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CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Liverpool in the pound seat as Villarreal seek miracle result

With Liverpool winning the League Cup, booking their place in the FA cup final, and very much in the league race; could Unai Emery’s Yellow Submarine derail their quadruple hopes with a stunning Champions League comeback?

Jurgen Klopp - Liverpool Manager
Image Copyright - Steve Haag Sports

With Liverpool winning the League Cup, booking their place in the FA cup final, and very much in the league race; could Unai Emery's Yellow Submarine derail their quadruple hopes with a stunning Champions League comeback?

Champions League

The first leg between these two sides saw Liverpool deliver a dominant performance against a dogged Villarreal defence. The Reds had 74% possession, conjuring up a whopping 19 shots during the tie.

The first leg played out to a goalless first half before the deadlock was broken by an own goal, which was then doubled by a Sadio Mane finish just minutes later. The Merseyside club take a two-goal advantage to El Madrigal – where they will be in a strong position to advance to the final of the Champions League.

With that being said, one can not underestimate the Emery effect. Since the Spaniard joined Villareal, the club have got through every knockout tie in the Europa League and the Champions League!

Klopp v Emery: Round 6

The managerial head to head sees Klopp with four wins out of their five meetings, with the remaining fixture going Emery’s way. Should the Villarreal boss’ team overturn Liverpool’s first-leg lead, the Yellow Submarine will become just the second team to overturn a two-goal deficit (in the second leg) in the semi-finals of the tournament. Indeed, Klopp’s Liverpool side are the only club to have lost a first leg semi-final tie by 2+ goals and still progressed from the tie (beating Spanish giants Barcelona 4-3 on aggregate back in 2018/19). The English heavyweights edge their Spanish opposition in head to head encounters – Villareal have lost 2 of their 3 meetings with Liverpool in European competition, however, their sole victory did come in their only clash on home soil (back in 2015/16 in the Europa League semi-final stage).

Geronimo Rulli must be better tonight

Yellow Submarine or the Yellow Wall? The Spanish side have stunned German giants, Bayern Munich, and Italian football royalty, Juventus, over 2 legs. Geronimo Rulli has been a standout performer, keeping two clean sheets across his five knockout stage appearances. Furthermore, only Real Madrid’s Thibaut Courtois (41) has made more saves than Rulli (39) in this season’s edition thus far. Villarreal have conceded just five goals across their five home tournament appearances – the fewest from the final quartet. That being said, his performance against Liverpool in the first leg was nothing short of a disaster, and he could have left his side four or five goals behind heading into this leg. Time for redemption? Time will tell. 

Rock-solid Alisson

Liverpool (11) have conceded the fewest goals from this season’s semi-finalists. Indeed, their shot-stopper, Alisson, has had to make just 14 saves across his 11 Champions League appearances this season. The Merseyside club have conceded just five goals across their five away tournament appearances. Alisson comes into this one with four clean sheets across his previous four outings (across all competitions).

Villarreal’s mountain to climb

Villarreal’s win against German champions Bayern Munich at El Madrigal was their first win on home soil in the UEFA Champions League knock-out stages since April 2006 (1-0 v Inter Milan). Despite this, the Spaniards are yet to see defeat at home in a fixture beyond the group stages (P7 W2 D5). Furthermore, these seven games have seen a cumulative 10 goals scored, with neither side managing to score more than once on any instance. Across their previous four Champions League outings, Villarreal have registered just five shots on target – scoring five goals.

Liverpool’s formidable semi-final strike-rate

Liverpool have won nine Champions League fixtures this season – the most games they’ve ever won in a single campaign in a European competition (excluding qualifiers). Of the 12 sides to have reached the semi-finals of the European Cup/UEFA Champions League on at least five occasions, only Benfica (7/8) and AC Milan (10/12) have a higher ratio of progressing to the final than Liverpool (82%). The Reds have managed to reach the final in nine of their previous 11 semi-final appearances.

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