Coach Garrido has confirmed (as if there were any doubt) that a Champions League place next year is a primary goal. All of us have been excited by the Submarine's play this season, but we also knew the first half of the schedule looked easier on paper. Now that we are almost halfway done with the season, let's look at the La Liga schedule for the remainder of the year, and quantify what that goal really requires and what Villarreal needs to do to achieve it.
Looking at the last decade of La Liga results, the average point total for fifth-place teams is 64. (The highest point total for a fifth-place team was 68, Sevilla in 2005-06). 65 points therefore is likely to assure a fourth place finish and CL playoff qualification; 69 should guarantee it.
The average point total for teams finishing in fourth place is 65, with 67 and 68 happening in recent years. (The highest was 70, but that was in a year where the fifth-place club had only 56 and the league champions only 77, an outlier in the data that is unlikely to occur again this year). To beat the fourth-place finisher and finish third, 66 points would probably be sufficient, but (again) 69 points should guarantee it.
These conclusions are also supported by last year's La Liga results; in a year when the top two clubs ran away from the rest, 64 points would have been enough for third place, and 63 was enough for fourth. Looking at the second-half schedule of the clubs currently behind us challenging for Europe suggests the same; the clubs currently in places 5 through 10 in the league are unlikely to make it to 65 points. I think we can assume therefore that unless one of these teams suddenly catches fire and plays substantially better than they have done so far, 65 points should be enough for fourth place.
We have ten home games remaining, and with the exception of the Real Madrid and Barcelona matches, all of our home games look eminently winnable, even with our current injury list. But the road games are a different story. We've only picked up 11 points from away matches so far, and in the second half of the season we play ALL of our main rivals for Champions and Europa League places on the road. Almeria, Deportivo, Racing, and Osasuna are the only teams we play on the road that are in the bottom half of the table as I write this, and all play much better at home than away. We've taken 11 points from 8 away matches so far, but none of those points have come against teams in the top half of the table. The only two matches we've played away from home against clubs in the top half were against Barcelona (a more-or-less honorable loss) and Getafe (a completely ridiculous, non-honorable, last-minute loss). And we dropped points on the road against relegation-bound Gijon and Hercules.
It's unlikely to happen, but this analysis suggests if we won all our home matches, and lost all our away ones, our 66 points would probably be enough for CL qualification. Or to look at it another way, points dropped at home need only to be replaced with an equal number of points on the road to put over the threshold.
As a more realistic example, let's assume we win 6 of the remaining 8 home games against La Liga Justa, draw 2, and lose to Barca and Real Madrid. We would then need 10 away points to reach 66.
Then, if Villarreal can scrape just four points from the six away matches against our main rivals (Espanyol, Atletico, Athletic, Valencia, Sevilla, Mallorca, Real Madrid), and six more from their four other away matches (Deportivo, Racing, Almeria, Osasuna), we would have 66 points, which should result in a fourth- or third-place finish and CL qualification. That seems eminently doable, doesn't it? I think so.
But it gets much tougher if we start dropping points at home to teams below us in the table, so continuing our fine home form is just as important as it has ever been. And some good away results early on would sure make things easier--I'd prefer to have CL qualification done and dusted before our final four matches in May. But however we make it, I would be happy. Let's do it, guys. ENDAVANT!