ANFIELD is all set for a massive night as Villarreal turn up for the second leg of the Europa League semi-finals. Chris Graham (@chrisgraham79) previews for us.
Liverpool v Villarreal | Thursday 20:05 | BT Sport Europe
Adrian Lopez’s stoppage time goal for Villarreal last week must still be stinging Liverpool and the 92nd minute winner looms large over this second leg here.
A 0-0 draw in Spain would have been a fantastic result for Liverpool and put them in a great position overall but the late leak has left them very vulnerable.
Jurgen Klopp knows that if his side concede here they’ll need to score at least three times to have any chance of reaching the final later this month.
While Villarreal have been more porous in recent weeks (conceded four in Sevilla, three to Real Madrid and two in Prague against Sparta) they have a terrific defensive record this season.
In La Liga they’ve conceded just 31 goals in 36 games. That’s fewer than Real Madrid with only Atletico Madrid and Barcelona offering superior figures.
Villarreal have also kept away clean sheets at two of the Top 5 in La Liga (Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao) and lie in fourth position in the table with Champions League qualification long odds on.
Liverpool need to score here and last Thursday’s defeat was the first time in 15 games that they failed to notch. At Anfield it’s over three months since they drew a blank.
Klopp’s Liverpool tenure has been a mix of careful pragmatism (the Cup wins over Augsburg and Stoke) and orgasmic hard-as-a-rock-up-to-the-guts-in-joy exhibitionism (the Cup wins over Southampton and Borussia Dortmund) but he may feel nominating the former approach here initially makes sense.
An early Villarreal goal could destroy this tie and I’m expecting Liverpool to slowly find their feet in this game. For Villarreal there’s no real onus to be aggressive and they can quietly try and nail an away score. Bearing this in mind I’ll back the 0-0 Half Time Score at 7/4 with Paddy Power.
Things may become more pressing for Liverpool though as the game evolves and surely they’ll start to gamble more. This could leave them open like we witnessed late last week and that could spell trouble.
I’l take a chance on the 1-1 draw here at 7/1 with BetVictor and also on the much bigger 12/1 chance that Villarreal score the only goal in the game.
Liverpool will need to be exceptionally disciplined and that may prove beyond them when you factor in they’ve conceded in 10 of their last 11 matches.
Liverpool v Villarreal – 0-0 HT Correct Score (7/4 Paddy Power)
Liverpool v Villarreal – 1-1 Draw (7/1 BetVictor)
Liverpool v Villarreal – Villarreal to win 1-0 (12/1 BetVictor)