Villarreal out to set aside relegation worries to reach Europa League semi-final

Villarreal boss Javi Calleja is confident his side can put their LaLiga relegation worries aside and sink domestic rivals Valencia to reach the Europa League semi-finals.

Calleja’s side will go into the game on the back of three games without a win which has left them third from bottom of the table and facing a real danger of the drop.

In contrast Valencia sit in fifth place in the table although they saw their 17-game unbeaten run in all competitions ended in defeat at Rayo Vallecano on Saturday.

Calleja told a press conference: “We’re not thinking about the league – we’re only thinking about this game and nothing else.

“We’re fully motivated and what has happened in the league won’t affect us in this tie.

“Getting to the next round would be great in what’s been a difficult year. I think the team is mentally strong and keen for the game.”

While a raucous home atmosphere will boost Villarreal’s chances, Calleja is keen that his side do not become too eager to impress with the second leg at the Mestalla still to come.

“We shouldn’t go mad in these 90 minutes – we are going to go out and have an intelligent game,” added Calleja.

“A win would be an advantage, but it’s important to not let a goal in at home, keeping a clean sheet is one of the keys. We are enjoying ourselves in this competition and we want that to continue.”

Despite his side’s domestic ascendancy, Valencia coach Marcelino shrugged off suggestions that his side go into the game as heavy favourites.

He said: “I don’t think it’s a positive. I said before that I didn’t like how the draw turned out.

“When you’re playing in the Europa League, you want to go up against sides that you don’t normally play.

“Villarreal have a very good record in the Europa League. We should respect them to the fullest and those who believe it is going to be an easy tie are not being realistic in their analysis.”

Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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