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Struggling Villarreal re-hires coach it fired last year

January 29, 2019
FILE - In this Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011 file photo, the then Levantes coach Luis Garcia Plaza gestures to his players during their Copa del Rey soccer match against Real Madrid at the Ciutat De Valencia stadium in Valencia, Spain. Villarreal fired coach Luis Garcia Plaza, Tuesday Jan. 29, 2019, after they won only one of its nine matches under his command, leaving the team second-to-last in the Spanish league standings. (AP Photo/Alberto Saiz, File)
FILE - In this Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011 file photo, the then Levantes coach Luis Garcia Plaza gestures to his players during their Copa del Rey soccer match against Real Madrid at the Ciutat De Valencia stadium in Valencia, Spain. Villarreal fired coach Luis Garcia Plaza, Tuesday Jan. 29, 2019, after they won only one of its nine matches under his command, leaving the team second-to-last in the Spanish league standings. (AP Photo/Alberto Saiz, File)

MADRID (AP) — Villarreal has re-hired coach Javi Calleja, less than two months after it fired him.

The Spanish club said Calleja is returning to replace Luis Garcia Plaza, who was let go earlier Tuesday after winning only one of his nine matches at the helm.

Calleja was replaced by Plaza in December with Villarreal just outside the relegation zone in the Spanish league. Plaza departed with the club second-to-last in the standings, five points from safety.

“We couldn’t wait any longer. We had to make a change now,” Villarreal president Fernando Roig said. “Calleja is someone who knows the squad, the club, the situation that we are in.”

Villarreal lost at Valencia 3-0 in its last league game, a result that extended the team’s winless streak to eight matches in all competitions.

“I respect the decision, but I don’t agree with it,” Plaza said. “I think there was time to overcome this situation.”

The team’s only win under Plaza was against Spartak Moscow in the group stage of the Europa League, in his first game in charge. The team drew four straight matches after that, including against Real Madrid at home in the league, then lost three of its next four in all competitions.

It will host Espanyol in the league on Sunday.

Villarreal is the first team to have changed coaches twice this season.

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