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Champions League group stage recap: Villarreal do enough

Never flamboyant but usually effective, the UEFA Europa League holders made it to the UEFA Champions League round of 16 largely unscathed.

Arnaut Danjuma and Alberto Moreno celebrate a Villarreal goal at Atalanta on Matchday 6 of the UEFA Champions League group stage
Arnaut Danjuma and Alberto Moreno celebrate a Villarreal goal at Atalanta on Matchday 6 of the UEFA Champions League group stage Getty Images

Despite some impressive displays in the group stage, it took a Matchday 6 victory to take Unai Emery's Villarreal into the UEFA Champions League round of 16, with results not quite reflecting the Yellow Submarine's performance level.

Round of 16: Villarreal vs Juventus

Campaign so far

Highlights: Atalanta 2-3 Villarreal
Highlights: Atalanta 2-3 Villarreal

Group F runners-up: W3 D1 L2 F12 A9
Top scorer: Arnaut Danjuma (4)

14/09: Villarreal 2-2 Atalanta (Trigueros 39, Danjuma 73; Freuler 6, Gosens 83)
29/09: Manchester United 2-1 Villarreal (Alex Telles 60, Ronaldo 90+5; Alcácer 53)
20/10: Young Boys 1-4 Villarreal (Elia 77; Pino 6, Gerard Moreno 16, Moreno 88, Chukwueze 90+2)
02/11: Villarreal 2-0 Young Boys (Capoue 36, Danjuma 89)
23/11: Villarreal 0-2 Manchester United (Ronaldo 78, Sancho 90)
09/12: Atalanta 2-3 Villarreal (Malinovskyi 71, Zapata 80; Danjuma 3 51, Capoue 42)

Campaign in ten words: Lack of a finisher nearly cost them a knockout place.

UEFA.com reporter's view

The Yellow Submarine played some excellent football during the group stage, in particular dominating Manchester United for long periods at Old Trafford. Gerard Moreno's injury issues meant that they lacked a natural goalscorer, though, and while they got the job done, it would have been a lot easier with a sharper cutting edge.

What we've learned

Last season's UEFA Europa League winners, Villarreal have proved themselves to be worthy of a place at this level but need to be a bit more clinical in both boxes if they are to keep forging on, with slack defending and profligate finishing having marred some good group stage showings.

Fantasy star performers

Highlights: Young Boys 1-4 Villarreal
Highlights: Young Boys 1-4 Villarreal

Arnaut Danjuma - 44 points
Étienne Capoue – 36 points
Dani Parejo – 27 points

Squad changes

Clubs can register a maximum of three new eligible players by 24:00 CET on Wednesday 2 February at the latest. Since 2018/19, it no longer matters whether those players have already played in the competition for another club, even for another club still in the competition. Once all teams' changes are approved by UEFA in each competition, the full list of ins and outs will be published on UEFA.com.

Key stats

• Just under half of the city of Villarreal's 52,000 inhabitants can fit inside their 23,500-seater stadium.

• Signed from Bournemouth in summer 2021, Nigerian-born Dutch forward Danjuma scored four goals in his first Champions League group stage with Villarreal.

• The Yellow Submarine conceded eight of their nine group stage goals after half-time.