With Manchester City, Napoli and Bayern Munich making up the quartet it will be no easy task to qualify for the next stages, but the Yellow Submarine have a good track record having reached the semi-finals (2006) and the quarter-finals (2009) – both times being knocked out by Arsenal – on their only two appearances in the tournament.
However, their opponents in the group opener are Bayern Munich, who have made a particularly impressive start to the season under new boss Jupp Heynckes. The 66-year-old former West German international’s arrival – along with that of goalkeeper Manuel Neuer – has given Bayern a solid look at the back which has seen just one goal conceded in seven official games played so far this season.
In contrast, Villarreal have not had the best of starts to the La Liga campaign; a 5-0 opening day defeat to Barcelona was followed by having to settle for a 2-2 draw on their home patch last weekend against 10-man Sevilla. Yet boss Garrido is conscious of starting the group phase well and says: “To play in this competition is the best motivation you can have in football. We know it will be difficult but we are hoping to put on a good performance. If we want to achieve anything then we need to fight for it. To get the three points would be a very important step.”
Heynckes, for his part, was full of praise for Villarreal: “We won’t take anything for granted.” he said. “Villarreal are a very well organised team who have progressed a lot in the last few years, with good players and little money, and have always been in the top half of the table. They have Champions League experience and possess players of great quality as well as being attack-minded and good on the counter-attack.”