Seeking to pull off another remarkable Champions League upset, Villarreal travel to Anfield for the first leg of their semi-final with Liverpool on Wednesday night. Jurgen Klopp’s side defeated Benfica 6-4 on aggregate in the quarter-finals, while the Yellow Submarine sent Bayern Munich packing to make the final four.
Villarreal toppled in-form Italian giants Juventus in the Round of 16 before humbling high-flying Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals. Yellow Submarine boss Unai Emery has proven himself master of European play yet again, with two Europa League crowns to his name to go, along with countless surprising results across his glittering managerial career.
Still, this test proves even more fearsome than the previous two, as Liverpool remain in the hunt for an unprecedented quadruple and is considered joint-favorites with Man City by bookmakers to emerge victorious at the end of the season.
Form Guide: Villarreal
Villarreal managed to eliminate Bayern Munich 2-1 on aggregate in the quarter-finals. Following a 1-0 victory in the first leg at home, they secured a 1-1 draw in the second leg.
Emery’s men have already faced two major tests of their European mettle and should therefore travel to Merseyside with unbridled optimism about their chances of gleaning a positive result. Their La Liga fortunes have also improved with back-to-back wins over Getafe and Valencia.
Winning three and drawing one of their four Champions League games on the road since going down to Manchester United back in September, Villarreal have found the back of the net in all of those encounters on rival turf so far, but their only previous semi-final appearance in the 2005-06 season ended in defeat to English opposition in Arsenal.
Form Guide: Liverpool
Liverpool beat Benfica 6-4 on aggregate in the quarter-finals. After earning a 3-1 victory in the first leg, they played out a 3-3 draw in the return match at home.
There was time for one last swansong for Divock Origi in Sunday’s Merseyside derby, with the Belgian attacker heading home late on against Everton after Andy Robertson had broken the deadlock, and the Reds enter the first leg with Villarreal on a three-game winning streak in all competitions.
Never before have Liverpool taken part in the semi-finals of the Champions League, FA Cup, and EFL Cup in one season, and while they failed to beat both Benfica and Inter Milan during their knockout legs at Anfield, Klopp’s side had already settled the tie in the first legs.
How the game could go
Villarreal have done superbly well to go this deep into the Champions League but here they face one of the favorites to lift the trophy.
Juventus were thumped by Villarreal on their own turf. Bayern Munich failed to overcome Emery’s side at the Allianz Arena. There is no reason for the traveling party to believe that another remarkable away win and the joyous plane ride home is not on the cards.
However, Gerard Moreno’s goalscoring and playmaking qualities will be a huge miss for Villarreal at Anfield, and while we eventually expect Liverpool to break the Yellow Submarine’s resistance and earn a first-leg advantage, they will surely have to be even more patient than they were against Everton.
Liverpool have a more difficult run-in but in their current form has a great chance of winning the Premier League. They have turned Anfield back into a fortress with 10 successive league wins. Manchester United’s chances of a top-four finish improved at the weekend but without Ronaldo wouldn’t have beaten Norwich. Their away form is erratic and they struggle to keep clean sheets. Back Liverpool to win this match
Liverpool to win
On paper, Liverpool surely have a better team than Villarreal going into this tie and looking at it realistically we don’t see the hosts doing less when they are at home. Villarreal are likely to sit back and that could play nicely into the hands of Liverpool. The Reds are in great form right now with eight wins and two draws from their last 10 games. Villarreal are not in terrible form with just three defeats in their past 10 games but their performances against Bayern Munich mean Liverpool won’t take them lightly and with the rotation Jurgen Klopp has upfront, they will find a way to get the win they need. As for the ‘to nil’ element, Villarreal’s plan will be to sit tight and make it hard for their hosts meaning their attacking output will be limited. Bet9ja have 1.30, 1xbet have 1.32 and Paripesa have 1.32 odds.
Under 2.5 Goals
We’ve backed Liverpool to win but Villarreal is no mugs and will come to Anfield and make the game hard for Liverpool. That’s exactly what they did against Bayern and the home crowd needs to brace themselves for a spectacle similar to the recent Merseyside derby. From a statistical standpoint, just two of Villarreal’s last 10 have gone over 2.5 goals whilst Liverpool has a 50/50 split across their last 10. Bet9ja have 2.35 odds, Paripesa have 2.39 and 1xbet have 2.35 odds.
Anytime Goalscorer (Villarreal)
Gerard Moreno was critical to Villarreal’s attack against the German giants, picking up the assist on Danjuma’s late goal and proving dangerous throughout. Moreno’s been the key contributor upfront for Villarreal all season. Bet9ja have 4.50 odds for him to score while Paripesa have 4.50.
Arnaut Danjuma should continue to lead the Yellow Submarine line. He’s scored on six occasions in this Champions League campaign, including two match-opening goals. While Danjuma was the man of the hour against Bayern Munich, he sure is in one to step up when the team needs it. Bet9ja have 4.60 odds for him to score while Paripesa have 4.00.
Anytime Goalscorer (Liverpool)
The forward played a couple of minutes in the Merseyside derby which saw his goal-scoring streak come to an end. He has been involved in four goals in his last three games for Liverpool. Today, Villarreal would surely have a tough time defending him as he can be tricky upfront. He would provide vital support for his attackers and could score here today. Bet9ja have 2.45 odds for him to score while Paripesa have 2.20.
The Egyptian put on a show in his last two league fixtures against top opponents scoring two and assisting two in that period. Today, he faces a defensive Villarreal side which we think would find it hard to contain him as he can score goals from any range. He already has eight goals in the UCL campaign this season and he could be on his way to breaking his own personal record. His experience in the competition will surely count which is why we have included him here. Bet9ja have 1.85 odds for him to score while Paripesa have 1.72.
Football Lover. All-round junkie of the beautiful game. Could be found watching football most of the time. If not he’s writing about them or making some punditry you don’t agree with. A certain bias for Arsenal and Santos FC.