Liverpool face an uphill task again in the second leg of the Europa League semifinals. Villarreal scored a last gasp winner and have an advantage of 1-0 coming to Anfield. This Clash is more important for the reds as Villarreal have already qualified for Champions League whereas a top four finish is out of reach for Klopp’s men and Europa League is the only opportunity for a ticket to the Champions League. Villarreal deserve immense for their rise to the too four of the La Liga after getting relegated in 2012.
Villarreal mostly play 4-4-2 with two banks of four sitting tight when in defense and the wingers usually cut inside to give space to the fullbacks. With Bakambu and Soldado, the yellow submarines have a solid striking pair and have scored 31 goals between them. The midfield is shielded by the ever present Bruno Soriano and Eric Bailly is a solid center back . Marcelino’s men have a strong team and it will be interesting to see how Klopp makes his team against Thursday’s opponents.
Liverpool have received a big boost with the news of Emre Can returning to train two weeks before schedule. The German is expected to start and he can play a crucial role at Anfield. Anfield has seen many European comebacks where the reds have fallen behind in the away leg and turning the deficit in the home fixture. Only two times the reds have lost at Anfield out of five where they lost the first leg and won the second at home. The biggest question that remains to be seen is that whether Daniel Sturridge or Christian Benteke will start on Thursday. This semifinal is going to be a battle of wits and nerves and let’s take a look the three key battles that can decide the fate of the tie :
1. Cedric Bakambu vs Kolo Toure :
Bakambu has scored a staggering 23 goals this season and is one of the main reason why Villarreal are having a great season. He will be up against the spirited ever young Kolo Toure who has impressed whenever he has been given the opportunity. Kolo has never shyed from a tackle and gives his all every game. He will be facing an uphill task against the in form Bakambu, but if the Ivorian can use all his experience to keep him shut, Liverpool can dream of a trip to Basel.
2. Joe Allen vs Bruno Soriano :
Villarreal captain Bruno has played for the same side all his career and is a force in the midfield. He keeps the play ticking at all times and as seen in the first leg, He can be dangerous when given space. Joe Allen has improved a lot under Jurgen Klopp and is playing like a man on a mission to earn his new contract at the club. The reds have to press intelligently and need to stop the supply from the midfield to the striking duo. If the Welshman is upto his game then Bruno will have a tough away night at Anfield.
3. Eric Bailly vs Daniel Sturridge :
Bailly is a young bright defender who has played brilliantly this season and has come into the spotlight. He has every quality to succeed at the top level but can sometimes be rash and can pick up needless cards. If put under pressure and taken runs behind the defense, he can crack under the pressure from the pace of the attackers and from the crowd too. Sturridge can be the best option for the reds to inflict some damage on the mean Villarreal defense.