Liverpool breached the 'Yellow Wall' in the quarterfinals, and manager Jurgen Klopp needs to dive deep into his squad to find his best eleven, as he prepares to face the 'Yellow Submarine' in Spain, with some key players missing. El Madrigal is set to host Liverpool for the crucial Europa League semifinal first leg against Villarreal, who are going to be a tough opponent, on Thursday.
Playing tough opponents should be a habit for Liverpool in the competition now, as they were drawn against arch-rivals Manchester United in the pre-quarters, which was then followed by Borussia Dortmund. Liverpool played some quality football to get past both teams.
Though Villarreal might not fall in the same bracket of Liverpool's last two opponents, they have been the best team in Spain apart from the dominant three of Real Madrid, Atletico Mardid and Barcelona. Villarreal may not have an array of world-class players, but they are quite efficent when it comes to getting the job done, with some calling them a lite version of Atletico Mardid.
The hosts are solid at the back, and love to play a counter attacking game, using their wings to a great extent. Like Liverpool, they also enjoy playing possession football.
Villarreal have some talented players in their group including Cedric Bakambu, Roberto Soldado, Denis Suarez and Bruno Soriano. Liverpool need to tightly mark these players, who have a great understanding. Liverpool defenders need to be sharp against Bruno and Suarez as the duo loves to have a crack at goal from long distance, and they have a dangerous left and right foot respectively.
Though Soldado might not have flourished in the Premier League with Tottenham Hotspur, he is a quality striker, and has been successful with Spanish clubs.
Villarreal manager, Marcelina Garcia considers Liverpool as favourites for the clash, but wants his players to give it their all to eliminate them from the competition.
"Perhaps Liverpool are the favourites because of their history, their standing as a club and the fact they eliminated Dortmund, one of the big favourites. But we don't consider ourselves inferior to them. We're going to give everything to try and knock out this legendary team," UEFA official website quoted the manager as saying.
Yes, Liverpool did play some outstanding football against Dortmund, but they will not be able to field the same team that defeated the German outfit.
Liverpool have decided not to pick Mamadou Sakho, after the central defender failed a drug test. Divovk Origi, Emre Can and Jordan Henderson have all been ruled out with injuries.
Klopp is expected to start with Daniel Sturridge as the striker, but he has also included out-of-favour Belgian striker Christian Benteke in the squad. Joe Allen or Lucas Leiva will handle the defensive midfielder duties, but Klopp's major headache lies in selecting Dejan Lovren's defensive partner. Martin Skrtel might get the nod, despite failing to impress after coming back from an injury.
Liverpool's objective for the crucial first leg should be to score an away goal. Easier said than done, for Villarreal are a strong side, and have won all six home games in the competition.
Klopp is also aware of the threat the opposition brings to the table.
"We've watched Villarreal five or six times. They defend in an organised way and are patient enough to wait for mistakes and then capitalise on them. How do we counter the threat of Soldado and Bakambu? By preventing passes through to them – maybe that's the best idea," Klopp said.
Liverpool, if they play anything close to what they played against Dortmund , the Reds should not have much trouble at El Madrigal, and head back to Anfield with smiles on their faces.
Where to watch live
Villarreal vs Liverpool Europa League semifinal is scheduled to kick-off at 9:05 p.m. CET (12:35 a.m. IST, 8:05 p.m. GMT, 4:05 p.m. ET). Viewers in India can catch the game on Ten 2 and Ten 1 HD while the streaming option of the game is also available on tensports.com.
UK viewers can catch the Villarreal vs Liverpool Europa League semifinal on BT Sport Europe, while the online live stream option is on BT Sport Live and LFC TV Go. Radio commentary is available on BBC Radio 5 Live.
US viewers can catch Villarreal vs Liverpool Europa League semifinal live on Fox Sports 1 USAand ESPN Deportes TV. The option of live streaming is also available on Watch ESPN, FoxSoccer2Go and Fox Sports Go.
Audience in Spain, Thailand, Australia, the Middle East and can watch the game live on TV on Bein Sports,with the live stream option on Bein Sports Connect.