Villarreal start their pre-season in style

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Right about now, nearly all of the siesta’d-up squads of la Liga will have gathered together for pre-season training.

400 word assignments on “Wot I did on my holidays” will have been handed out and those having failed to return from Brazil will be offering up “when you said Monday, I thought you meant Thursday” as their excuses.

Xerez manager, Crackers ‘Cuco’ Ziganda, will be standing and Mad Eye-Moodying at just 13 first-team players.

This is certainly not an issue for Real Madrid’s Manuel Pellegrini whose daily head count alone takes up half of the squad’s training session.

One of the first sides to go back to business were the Europa League-qualifying Athletic Bilbao.

They have spent the past couple of weeks being pictured enthusiastically sprinting in and out of the sea, Mitch Buchanan style, surrounded by gawking bikini babes before underperforming in pre-season friendlies against the likes of Anderlecht.

Or so says Joaquín Caparrós. “They lacked intensity,” remarked the Athletic coach on the difference in his footballers performance levels when not surrounded by scantily-clad floozies.

Those silver-spoon clutching, laurel-sitting dilettantes at Barcelona are one of the last sides to saunter back from their summer holidays all with the coolness and thinking the world owes them a living.

Following the established pre-season tradition for all football clubs, Barça’s opening encounter of the summer will be an easy run-out against some hopeless ringers, carefully selected to make them look as good as possible.

In the Catalan club’s case, its Tottenham who will be taking on Pep’s Dream Boys at Wembley Stadium on Friday night.

Over in the surroundings of the Spanish capital, Atlético Madrid gave local villagers, Colmenar, something to think about with a 3-0 thrashing - a match which saw the participation of both José Antonio Reyes and José Jurado - while Sevilla struggled to squeeze past Conil with just a 1-0 winning margin.

However, it’s Villarreal who kicked off their summer in sensational style with a match against what the blog assumes to be a collection of local village idiots.

And no, it wasn’t Real Betis.

A Sunday evening encounter saw a 27-0 victory over Navata, the kind of result last seen back in the 1890’s involving sides named after railway stations.

New Villarreal coach, Ernesto Valverde, chose to use two separate XIs in the encounter to deliver the pain with Jonathan Pereira returning from his loan spell at Racing to chip in seven of the goals.

Even ignoring this fluke of a football game, La Liga Loca fancies Villarreal to be a handy bet for a third-placed finish next season - or even second if something very, very funny happens to one of the Big Two.

The shrewd former Espanyol man was a very smart choice for Judas Pellegrini’s replacement and has already shifted some deadwood from the side with the removal of Nihat, Matigol and the hapless forward, Guille Franco.

The defence has been strengthened with the arrival of defender Ivan Marcano from Racing, although some experienced replacements in midfield to boost the fading Robert Pires and Marcos Senna are a bit of a must if the east coast side are to fulfil their potential in the new campaign.

“We should be able to finish a lot higher than that,” predicted striker Joseba Llorente reflecting on last season’s fifth-placed finish.

In the first of La Liga Loca’s doomed-to-failure summer predictions, the blog strongly agrees.

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