maybe Emery was starting to build something special.
His signings after winning that trophy have also impressed fans and pundits. Arnaut Danjuma was signed from Bournemouth for a fee believed to be around €25M. He has proven to be a superb addition, scoring six goals in ten Champions League appearances. Signing Juan Foyth permanently was also a masterstroke. The Argentinian defender has featured in eight European matches and should play a part for his country at the Qatar World Cup.
What next for them?
Europe has perhaps proven to be a distraction this season. One negative for them has been their inconsistent form in La Liga. This has meant they are off the pace in their bid to finish the season in the top 4. Likely, the only way they can qualify for next season’s Champions League will be by winning it this season. Ultimately, the next step for them as a club would be to improve domestic form and maybe challenge for La Liga next season. It will also be interesting to see if they can keep hold of their players and start to become a force in Spanish football over the next few years.