Villarreal looking for La Liga boost in Europe


Villarreal begin their Europa League campaign against Rangers on Thursday night, and the Yellow Submarine need a positive result to kick start their La Liga campaign.

Javier Calleja’s side finished the 2017-18 season strongly, winning four of their last six La Liga games to seal a fifth place finish, and Europa League football for 2018-19.

However they have not been able to pick up where they left off at the start of the new campaign, with two defeats and a draw in their first three league matches.

That miserable run was ended last weekend, with a much needed 1-0 victory away at Leganes, but the issues remain.

Calleja brought in around £65 million worth of new faces in the summer as his side look to battle on domestic and European fronts in 2018-19.

A lack of goals were highlighted as a concern from 2017-18, and Calleja spent the bulk of his transfer budget on strikers in an attempt to rectify this problem.

Carlos Bacca, who was their top scorer last season with 15 La Liga goals, made his loan move from AC MIlan permanent.

Gerard Moreno joined from Espanyol, after netting 16 La Liga goals in 2017-18, and the highly rated Karl Toko Ekambi was brought in from Angers.

However as yet none of these players are yet to really catch fire, with Bacca and Moreno scoring one each so far in league action – the only goals Villarreal have scored this season.

Competing in Europe can be something of a poisoned chalice for sides outside of the elite in their given nation, however Calleja will be hoping it can have a galvanizing effect on his squad for the next few months of league action.

Europe has seen the best of Villarreal in recent seasons, reaching the knockout stages in the last four Europa League seasons, including a semi final defeat to Liverpool in 2016.

They face a tough draw this time around, with Spartak Moscow and Rapid Vienna joining Rangers as their other opponents in Group G.

However the Spanish side have greater recent experience in Europe than all three of their opponents, but it will be the performance level that Calleja will be looking to see an improvement in.

The new signings need to start to click for their fees to be justified, and the experienced figures of Victor Ruiz, Mario Gaspar and Santi Cazorla need to lead by example.

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