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Christmas comes early for Villarreal

"We are heading off on our holidays feeling very happy," said Villarreal CF coach Marcelino, with his side fifth in Spain, and still in UEFA Europa League contention.

Villarreal head into 2015 in high spirits
Villarreal head into 2015 in high spirits ©AFP/Getty Images

Last season, Villarreal CF confounded the most optimistic expectations on their return to the Spanish top division, finishing sixth and qualifying for the UEFA Europa League.

Following a 3-0 win against RC Deportivo La Coruña at the weekend, things are going even better for the Yellow Submarine. "Last season we had 28 points before going on holiday and now we have 30 points having played one game less," beamed coach Marcelino. "No one can take those points away from us. These players are giving us so much joy at the moment, and I'm grateful to them for their commitment and ambition. We are heading off on our holidays feeling very happy."

Things have been going swimmingly, with the prospect of even more excitement in 2015; as well as being through to the UEFA Europa League round of 32, where they will face FC Salzburg, Villarreal have a place in the last 16 of the Spanish Cup and look set for an enthralling battle with Sevilla FC, Valencia CF and Málaga CF for fourth spot in the Liga, and a place in the UEFA Champions League – where Villarreal have not competed since 2011/12.

Defensive solidity has been vital to Villarreal's recent form – they are the only team in the division not to have conceded in their last four matches. However, just as important has been the work of the attack, particularly young forwards Denis Cheryshev and Luciano Vietto. The Russian laid on the ball for Vietto to score the final goal on Sunday against Deportivo, taking the Argentinian's tally for the season to 12 goals in all competitions.

Vietto is certainly looking to be one of the most shrewd signings of the summer – Villarreal brought the 21-year-old to Spain from Argentinian giants Racing Club de Avellaneda for a reported €5.5m. "Vietto is a great player who is playing exceptionally well for us at the moment," said Marcelino of his team's top scorer. "His adaptation and performances have been far better than we expected. You always have to be sensible with young players, but it's obvious that he can still develop a lot more."

However, as attacking midfielder Moi Gómez explained, Villarreal's success has not been down to any one individual. "The team has learned how to be a group – a group that is very united and in which everyone has something to contribute," said the 20-year-old. "The fact that everyone in the squad is dedicated to our cause is vital. There is a great relationship between the players and staff, and in the end everyone benefits from that."