Following Tuesday’s win against Bayern Munich in the Champions League, Villarreal have etched their name into the growing list of underdog teams who have caused huge upsets for Europe’s elites.
In the past, teams such as the 2016/17 Monaco side, 2018/19 Ajax and 2020/21 Atalanta have all exceeded expectations by beating top clubs in the UCL and have journeyed deep into the competition. That Ajax team managed to knock out then defending champions Real Madrid and Juventus in consecutive games which seems to have been the blueprint for Unai Emery’s men this season.
The Yellow Submarine knocked out Juventus in the Round of 16 before seeing off competition favourites Bayern Munich in the Quarter Final, by an aggregate score of 6-2 across both sets of ties.
The Spanish side put out an inspired performance at the Estadio la Ceramica and travelled to the Allianz Arena unfazed by the challenge and knocked out the Bavarians. While Bayern would be ruing their missed chances to score across both legs, there seemed to be an air of confidence and belief amongst the Villarreal players on Tuesday that appeared to fuel them on.
Every single player was almost possessed to ensure that they remained as a cohesive unit against the Bayern attack and it looks like Spanish midfielder Dani Parejo seems to have an explanation for what motivated the team ahead of the key match.
Parejo hit back at Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann’s overconfident comments ahead of the first leg and recounted that the Bavarian’s lack of respect motivated Villarreal to record the famous win.
“When the draw was made & they (Bayern) got Villarreal, their coach, whom I don’t know, disrespected not only Villarreal but also football by saying he wanted to settle the tie in the 1st leg. It was disrespectful. Sometimes when you spit up, it falls on your face,” revealed Parejo in his post-match interview with Movistar.
The ex-Valencia man was crucial in the middle of the park for Villarreal as he cast a calm and composed figure to ensure controlled possession whenever his side got the ball back. The midfielder won two aerial challenges and also registered an 82% passing accuracy with 44 touches on the ball, as per whoscored.com.
Alongside Parejo, Unai Emery too seemed to take a jab at the overconfidence from the Bayern camp in his post-match presser.
“Humility is to know how to recognise the good and bad moments. In the good ones, be stable, and in the bad ones recognise you have not done something right,” stated the Spanish coach.
Having equalled Villareal’s best outing in the UCL (Semis in 2006/07), Emery and his side would be no pushover for either Liverpool or Benfica in the Semi-Final and the Spanish club will be heading into that tie in high spirits.