Villarreal v Liverpool: Reds prepare for European semi final

Europa League Semi Final 1st Leg
Thursday 28 April 2016 - 8:05 pm
Estadio El Madrigal
Villarreal1
0Liverpool
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Liverpool take on Villarreal tonight in the first leg of the Europa League semi final.

Events earlier this week off the field have been uppermost in Liverpool supporters minds - but tonight for 2 hours at least the focus switches back on to on-field matters.

The reds are aiming to make it to their first European final for 9 years in their first competitive clash against the Spanish side.

Villarreal v Liverpool FC

Villarreal are currently well placed in La Liga in 4th place - one of the Champions League spots.   Liverpool, despite an improved league run in recent weeks, will not be qualifying for next season's tournament based on league position.  Going all the way in the Europa League is the only route still available.

The Spanish side have a relatively low number of goals scored and goals conceded compared to other sides in their division - many of their games being low-scoring.

If there is a positive for Liverpool it is this - their recent form hasn't been as good as that of the season as a whole. They have only 2 La Liga wins in the past 9 matches.

Prior to this they did however enjoy a 14 match unbeaten run in La Liga.

Mario Gaspar, full back, loves the counter-attack.  He has been attracting interest from several big clubs in Europe.

Cedric Bakambu has scored 9 times in 11 Europa League games for Villarreal - a hugely impressive record.  Roberto Soldado may also have a point to prove in a return against English opposition.

Liverpool have included Christian Benteke in the squad and have been hampered by a re-emergency of injuries and off the field events.

Mamadou Sakho is embroiled in a failed drugs test scandal with UEFA, whilst Emre Can, Jordan Henderson and Divock Origi are all significant misses from the first team due to injury.  All four players started in the first leg of the last round in Dortmund.

With four first teamers out for likely the rest of the season, Klopp will have to try and progress in the Europa League with a significantly altered side.

Kolo Toure looks like a player on his way out of Liverpool but could be an important defensive figure.  Lucas Leiva and Joe Allen are the central midfield options in the absence of Can and Henderson.

Up front Daniel Sturridge has been impressive - but not yet across an entire 90 minutes - and there is no doubt that Divock Origi's pace and tireless running was crucial in dispatching Borussia Dortmund in the last round.

Dreamland tonight would be a big win for the reds - failing that Liverpool would like at least an away goal to bring back to Anfield next Thursday.

Tonight's game at El Madrigal kicks off at 20:05 BST and is live on BT Sport.

Prediction: Liverpool's shaky defence was exposed once again at the weekend by a relegation threatened Newcastle.  We can't picture a reds clean sheet but we do think there will be a goal in it for us - despite Villarreal's strong defensive record.

1-1.

Video: Klopp and Moreno pre-match Press Conference

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DbSY0fDZn8

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