Villarreal’s European dream passes through Anfield
MADRID, 26 Apr. (EUROPE PRESS) –
Villarreal visits Liverpool this Wednesday (9:00 p.m.) in the first leg of the Champions League semifinals, a duel at Anfield in which the ‘Submarino’ will examine their condition as ‘giant killers’ to continue with the European dream, while The English team arrives with the favorite poster and will seek to put the tie on track to leave the Castellón people without options.
After eliminating Juventus and Bayern Munich in the round of 16 and quarterfinals, respectively, Villarreal faces a new historic crossroads and will play this Wednesday the second semifinals of the Champions League since its foundation, the first for 16 years, when Arsenal separated the yellows from that final in Paris -which ended up winning Barça-, with the painful memory of the penalty missed by Juan Román Riquelme, whom they will now want to avenge.
In the previous round, Unay Emery’s men asserted the 1-0 they achieved at La Cerámica against the Germans, a result that they defended tooth and nail in the return leg, when they achieved a hard-fought draw (1-1) thanks to the fact that they never left of believing in their possibilities, aware that they would have to take advantage of each and every one of the options presented to them.
Commitment, solidarity and work, mixed with the daring and ease of a team that has kicked down the door and looks to the European sky based on feats and deeds at the level of the best teams on the continent. A milestone for a city of just over 50,000 inhabitants that sees with the eyes of a child the possibility of playing its first Champions League final.
This will be the fourth time that Villarreal have faced an English team in their last five European semi-finals. In the most recent, last season, the team from Castellón eliminated Arsenal to sneak into a Europa League final that they would end up winning against Manchester United.
Now, Villarreal will meet again in the semifinals of European competition with Liverpool six years later, when they also faced each other in the semifinals, although in the Europa League. The ‘red’ team, which was already trained by the German Juergen Klopp, did not give the ‘Yellow Submarine’ too many options on that occasion, with a 3-0 return at Anfield, after the Castellón team put the English in trouble with a 1-0 in the old Madrigal.
In that season, Liverpool could not beat Sevilla -directed by Emery- in the Europa League final. The one from Hondarribia is the main culprit for the great performance of the squad, which he already identifies with a clear philosophy and style. The Basque has overcome 31 of his last 37 qualifiers, and is one of the great arguments to end a streak of eight visits to England without winning.
Villarreal, who did not have a game this weekend and arrive with fully charged batteries -chaining five undefeated matches-, presents the loss of Yéremi Pino and the great doubt of Gerard Moreno -scorer of 12 goals this course-, who suffered an overload intense in the hamstring muscles of his right leg on April 16. His position could be occupied by Paco Alcácer if Emery maintains the drawing, although he could incorporate a fifth midfielder.
THE LIVERPOOL, VERY FAVORITE TO BE IN THE FINAL OF PARIS
For their part, the ‘reds’ face this tie with the favourites, although with caution and respect for Villarreal, aware that leaving more relaxed than necessary can ruin the entire tie and their chances of being in a final of Champions three years later.
Those of Klopp have the opportunity to get on track to their third final of the season, since they have taken out their ticket to play the final round of the FA Cup and the League Cup in England. The English team comes from beating Everton 2-0 in the Merseyside Derby, and in the quarterfinals of the Champions League it earned them a resounding 1-3 in the first leg against Benfica to go through 6-4 on aggregate of the tie.
The German coach’s team has only lost one of the last 26 games and hides behind his strength at home and the characteristic atmosphere of Anfield, one more weapon of the ‘reds’. This, added to their excellent level of play, makes Liverpool one of the great favorites for the title.
Salah and Mané continue to be the main dangers, in a team with a vertiginous and lethal counterattack combined with the pause and good sense provided by men like Thiago Alcántara or Fabinho. Marshal Van Dijk and goalkeeper Alisson will be safe behind, with two full-backs, Robertson and Alexander-Arnold, very deep. Roberto Firmino is the only doubt in the ‘red’ team.
LIVERPOOL: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konaté, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Thiago Alcantara; Salah, Diogo Jota and Mané.
VILLARREAL: Rulli; Foyth, Albiol, Pau Torres, Estupiñán; Coquelin, Capoue, Parejo, Trigueros, Lo Celso; and Danjuma.
–REFEREE: Szymon Marciniak (POL).
— STADIUM: Anfield.
–TIME: 21.00/Movistar Champions League 1.