Spain may have been given a rather short straw in Netherlands and Chile in their World Cup draw, but that shouldn't give them cause for concern. The pressure is on the rest...
Those of us who support lowly clubs can find it difficult to imagine the fuss made over two defeats suffered by a goliath. Will this weekend's Copa offer some respite?
Villarreal fans will of course cite taking on the likes of Barcelona again, having better players in the squad and considerably bigger revenues coming into to the club as fine bonuses for being back in La Primera. However, arguably the best part about having the return of the Yellow Submarine is the endless puns that are possible in regards to the team's nickname.
After a 15-month misery-zone beginning at the end of the 2011/12 season when Villarreal's hopes of staying up were torpedoed on the final day of the season, the east coast club have resurfaced after a troubling exile in La Segunda. However Villarreal are not just cruising at the beginning of the new campaign but are charging full speed ahead having picked up three wins from three to squat in the top four alongside Barcelona, Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid. A European finish must be a target in the club's targeting periscope.
Villarreal should not even have been in the second division last season at all. The appointment of Miguel Angel Lotina who has a habit of relegating sides with the most negative football imaginable forced a club that was merely slowly sinking, straight to the sea bed within a matter of months. Some "unfortunate" results on the last day of the season, including a last second goal for Rayo Vallecano against Granada saw Villarreal down and out with mouths agape all over Spain. After all, this was one of the best loved clubs in the country, the one area of Spanish football that supporters could generally agree on, that Villarreal were seen as a very fine thing indeed.
The exile for Villarreal got off to a truly tragic start when the maverick Manuel Preciado, who had been appointed to take over the club, suddenly passed away in June 2012 just before the manager was due to be unveiled. Villarreal then opted to appoint from within with former 'B' team coach, Julio Velazquez taking over. However, the manager only made it to January with Villarreal off the pace in the play-off race, never mind challenging for the top two automatic promotion positions.
This was well below what was expected in El Madrigal, considering some key figures from the team's recent Primera campaigns had chosen to stay on at the club with Marcos Senna, Cani and Bruno all remaining loyal to their team. The bubbly Marcelino took over and Villarreal's fortunes changed instantly with the team losing just one game from the last 20 in La Segunda. That tremendous spurt was enough to lift Villarreal into second spot and a swift return to La Primera.
Rather than try and recoup the losses of a year away from the limelight, Villarreal have spent big, with most money going on Giovani Dos Santos, a footballer who tends to do remarkably well for clubs that do remarkably badly. Although the returning side have had fairly easy affairs for the first three games with wins against Almería, Valladolid and Osasuna eight goals have been scored in the process to leave Villarreal in third, ahead of the international break.
For much of the second half of the past decade, the Manuel Pellegrini-lead Villarreal were European regulars, even getting through to the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2006. Whilst it is far too early to suggest that the really good times might return, the sight of a polished, prim and proper Yellow Submarine preparing its cruise missiles of footballing fun is truly great news for La Liga.
Round Three Results
Almería 2-2 Elche
Rayo Vallecano 1-2 Levante
Celta Vigo 1-1 Granada
Osasuna 1-3 Villarreal
Valladolid 1-0 Getafe
Real Madrid 3-1 Athletic Bilbao
Espanyol 0-0 Betis
Real Sociedad 1-2 Atlético Madrid
Valencia 2-3 Barcelona
Sevilla 2-2 Málaga
Tim Stannard - follow him on Twitter