VILLAREAL, SPAIN - MARCH 17: The Villarreal team observe a minutes silence for the victims of the Japan disaster ahead of the UEFA Europa League round of 16 second leg match between Villarreal and Bayer Leverkusen at El Madrigal stadium on March 17, 2011 in Villareal, Spain. Villarreal won 2-1. (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images)
So we lost 1-0 to Werder Bremen on Tuesday night. To be honest there wasn't much to take from it apart from a bright display from Ross Barkley. It was only a friendly right? Results aren't important in pre-season so lets just brush it under the carpet and move on yes? Agreed? Good....
Right, moving on....
The new season is creeping ever closer and the showpiece final friendly of the season is against La Liga side Villarreal at Goodison Park on Friday. In part of our preview to the game we had a chat with SBNation's excellent Villarreal blog Villarreal USA.They already have a preview of the Toffees on their site and were kind enough to answer a few questions we put to them earlier this week ahead of Friday's match. We will also be returning the favour in the coming days.
1) The past decade has been a golden one for Villarreal, for those not familiar with the club, briefly describe what the past few years have been like for Villarreal fans.
It's been a magical decade, lacking only a major trophy to bring the club to the attention of more people worldwide. The team burst on the scene with the run to the Champions League semifinals in 2005, led by Forlan and Riquelme, but in many ways our most successful season in La Liga was 2007-2008, when we came second to Real Madrid; that team had a number of players who are still with us. We've been able to compete in
Europe pretty much every year since 2005; last year we made it to the semis of the Europa League. We have been very successful at selling players on for good money at the appropriate time and reinvesting those funds in the club, and our cantera (academy) system is now producing players for us as well.
2) On a similar note, why is your nickname 'The Yellow Submarine'?
There's an argument as to whether it was Villarreal or Cadiz (who also play in yellow) who are the original "yellow submarine". I think as soon as the song was popular it was taken up by Villarreal, since the town is by the ocean. But in those days we were a little tiny club!
3)Your pre-season has taken you to Scotland, Germany and Italy - how has it gone so far?
I didn't see the game against Aberdeen, but we looked good in the last two. We drew at Wolfsburg but were 2-0 up when we made wholesale changes and they tied the game up near the end. We hosted Lazio last Sunday, defeated them 3-1, and frankly looked dominant almost the entire time.
4) Who has been the major signings - and departures - from the squad this summer?
The major, major, shocking departure was Santi Cazorla, who the club sold for €20m. We also lost fellow Spanish international Joan Capdevila--I'm not sure in the long run this will be a terribly important departure as he was probably going to move on before long anyhow, but Santi certainly was. He had turned down an offer from Real Madrid in the past and everyone thought he'd be at the club forever.
The only major signing has been Cristian Zapata from Udinese, an impressive defender. We're still looking for another creative midfielder as I write this, or another left back. We have a small squad, but a number of players can play at multiple positions.
5)Giuseppe Rossi and Borja Valero are familiar with Premier League fans, but who else should we look out for on Friday?
Those are the main two, yes, but Nilmar's pace and understanding with Rossi is also important. If he can stay healthy and not get banged up too much Villarreal shouldn't lack for goals. Attacking midfielder Cani is another important player--he's never quite become the star we thought he could be, but he's played very well of late. With Cazorla gone he'll need to step up this year.The other player to watch is Wakaso Mubarak, a 21-year old Ghanaian. He's got loads of raw talent, is still learning to harness it, has become a quick fans' favourite.
6) Everton midfielder Mikel Arteta has been linked with a move to Villarreal - how much truth do these rumours have and we would he fit in at El Madrigal?
He would fit well into Villarreal's possession style of play, and in many ways would be a good signing but I'd be surprised if the rumours had a lot of substance. We typically try to sign players who are underutilized at their current clubs, are young and offer upside as far as selling them on when the time comes. Arteta doesn't fit that profile; he'll be expensive, plus he's been injury-prone of late. But the rumours have been quite persistent, I have to say.
7) Villarreal are back in the Champions league this season, how far do you think you can go this year?
Well, we're in the final qualifying round. We still have to get to the CL proper. Assuming we do that, I think we probably can get out of the group stage and into the knockout rounds; semifinals? Unlikely, but the quarters maybe.
9) La Liga is dominated by the 'big two' Barca and Real Madrid - what can sides like Villlarreal do to try and break tha duopoly? Or is Champions League qualification the best you can hope for?
We were the last team to finish 2nd apart from those two (2007-8), and with the disparity in TV revenues and everything else between those two and the rest, it may be a long time before anyone repeats our feat. Realistically CL qualification is about the best we can do for a while; if we can keep doing that for 3-4 years straight and pick up excellent money that way, we should be able to continue to strengthen our squad and be more competitive.
10) What are your memories of the Champions League game between the two sides in 2005?
You know, I don't remember the first leg at all, though obviously we won. I do remember that Villarreal pretty much dominated the second leg but your keeper made some fine saves, then once you guys equalized the game turned around and there was some controversy, right? A disallowed goal as I recall. I remember listening to a match report or something where some of the Everton players were very upset (so was I! - Ed). That was a long time ago, though I guess we still have Gonzalo Rodriguez in our team--he'd probably be the only player in our squad who has been to Goodison Park before.
12) What are your thoughts on your opponents on Friday, Everton?
Well, I have to confess growing up I was a Liverpool supporter, so....! But seriously, I respect Everton a good deal. They have some excellent players, and while the club isn't going to compete at the very top of the EPL, if they can catch lightning in a bottle and get into Europe, they can invest more money in the club to be more competitive.
13) Prediction for the game?
Hard to say since I haven't seen your preseason at all, but it sounds like you are finding goals not easy to come by. I'll say 2-1 to Villarreal.
14) Prediction for Villarreal's season?
A tough one. We'll qualify for Europe I believe, but whether as high as third or as low as sixth depends on luck and injuries. I'm going to say fourth again.