The semi finals of the Champions League rolls around tonight with Manchester City hosting Real Madrid. Liverpool will welcome Villarreal to Anfield tomorrow night. Here’s a preview of the Reds’ clash with Unai Emery’s outfit.

Villarreal may be 7th in La Liga but that doesn’t tell the story of their season. They’ve been on an incredible ride in the Champions League. This is their first run to the semis since the golden era of 2005/06 with the likes of Marcos Senna, Juan Roman Riquelme, Diego Forlan etc.

This is also turning out to be a golden period for the Yellow Submarines, with Emery guiding them to the Europa League title last season. They could have added to that as well but lost out on penalties to Chelsea in the Super Cup back in August.

The former Arsenal boss won three consecutive Europa League titles with Sevilla, including a 3-1 win over Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool in the 2016 final. He is the king of knockout football and is very adept at setting his side up to deal with a specific opponent.

It’s been a dream run since they qualified from the group stages at Atalanta’s expense. It required a last day win in Bergamo to make that happen and Emery’s men haven’t looked back since. They’ve impressively knocked out both Juventus and Bayern Munich.

They went to the Allianz stadium in Turin and beat Juventus 3-0 to knock them out in the Round of 16. That was before beating much fancied Bayern 1-0 at the Estadio de la Ceramica. They backed that up with a 1-1 draw in Munich to pull off the shock of the tournament so far.

They come up against a Liverpool side that has won 8 out of their 10 matches in the Champions League this season. The Reds have defeated AC Milan, Atletico Madrid, Porto, Inter and Benfica on their way to a third Champions League semi final appearance under Klopp.

The Reds are in excellent form at the minute having beaten Manchester City, Manchester United and then Everton in the space of a week. The charge to add more trophies to the League Cup trophy lifted in February continues.

The firepower currently at the manager’s disposal was again evident on Sunday when Diaz and Origi came off the bench to change the game. That firepower, coupled with the quality throughout the side, and the experience in the latter stages of the competition makes them strong favourites.

The Reds will feel confident of powering past the Spanish side to make it to the final in Paris. This is arguably Liverpool’s best ever team, and the group must put more silverware on the board to cement their place in history.

Villarreal will be no pushovers however, they will make it difficult over the two legs. You can expect Emery to set them up in a solid 4-4-2 formation and make them hard to break down. Not only will they have a plan to stop Liverpool but they will try and target the high line.

They have pace aplenty on the break through Danjuma and Chukwueze. Capoue and Parejo will be key in midfield to springing the attackers in behind. The absence of their talisman Gerard Moreno will be a huge miss for them, with Lo Celso likely to replace him in the side.

Jürgen Klopp will hope to strike the perfect balance between offensive threat to break down their defence, and a disciplined presence at the back to thwart their counter attacks. The Reds have netted 133 goals in all competitions this season and will be confident of scoring a couple.

Villarreal have only conceded 31 goals in La Liga this season. Only Sevilla (27) and Real Madrid (29) have conceded less.

The last time these two sides met was in the semi finals of the Europa League back in 2016. Villarreal won the first leg 1-0 before Liverpool roared to a 3-0 win at Anfield to overturn the tie. The Anfield crowd will need to recreate a similar atmosphere to help the side to a first leg win tomorrow night.

Team News

For Liverpool, Roberto Firmino is unlikely to feature. The Brazilian has been struggling with a foot injury that has ruled him out of the last two games. Klopp confirmed he has started running outside but the game tomorrow night will come too soon for him. Everyone else is fit and available.

For Villarreal, Gerard Moreno is out with a muscle injury. He is expected to be back in time for the second leg however. Yeremy Pino has also been ruled out whilst ex-Liverpool left back Alberto Moreno is out for the season after damaging his ACL last month.

Key Players

Luis Diaz

The Colombian continues to impress after his January switch from Porto. He was electric off the bench against Everton and has been involved in 5 goals in his last 6 appearances (2 goals, 3 assists). His unsettling influence on defences will be needed to break down a stubborn Villarreal side.

Arnaut Danjuma

The Dutchman has been a revelation since his move from Bournemouth last summer. He’s netted 10 goals in 23 La Liga appearances, and 6 in 10 Champions League appearances. He will carry the threat for the away side with his pace on the break.

Thiago Alcantara

The 31 year old has been in resplendent form over the past few weeks. Fernandinho/Bernardo Silva/Grealish, Matic/Lingard/Fernandes and Allan/Doucoure have all been dominated in midfield by the maestro over the past week.

He will have to add Capoue/Parejo/Trugueros to the list if the Reds are to build a first leg advantage. Thiago played the entirety of the Everton match on Sunday so you wonder if he will fall victim to Klopp’s rotation tomorrow night. Should he start, he will be the one Liverpool look to to break the visitors down.



  1. Villarreal shouldn’t be underestimated. As you said, a balanced team should get the job done, there’s no room for errors.
    It’s going to be a tight fixture, Klopp and Emery have history and the battle continues.

    Liked by 1 person

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