Villarreal are Arsenal's opponents in the Semi-Finals of this season's Champions League. Keep up to date with the fortunes of the Spanish side in our weekly Euro Watch.
Villarreal 0-2 Real Sociedad
Saturday, April 22, 2006
Arsène Wenger was not alone in resting a string of key players ahead of this week's decisive Champions League Semi-Final second legs. Villarreal coach Manuel Pellegrini fielded a severely depleted side and saw his team lose 2-0 against Real Sociedad in La Liga.
Villarreal cannot qualify for next season's Champions League via their league position - unlike Arsenal - and Pellegrini decided not to risk the players who will hope to overturn a 1-0 deficit when the Gunners visit El Madrigal on Tuesday night.
In the event, centre-back César Arzo was the only survivor from the Villarreal team which started at Highbury as Pellegrini promoted two players from his B team and five members of the youth squad.
It was no surprise when Mikel Alonso handed Sociedad an early lead and Chilean winger Mark González made it 2-0 before the half-hour mark. Diego Forlan's introduction lifted Villarreal's performance but the Yellow Submarines never looked like rescuing the situation.
"Until now I have always said we would not give up on the league for the Champions League," Pellegrini said after the game. "But we have got ourselves to a point where we are only one game from the final and we only need a good result to turn it around. That's why we are prioritising the Arsenal match."
While the likes of Marcos Senna, Juan Román Riquelme and Javi Venta were all given a rest, Pellegrini's hand was in part forced by a number of injuries to his side. José Mari, Quique Álvarez, Josico and Alessio Tacchinardi, who will be suspended for the second leg against Arsenal, were all sidelined by minor niggles.
Centre-backs Gonzalo Rodríguez and Juan Manuel Peña are out with ankle knocks picked up in Villarreal's defeat against Barcelona in their previous La Liga game.
Copyright 2015 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 24 Apr 2006