Villarreal expect to be in the top quarter of the Primera Liga. In the past five seasons, the "Yellow Submarine" have reached the Champions League twice and the Uefa Cup twice. But an awful start to this campaign had Ernesto Valverde's men thinking about avoiding relegation rather than European ambitions. Villarreal found themselves propping up the table after failing to win any of their opening seven games, and that form, combined with two defeats in three Europa League games, put pressure on Valverde just a few months after replacing Manuel Pellegrini, who took the Real Madrid job.
However, they have picked up in recent weeks to move up to 11th in the Primera Division with five wins in their past seven competitive games. Their recent form has been partly down to their diminutive striker Giuseppe Rossi rediscovering his goalscoring touch - the Italian netted in last week's 3-1 home win against Valladolid and seems to be striking up a potent partnership with Brazilian striker Nilmar.
"The truth is that I'm happy with what has happened in recent games," Rossi said. "If goals do not come then you have to work for the team, but now myself and the other strikers are on a roll and that's much better for everyone. We want to reach the end of the year with a chance for the Europa League and for that we must win every game possible. "We are a team who have to fight for European places."
Rossi's side travel to Sporting Gijon tonight. The team in seventh place have conceded just 10 goals with only the top three having fewer in the "against" column. But manager Manuel Preciado said the team's outlook is not defensive. "I will not lose the joy in attack," he vowed. * With agencies Sporting Gijon v Villarreal, KO 9pm, Aljazeera Sport + 2