Villarreal continued their unbeaten pre-season form with a 1-1 draw against newly promoted Premier League side Fulham at Craven Cottage in London, but there were some areas of concern ahead of the upcoming campaign.
The hosts were dominant in the first half but found themselves 1-0 down after a stunning strike from Dani Parejo, and Villarreal improved after a few half-time substitutes.
Both sides missed a number of chances, but Fulham would eventually find an equaliser through Aleksander Mitrovic, and overall a draw was a fair result.
Here’s five key takeaways from what was at times a fiery encounter.
Rulli the pantomime villain
The Argentinian goalkeeper is always a hotly discussed topic thanks to several high-profile errors during his time as Villarreal’s number one. He showed very little sign of developing more composure during the summer break.
A few stray passes gave Fulham a few chances, but his worst moment came during the first half as he and none other than Aleksander Mitrovic had to be separated.
Mitrovic has a world-class ability to wind opposition players up, and Rulli eventually fell for his antics before they came to blows. The crowd were on his back for the rest of the game, and Pepe Reina seemingly had to calm things down as the pair headed in for half time.
Rulli is set to continue as first choice given Reina’s age and the departure of Sergio Asenjo, in a somewhat surprising move from Unai Emery.
Youngster Nicolas Jackson has earned plaudits for his pre-season performances and continued to impress as a half-time substitute for Boulaye Dia.
The 21-year-old caused Fulham problems with his pace and physicality and was unlucky not to score as he helped the team gain more attacking rhythm in the second half.
It is unclear if the Senegalese attacking midfielder will get opportunities in the first-team this season, but he certainly made more of a case than Dia, who looks certain to leave this window.
Parejo’s touch of class
Dani Parejo is ageing like fine wine, and the 33-year-old was in fine form in West London as he ran the show yet again.
When Villarreal were under immense Fulham pressure, it was Parejo who stepped up to fire in a rocket on his weaker foot, and oozed his usual class as he aims to build fitness ahead of the coming season.
The Spain International has been linked with a move away, and the club should surely do their best to keep what is arguably their best player.
Playing out the back and match sharpness
Although Villarreal are a week behind Fulham in their season preparations, given the later start of the La Liga campaign, there was a lot of rustiness on display, particularly in the first half.
Playing out the back has been a common theme throughout Unai Emery’s tenure, but there is clearly still work to be done on the training ground as a number of misplaced passes invited pressure and meant that Villarreal could hardly get forward.
Silky skills from Samu
Samuel Chukwueze surely has a make-or-break season ahead of him, as the supremely talented but inconsistent winger is yet to fully reach his potential, but the 23-year-old looked sharp throughout and gave the Fulham defence nightmares with his fantastic dribbling and close control.
The 23-year-old couldn’t provide much in terms of end product during this match, but caught the eye and looked confident on the ball.