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Villarreal unveil plans to halt Porto juggernaut

Villarreal CF's recent shaky form is in marked contrast to FC Porto's 12-match winning run, though both coaches rejected any talk of a favourite ahead of their UEFA Europa League semi-final.

Villarreal train on the eve of the semi-final against Porto
Villarreal train on the eve of the semi-final against Porto ©Getty Images

André Villas-Boas insists there is little to choose between FC Porto and UEFA Europa League semi-final opponents Villarreal CF – even if the newly-crowned Portuguese champions' 12-game winning run is in marked contrast to the stuttering Spanish side.

"By this stage there is no such thing as favourites," said the 33-year-old. "Both teams have equal chance of going through, so we'll just play our own game. We have a great deal of respect for Villarreal and I really don't know where they got the idea that we are favourites from."

You do not have to think for too long. Through to the Portuguese Cup final, the Dragão have dropped just four Liga points all season and wrapped up their 25th title with five matches to spare – echoes of José Mourinho's 2003 treble-winning side ring loud. Visiting coach Juan Carlos Garrido is doing his best to drown them out, respectfully disassociating himself from those elevating the aura around this Porto side.

"We dream about going through," said a breathless Garrido. "Porto are a great team, they are Portuguese champions and have many strong points. I'm full of respect and admiration but we're going to try to win here, play our own game, and keep the dream of the final alive. There are no favourites. We are going to work within our capabilities to make a good season great. We need to be perfect at the back and going forward, have confidence in ourselves and stay true to our style as much as possible."

Ominously for Villarreal, shorn of Gonzalo, Ángel López and Marcos Senna through injury, far from running out of gas with the end in sight Porto seem to have found another gear. They made it 12 wins from 12 with a 3-1 cup victory at possible UEFA Europa League final opponents SL Benfica last Wednesday, their most recent outing. The Spanish side, meanwhile, slipped to their third defeat in six outings on Sunday, going down 3-2 to a Sevilla FC side Porto eliminated on away goals in the last 32 of this competition.

That means nothing, according to Villas-Boas, who concluded: "Villarreal are doing very well in fourth in the Spanish championship and therefore they're one of the best teams in Europe. They have already been in a Champions League semi-final [in 2006] and are striving for success – if they don't have trophies yet, they will one day. Villarreal play with an attacking style, they draw pleasure from doing so; as do we. It's a privilege to have these two teams playing in this competition."

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