Elche vs Villarreal
La Liga top-four hopefuls Villarreal head to the Estadio Manuel Martínez Valero to meet basement boys Elche in a must-win league contest.
Elche’s abysmal La Liga campaign has continued after the World Cup break, as they’ve gone winless in all five league outings after the restart (D2, L3). As the only side in La Liga yet to pick up a win at the halfway point of the season (D6, L13), it’s no wonder ‘Los Franjiverdes’ already have one foot in the Segunda Division. Stuck a staggering 14 points below 17th-placed Real Valladolid, Pablo Machin’s men can at least hope to salvage some pride by defying an underwhelming nine-game La Liga form against Villarreal (W1, D4, L4). That sounds easier said than done, considering they’ve failed to keep a clean sheet in their last 24 top-flight outings since a 1-0 win against Real Betis in April 2022.
Meanwhile, Villarreal suffered a disappointing 1-0 home defeat to Rayo Vallecano earlier this week, surrendering an impressive five-game unbeaten run in La Liga action (W4, D1). Despite that setback, the visitors’ pursuit of a second top-four finish in three seasons is still on as they trail fourth-placed Atletico Madrid by three points at the start of this round. But if the ‘Yellow Submarine’ are to improve their chances in this keenly-contested race, correcting an underwhelming return of one win from their last eight away league matches (D3, L4) is a necessity. Paradoxically, only table-topping Barcelona (6) have conceded fewer goals on their La Liga travels this season than Villarreal (7), highlighting the attack as a weak link. Indeed, Quique Setien’s men have averaged only 0.87 goals per away league game in 2022/23.