Villarreal travel to Anfield for the first leg of their Champions League semi-final against Liverpool on Wednesday night, hoping to pull off another stunning surprise.
In the quarter-finals, Jurgen Klopp’s team defeated Benfica 6-4 on aggregate, while the Yellow Submarine eliminated Bayern Munich to reach the last four.
All eyes were on Benfica’s talisman Darwin Nunez during the second leg of his side’s quarter-final at Anfield, and the in-demand Uruguayan did not disappoint, but Liverpool carved their way through the veteran backline of Jan Vertonghen and Nicolas Otamendi three times to edge closer to continental glory.
Liverpool might add an extraordinary haul of four trophies to their bulging cabinet with just under a month to go before the end of the 2021-22 season, while the Premier League title remains out of their hands moving into the closing stretch.
In Sunday’s Merseyside derby, Divock Origi scored a late goal against Everton after Andy Robertson had opened the stalemate, and the Reds go into the first leg with Villarreal on a three-game winning streak in all competitions.
Liverpool had never before reached the semi-finals of the Champions League, FA Cup, and EFL Cup in the same season, and while they lost both their knockout legs at Anfield to Benfica and Inter Milan, Klopp’s side had already settled the tie in the first legs.
The first leg on Wednesday will be Liverpool’s eighth game in a rigorous April calendar, with the Reds scoring at least two goals in every game since the beginning of the month, but Unai Emery and Villarreal demand plenty of respect ahead of the Spaniard’s return to English soil.
The Yellow Submarine, ironically, were not the ones who were sunk by two European heavyweights in the previous Champions League rounds, with Juventus and, most recently, Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich struggling to find a winning formula against Emery’s well-drilled team.
After shutting out Julian Nagelsmann’s side in a 1-0 first-leg win that should have been more, Villarreal held their own on the Allianz Arena grass and came away with a 2-1 aggregate victory thanks to Samuel Chukwueze’s 88th-minute equalizer to Robert Lewandowski’s score.
Liverpool’s roster is in fantastic shape ahead of the first leg, with Roberto Firmino the lone question for the Reds after missing the Merseyside derby due to a foot injury.
Klopp, on the other hand, has a plethora of options to choose from and is anticipated to recall Ibrahima Konate immediately after the Frenchman scored in both legs of the quarter-final win against Benfica.
After being named among the substitutes at the weekend, Jordan Henderson and Luis Diaz can expect recalls to the starting XI, while Mohamed Salah only needs four more Champions League goals to break Sergio Aguero and Didier Drogba’s 36-goal record for English clubs in the competition.
Meanwhile, former Liverpool left-back Alberto Moreno will not be reunited with his former team this week as he continues his recovery from a damaged cruciate ligament, while star forward Gerard Moreno will also be absent.
The 30-year-old could return from a hamstring injury in time for the second leg, but he is unlikely to play at Anfield, whilst Francis Coquelin has been exercising with the squad and should be fit to start. Yeremi Pino has a fresh hamstring injury and will miss the game.
As a result, Emery’s only real problem is in the offensive third, where Chukwueze and Manu Trigueros are fighting for a starting spot alongside Arnaut Danjuma, who has been linked with a move to Liverpool in recent months.
|2.83||Avg Goals Scored Per Match||2|
|1||Avg Goals Conceded Per Match||1.5|
|4.17||Chances Created Per Match||3.67|
|1 – 5 v Porto ( A)||Biggest Win||1 – 4 v BSC Young Boys ( A)|
|0 – 1 v Internazionale ( H)||Worst Defeat||0 – 2 v Man Utd ( H)|
Liverpool’s Predicted Starting XI
Predicted lineup – Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Robertson, Henderson, Fabinho, Thiago, Salah, Mane, Diaz
Villarreal’s Predicted Starting XI
Predicted lineup – Rulli, Foyth, Albiol, Torres, Estupinan, Parejo, Capoue, Coquelin, Lo Celso, Danjuma, Moreno
Tonight, Wednesday, April 27, 2022, at 8 p.m. BST, Liverpool will face Villarreal.
The match will be held at Anfield in Liverpool.
We predict Liverpool to win 3-1 against Villarreal.
Villarreal thrashed Juventus on their home turf. At the Allianz Arena, Bayern Munich were unable to defeat Emery’s team. There’s no reason for the traveling party to think that another memorable away win and a happy aircraft ride home aren’t in the cards.
However, Villarreal will be without Gerard Moreno’s goalscoring and playmaking abilities at Anfield, and while we anticipate Liverpool to finally break the Yellow Submarine’s resistance and secure a first-leg advantage, they will undoubtedly have to be even more patient than they were against Everton.