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Villarreal struggling to maintain CL challenge

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This shaped up to be an important part of the season, and it has been, but not in the way the Yellow Submarine hoped.

Villarreal v Barcelona - La Liga Photo by Fotopress/Getty Images

Villarreal had pulled to within three points of third-placed Valencia a couple of weeks ago, but a costly home loss to Alavés and a draw at Espanyol have seen the Submarine slide down the table.

There’s now a six-point gap between fourth and fifth (and fourth has a game in hand) so the real battle looks to be between Sevilla (39), Villarreal (38) and the five teams between 32 and 35 points.

Five more clubs are between 27 and 29 points, with a huge gap back to Levante (20), Las Palmas (18), Depor (17) and Malaga (13)—it looks as if those four clubs are likely to be fighting it out for the three relegation spots.

Who’s hot: Alavés; Getafe, or more specifically Angel Rodriguez. Picked up on a free from Zaragoza, he’s got 10 goals now, his best haul in the Primera (his previous best was 2), My Girona.

Who’s not: Villarreal; pretty much anyone in the bottom eight apart from Alavés, but Atrhletic Club haven’t won in 6 matches in the league. Leganés are struggling now their cup run is done.

Villarreal thoughts: The loss of Cedric Bakambu has been huge, especially since Nikola Sansone, who might have been expected to see more playing time as a result, has been injured since December (he’s supposed to return soon). But the defense has been the bigger worry—we haven’t shut anyone out since Real Madrid in the Bernabeu, over a month ago. The Espanyol match unfortunately followed a familiar pattern—a second goal would have put the game away for us (of course in any other league Unal’s goal would have stood—Spanish referees are frequently conned by players falling down on fair challenges). Highlights here.