Villarreal faces Liverpool at Estadio de la Cerámica on Tuesday night in the UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg. Jurgen Klopp’s side toiled to win 2-0 at home, in the end, a week ago and an uphill task awaits the Yellow Submarines in Spain. Unai Emery’s side are not expected to change its approach so they will need a perfect performance to have any chance of even taking this to extra time.
The Yellow Submarine reached this stage after two massive upsets. After a 1-1 home draw with Juventus in the round of 16, they won 3-0 in Torino in the second leg. They then beat Bayern Munich 1-0 at home in the quarter-final first leg before sealing progression with a 1-1 away draw.
Domestically, they have lost four of their last eight La Liga matches as the focus has shifted to Europa. They won consecutive league matches before the Liverpool first leg, 2-1 at Getafe and 2-0 against Valencia. They were then beaten 2-0 at Anfield by the Reds. This weekend, they were beaten 2-1 at Alaves as Unai Emery rested eight players.
Villarreal Team News
Emery rested eight players against Alaves with only Samuel Chukwueze, Dani Parejo, and Pau Torres keeping their places from the loss at Anfield (and the latter two were taken off at half-time anyway.
Winger Yeremy Pino is set to miss the second leg with injury and Alberto Morena is out. The big question is whether Gerard Moreno can play any part. The star striker has had hamstring issues all season but is back in training. He may have to settle for a spot on the bench here.
Emery won’t change the approach from a week ago – sit very deep and look to counter – but he will need his side to do the latter part significantly better at home. They barely mustered any threat in the first leg with just one shot and 0.1 xG produced.
They will keep it tight, hope to be 1-0 up with 20 minutes to go, and then look to attack more and get the 2-0 to send it to extra time.
Liverpool have won 22 of their last 25 matches. They are in sensational form with the entire squad contributing. The best hope for Villarreal is that the Reds lost 1-0 at home to Inter and drew 3-3 at home with Benfica in their last two Champions League second legs as complacency set in with the tie largely already won after one leg.
Those are the only two matches that Liverpool have not won in Europe this season. They reached the FA Cup by beating Man City 3-2 at Wembley before thrashing Man Utd 4-0 in the league. Solid 2-0 league and CL wins at home against Everton and Villarreal followed. They did just enough to win 1-0 at Newcastle this weekend as Naby Keita scored.
Liverpool Team News
Klopp is missing Roberto Firmino for this match due to a foot injury. Divock Origi and Curtis Jones have been ill but should travel and take their places on the bench. All of Fabinho, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Thiago Alcantara, and Mohamed Salah will start having had partial or full rests at Newcastle.
Ibrahima Konate is set to start in preference to Joel Matip at center-back. Naby Keita could get the nod over Jordan Henderson. Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota will compete for the final spot in attack alongside Salah and Sadio Mane.
Klopp’s sides have never won in Spain in seven matches in the past but have always progressed. He will want to win this match outright but reaching the final is the main concern.
He said his side won’t sit back and counter but will play their usual game, knowing that Villarreal will make them defend more in this second leg. A draw would be fine and Liverpool will want to avoid another complacent second leg display after the Inter loss and Benfica draw.
Villarreal are 12 home matches unbeaten in all comps (W8, D4)
Villarreal have won 2 of their 5 home CL matches this season (D2, L1)
Villarreal have scored 2 total goals in 3 home CL matches this season
Liverpool have won 13 of their last 14 PL matches (D1)
LFC have won 22 of their last 25 matches (all comps)
Liverpool have won 9 of 11 CL matches this season
Liverpool have scored 2+ goals in 10 of their last 11 CL matches
Liverpool should have too much for Emery’s team. A repeat of last season’s win to nil looks like a good bet. If the Reds are complacent, they could lose this 1-0 but it’s impossible to see Villarreal reaching the final. Some creativity in your bets may be needed for this one.