Liverpool made it past competition favourites Dortmund in the quarter-finals of the Europa League in dramatic fashion. It was the sort of comeback that the Reds have become synonymous with in Europe.
Jurgen Klopp’s side are now favourites to win the competition at odds of 13/8. However, their semi-final tie against Spanish club Villarreal will be anything but easy.
The Reds face a trip to El Madrigal for the first leg of the tie this evening and the side from Merseyside will be hoping to record a positive result to take back to Merseyside for the second leg.
Villarreal not an easy opponent
Villarreal will not be an easy opponent for Liverpool, as they play a very solid style of football. Some have even compared them to English Premier League leaders Leicester City.
They will not fly at Liverpool and are likely to sit back and let the visitors have the ball. However, they will be looking to striker Cedric Bakambu to provide them an attacking outlet, with the help of former-Tottenham striker Roberto Soldado.
Bakambu is the second highest-scorer in the competition this season with nine goals and has found the net ten times in his last 11 games for Marcelino’s team. The pacey 25-year-old has proven to be a very good signing, after arriving in Spain from Turkish outfit Bursaspor for £6million in the summer transfer window.
With Liverpool’s propensity to commit numbers in attack, Bakambu has the pace to trouble the Reds backline, while Soldado has dropped into a second striker role this season and has thrived.
The Yellow Submarine also have a decent defensive record this season in La Liga and the Europa League. Marcelino’s team have conceded ten times in 12 outings in Europe’s second tier competition.
At El Madrigal the Yellow Submarine have conceded just once in six European outings this season, so it is fair to say that their defence is a strong point of their team.
Liverpool players coming under Jurgen Klopp spell
Liverpool are starting to find their best form and the players have now bought into Jurgen Klopp’s methods and it has started to produce far better results for the Reds. Liverpool are finally starting to show hallmarks of a Klopp team.
The relentless pressing, the possession-based football and of course the high number of attempts on goal have all been on display in the Reds recent performances, despite Klopp using players brought in by previous bosses, mostly Brendan Rodgers.
One aspect of Klopp’s most successful teams at Dortmund that is missing is defensive solidarity. Even though they were good going forward BVB in their successful years under Klopp were always highly effective at the back.
You can see there is a development in the Liverpool team, but the defence is still a work in progress. The absence of French defender Mamadou Sakho over a failed drug test will not help the Reds defensive options. The former-PSG defender does often resemble Bambi on ice at times, but his performances have improved of late.
Croatian international Dejan Lovren has performed better this season, although Slovakian centre-back Martin Skrtel has not been great when he has played under Klopp. Bakambu and co will test the Reds defence in this tie, especially at El Madrigal.
Favourites must be careful
Liverpool are favourites to progress over the two legs from this tie, but the home side are favourites to win this clash at odds of 31/20. The Reds must be careful of being complacent in this tie, as whoever the Merseysiders were drawn against in the last four would be tough opponents.
Villarreal have proven this season that they are no pushovers and could be a big danger to Liverpool’s continued presence in this season’s Europa League. They are probably not as highly-rated as the Reds quarter-final opponents Dortmund, but they could offer up a completely different challenge that posed by the German side.
Jurgen Klopp has achieved a lot in his managerial career so far. Winning the Europa League with the Reds would probably not match those achievements of Klopp’s past, but nevertheless it would still be an achievement for the German.
However, to win silverware this season the Reds will have to overcome a very resilience Villarreal side, that are unlikely to be easily beaten, so Jurgen Klopp and the Liverpool faithful may be waiting a bit longer for their silverware under the affable former-Mainz boss.
Will Liverpool overcome Villarreal in the Europa League?