Pressure is building on Unai Emery ahead of Villarreal’s defining Champions League clash with Atalanta.
Defeat would see the Yellow Submarine drop into the Europa League, the competition they won last season.
This group was always going to be difficult for Villarreal, but given the way their La Liga campaign is panning out, the Champions League might just be what Emery needs to save his job.
Despite big hopes and large summer investment, Villarreal are currently in 13th place, only four points above the relegation zone and a whopping 11 points off the top six.
The Yellow Submarine have won just three of their first 15 games in La Liga, and while it is not the case yet, if they continue their current form, it won’t be long at all until their domestic season is all-but over.
That, in part, is why the Champions League clash with Atalanta is so important.
Another Europa League campaign wouldn’t be a disaster, but progression to the Champions League Round of 16 would certainly be preferred, even if, strictly speaking, Villarreal are unlikely to progress beyond that point given the strength of the competition.
With that in mind, Emery may well go into this game feeling he needs to get a result to keep the trust of his board.
At this stage, it is unlikely to be a case of securing progression or getting the sack, but adding a Champions League failure to an already disappointing campaign could very much be the start of the end for the Basque boss, who has already been given some extra room for manoeuvre on the back of last season’s exploits.