x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Molina's Villarreal revival faces a testing start

No team has scored fewer than their paltry three on the road and they sit 18th in a relegation spot. That is nowhere near good enough for a team with the sixth biggest wage budget.

Villarreal have been in a mess this season. They lost all six of the Champions League group games and have not won a single away game in the Primera Liga.

No team has scored fewer than their paltry three on the road and they sit 18th in a relegation spot. That is nowhere near good enough for a team with the sixth biggest wage budget - and some fall after last season's fourth placed finish.

In mitigation, the Yellow Submarines have been crippled by injuries. Almost all their leading players have been out, several with long-term injuries such as strikers Giuseppe Rossi and Nilmar.

Villarreal reluctantly dismissed their popular coach Juan Carlos Garrido in December. It is a results based business, after all, and they promoted the B team trainer, the former Atletico Madrid and Deportivo goalkeeper Jose Molina.

Molina has faced greater battles than keeping a football team in a league - he overcame cancer in 2002 while Deportivo's No 1 and is renowned for his fighting spirit.

Molina took charge for his first game on Saturday, fielded an attacking 4-3-3 formation and enjoyed a glorious start as his side took a two-goal lead against neighbours Valencia inside 17 minutes. The buzz was back, though third placed Valencia came back and drew 2-2.

Molina is confident his side can climb the table but he could not have faced a much harder start - their next three games are against Atletico Madrid and Sporting Gijon away, before they host Barcelona.