With the Yellow Submarine about to enter a massive fortnight and La Real lacking any aspirations, Sunday evening's encounter at Estadio El Madrigal was more subdued than normal. 0-0 at full time was enough: for the hosts to maintain a two-match cushion with three to play in the hunt for fourth place in La Liga, and for the visitors to reach mathematical safety on 42 points.
Marcelino García Toral rolled out a top-quality XI: Asenjo; Mario, Bailly, Ruiz, Rukavina; Pina, Bruno; Denis, Samu; Soldado, Bakambu. And in-form Congolese international Cedric Bakambu continued to show why he is arguably the revelation of the current La Liga campaign, setting up Roberto Soldado for a one-on-one early and working La Real's goalkeeper late. Bruno Soriano also hit the bar from a first-half free kick.
Carlos Vela had La Real's best chance on a terrible second-half back pass by Eric Bailly, but Sergio Asenjo stayed upright and got a hand to the Mexican international's vaselina. Asenjo looks to have rounded into form after a few shaky spells returning from an extended injury layoff; he was confident in the air against the txuriurdin. Not much else going forward from the visitors.
Athletic Bilbao miraculously drew away to Levante - Giuseppe Rossi's side is in big trouble after coughing up a two-goal lead with three minutes remaining. So Villarreal maintains a six-point advantage over the leones (plus the tiebreak, so one more win does it). Celta Vigo hosts Granada Monday evening with a chance to cut the gap to four points (and the tiebreak favors the celestes). The Galicians visit San Mamés next weekend, so at least one chaser will drop points.
In theory, a win at Mestalla could sew things up in the league. In practice, it's time to focus on Liverpool. Endavant Villarreal!