VILLARREAL VS LIVERPOOL: PREVIEW
It’s back to Champions League action tomorrow night as Liverpool travel to the Estadio de la Ceramica to take on Villarreal. The Reds hold a 2-0 first leg advantage and will be looking to seal their place in their fourth European final under Klopp. Here’s a preview of the game.
Villarreal came to Anfield last week with a plan to frustrate. They had executed that plan to perfection at Bayern Munich. They sat in and kept numbers behind the ball. For the first half last Wednesday, their plan seemed to be working as the scoreline remained goalless at the break.
“Everyone has a plan till they get punched in the mouth.”
A quick double by the Reds in the second half changed the whole complexion of the tie and rendered Emery’s tactics unambitious in the end. Villarreal didn’t manage a single shot on target, with Danjuma barely getting a kick.
Emery’s men were swarmed by the red hurricane. They were not allowed to breathe on the ball yet alone build up play to create a chance. The ex-Sevilla boss was very vocal post-match about how different the approach will be in the return leg.
In his words, he was going to make sure Liverpool ‘suffer’. Some of the reaction to the first leg by certain quarters of the English media has surely provided extra fuel for the Yellow Submarines. They will be keen to show what they’re made of tomorrow night.
They used the arrogance of Julian Nagelsmann as proper fuel for their tie against Bayern. Gerard Moreno being back fit is also a huge boost. The stadium will be rocking and they will look to make it difficult.
Jürgen Klopp’s men have seen it all though. They won’t take them lightly as they are simply not built that way as a group. They will approach the game with the utmost seriousness with a place in the Champions League final up for grabs.
The good thing about the first leg result is Villarreal can’t afford to sit back and wait for Liverpool to come onto them. They need to score at least twice to force extra time so will have to give it a right good go from the off.
That should mean a football match will break out, unlike last week when it was only one side interested in playing. This Liverpool side can win in so many different ways. They can break down a parked bus, they can outfight and out-battle teams and they can also outplay and outpunch as well.
Both sides made changes over the weekend. Jürgen Klopp made five in the 1-0 win over Newcastle whilst Unai Emery made as many as eight changes. This saw them succumb to a 2-1 defeat to bottom of the table Alaves. Both sides should at least be fresh for the game as a result.
Villarreal have won just 12 of their 22 matches in all competitions at the Ceramica this season (losing 3). Liverpool meanwhile have won every single one of their away matches in the Champions League this season.
Porto at the Dragao, Atletico Madrid at the Wanda, AC Milan and Internazionale at San Siro, Benfica at Estadio da Luz, all beaten by an aggregate score of 15-5. That puts into perspective the scale of the challenge Villarreal face.
They’ve enjoyed a good ride in the competition but Liverpool will look to end that journey. With the Premier League title race being out of the Reds’ hands, it is imperative they reach the Champions League final to maintain the feel-good vibe around the season and the club in general.
For Liverpool, Roberto Firmino (foot) is once again the only absentee. He will travel with the squad to Spain but Klopp has ruled him out whilst maintaining he’s close to a return. Divock Origi has overcome a stomach bug and is available.
For Villareal, Gerard Moreno is the big one. He trained yesterday and is expected to be available after missing the first leg. Danjuma missed training however and will be monitored ahead of the game. Yeremy Pino and ex-Red Alberto Moreno remain out.
The Portuguese international has been in and out of the side recently. He got a start at Newcastle and played really well. He created the joint most chances (4), registered the most shots (5), the most shots on target (4) as well as providing the assist for the only goal of the game.
With Villarreal having to attack, he could find space to operate in. He will likely line up on the left wing and look to arrive in the box to get on the end of Trent’s deliveries from the opposite side.
The Spanish international is the host’s best player. He led them to the Europa League title last season but has has suffered an injury ravaged campaign so far. He is still a big threat when fit. He provided the all important assist to knock Bayern out. Expect all their attacking play to go through him if he starts.
The 31 year old was exceptional in the first leg, as he has been for majority of the season. He will be key to slowing down the tempo when Villarreal look to build up a head of steam. He will also be crucial to the Reds getting on the front foot and playing their game. If he can dictate the game, the Reds job will be made easier.
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