Liverpool go into their Europa League semi-final first leg against Villarreal full of confidence after Jurgen Klopp’s side knocked pre-tournament favourites Borussia Dortmund out in the quarter-finals in sensational fashion.
Having given themselves a fantastic chance of winning through to the last four of the tournament after a 1-1 draw in Germany, the Reds’ chances of progressing took a major hit when Dortmund stormed into a 2-0 lead inside ten minutes at Anfield. Marco Reus then gave the visitors a 3-1 lead on the night but late goals – including a last minute winner from Dejan Lovren – saw Anfield erupt and Liverpool set up a semi-final against the Spanish side.
The Spanish side won 4-2 in the Czech Republic against Sparta Prague to record a 6-3 aggregate victory in their own last-eight tie. The ‘Yellow Submarine’ have performed above expectations in La Liga this term, currently sitting fourth in the league standings – behind only Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid.
However, Marcelino’s side do not go into this clash in the best of form as they have failed to win their previous three league fixtures. Their home record in the Europa League is impressive though – the club have won all of their home European fixtures this term, conceding just one goal in the process.
Liverpool will be pleased to be playing away from home in the first leg. The Reds will be hoping to score an away goal and finish the job at Anfield. If the Merseyside club do see off Villarreal, they will reach their first European final since 2007.
Klopp has been dealt a blow with the news that defender Mamadou Sakho, who scored one of the goals against Borussia Dortmund, will not contest the result of a positive drug test. Despite the France international not currently being suspended, Liverpool have decided to leave him out of future squads while the investigation is still pending.
Villarreal will be without Leo Baptistao, but Jaume Costa and Mateo Mussachio have passed late fitness tests. Former Tottenham Hotspur striker Roberto Soldado will start up front for the home side, alongside Cedric Bakambu.
For the visitors, Emre Can is still unavailable after picking up an ankle injury in the second leg win over Dortmund, while Divock Origi will be out for up to six weeks after damaging ankle ligaments in the Merseyside derby win over Everton last week.
Captain Jordan Henderson is set to miss the remainder of the campaign with a knee injury, along with summer signing Joe Gomez, while Danny Ings is still sidelined but thought to be close to a return.
League Position: Villarreal – 4th (La Liga – 61 pts); Liverpool – 7th (Premier League – 55 pts)
Previous Meeting: This will be the first competitive fixture between Villarreal and Liverpool
Form: Villarreal – WWWLLD; Liverpool – DWWWWD
Key Men: Villarreal – Cedric Bakambu; Liverpool – Daniel Sturridge
Shoot Says: Villarreal 1-1 Liverpool