Villarreal cast aside speculation about Unai Emery’s future as coach by beating Young Boys 2-0 on Tuesday to edge closer to qualifying for the Champions League last 16.
Etienne Capoue’s close-range finish and a late strike from Arnaut Danjuma sealed a deserved victory at the Ceramica, with Villarreal now sitting level on points in Group F with Manchester United, who scored late to snatch a 2-2 draw away at Atalanta.
Villarreal face United next in a crucial game at home on November 23 before going away last to Atalanta, who are two points behind in third.
Whether Emery will be in charge for those games is in doubt after reports in England on Tuesday claimed the Spaniard is close to agreeing a return to the Premier League and Newcastle, who have enormous financial backing after the club’s Saudi-backed takeover last month.
Villarreal president Fernando Roig was asked about Newcastle’s interest before the match. “I have absolutely no idea (about it),” he said. “What I do know is that he has a contract with us and contracts are there to be fulfilled. I have no doubts about Unai’s professionalism.”
Despite Newcastle’s huge potential long-term, Emery would be trading the Europa League champions, who appear to be on the cusp of reaching the Champions League knock-out stages, for a team that currently sit second bottom of the Premier League.
But Villarreal’s performances in Europe have not been matched in La Liga and some at the Spanish club might not lament Emery’s departure.
Last season they had ambitions to finish in the top four but finished seventh, 19 points behind fourth, and this season they are 13th in the table, after managing just two wins from their opening 11 league games.
Young Boys had been struggling for form as well with only one win in their last five, including a 4-1 defeat by Villarreal in the reverse fixture in Berne two weeks ago.
Villarreal were the more dangerous in the first half and deservedly took the lead in the 36th minute when a deep Dani Parejo cross from the left found Mario Gaspar free at the back post. He cleverly nodded back into the six-yard box towards Capoue, whose header was saved by Guillaume Faivre but he was there to sweep in the rebound.
Young Boys had chances too and thought they had equalised early in the second half when the lively Christian Fassnacht headed in when left completely unmarked at a free-kick. But his teammate Nicolas Burgy was on the line and after consulting the replay, Dutch referee Dutch referee Serdar Gozubuyuk called offside.
Villarreal’s Raul Albiol collided with the post after heading a lob from Fabian Rieder’s lob off the line before the home side should have made the victory more comfortable, Manu Trigueros and then Capoue missing golden chances from consecutive corners.
Capoue helped Danjuma make sure in the last minute. After a surging run through half the pitch, Capoue finally lost possession near the left touchline only to keep going, pressuring Rider and poking the ball into the path of Danjuma, who finished.