Liverpool’s third Champions League semi-final under Jurgen Klopp now awaits as Anfield plays host to Villarreal, a club that is no stranger to the Reds.
Liverpool vs. Villarreal
Champions League Semi-Final First Leg | Anfield
Wednesday, April 27, 2022 | 8pm (BST)
What a run of recent results Liverpool have had, starting with securing a place in the FA Cup final before victories over both Man United and Everton.
It’s been exhilarating and it does not stop there as another night under the Anfield lights awaits on the big stage, with a chance to take an advantage to Spain for the second leg next week.
Here’s all you need to know ahead of Wednesday’s kickoff.
1. The Yellow Submarine
The visitors arrive on Merseyside fresh off the back of an eight-day break, a direct contrast to Liverpool who will have played twice in that time.
The pause in Villarreal’s calendar has allowed for greater time to prepare for Liverpool after a five-game unbeaten run that includes the 2-1 win on aggregate over Bayern Munich in the last round.
Unai Emery has masterminded their run to the semi-finals for only the second time in the club’s history and Liverpool knows all too well how the Villarreal boss operates on the big stage.
He was, of course, manager of Sevilla when the two teams met in the 2016 Europa League final and while that was a night of disappointment, it also proved a catalyst for Klopp’s side.
2. A repeat of 2016?
A lot has changed since these teams last met in 2016 but you can expect one thing will remain the same, the passion from the Liverpool fans.
It was a thrilling 3-0 win on this particular Europa League semi-final second leg clash against Villarreal but the fervour before, during and after the match is what stands the test of time.
Fans lined the streets to welcome Klopp’s Reds to Anfield and did so in every possible way.
We’re not sure any scaffolding remains to recreate the scenes on Wednesday but you never know, as where there’s a will there’s a way and Liverpool fans always relish a challenge!
3. Visitor XI
Emery is to be without former Red Alberto Moreno following his ACL injury in March, and Gerard Moreno is also set to miss out due to a hamstring injury.
The forward has scored 13 goals in 26 games for the Spanish side this season and is not to make the trip to Anfield after missing training on Tuesday, but reports suggest he could be back for the second leg.
Yeremi Pino also missed out on their session on Tuesday and could be out of contention, requiring Emery to shuffle his pack.
Possible Villarreal XI: Rulli; Foyth, Albiol, Torres, Estupinan; Parejo, Coquelin, Capoue; Lo Celso; Chukwueze, Danjuma
4. Firmino update
The Merseyside derby again came too soon for Roberto Firmino thanks to his foot injury and the No. 9 is again to miss out on Wednesday.
“I don’t think [he is ready] yet,” Klopp told the club’s website. “He is running outside and that’s good, obviously, but I am not sure.”
It’s progress and his return does not appear too far away, and, thankfully, he remains the sole Red in the treatment room with nothing else for the manager to report.
Kostas Tsimikas was absent from training on Tuesday but could still have a part to play.
Either way, the luxury of choice remains for Klopp as he also looks to name a 12-man bench, meaning he will not have to leave out too many players from the squad altogether.
5. Predicting the Reds XI
There are a few positions that you can expect changes in for this one but Klopp does enjoy keeping us on our toes.
One player you’d expect to see in the XI is Ibrahima Konate after Joel Matip made two consecutive starts, while Luis Diaz could be drafted in to sit alongside Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.
In midfield, Jordan Henderson will be hoping to get back in the side after only featuring for nine minutes against Everton, at the likely cost of Naby Keita.
Predicted Liverpool XI: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Henderson, Thiago; Salah, Diaz, Mane
6. ‘The start of something special’
When we look back to that Europa League final in 2016 it certainly remains a what if moment in the early days of Klopp’s tenure.
Emery was the one to mastermind Liverpool’s downfall that night and while it left Henderson stewing, it ultimately proved the catalyst for what we have gone on to see:
“The gaffer was a bit different to what you would expect, he had everybody downstairs together in the bar area and we just sort of spent the night together.
“I felt he knew that this was the beginning and the start of something special to come.
“As a player, it’s very difficult to think that then, when you just lost a final, but he was very different to what I’d ever seen before.
“That night always sticks out in my mind, he sort of knew what was coming in the next few years and I feel as though he’s produced that.
“He’s proven that was the beginning of something special.”
Something special is again brewing, greatness is before us and history beckons.
7. Did you know?
Ibrahima Konate could become the first Liverpool defender in history to score in three successive European games.
The centre-back scored the opener in both legs against Benfica, both headed goals, and a likely starter for Klopp, you can’t bet against him doing it again.
In the home leg against Benfica earlier this month, he became only the fourth Reds player ever to net his opening two goals for the club in European competition.
8. Time to answer Anfield call
In his pre-match press conference, Klopp spoke of his desire to see Anfield at is best as he urged fans to be “on top of their game”:
“We know that when we go to Villarreal, whichever result we get tomorrow night, it will be an incredibly emotional atmosphere there.
“And that’s what we have to create tomorrow night as well. That’s how it is.
“We have to make sure that we really are completely on top of our game, everybody in the stadium.
“Our supporters are smart supporters, they know and they watch football, they know that Villarreal is really strong.
“But there are moments where we will suffer tomorrow night, definitely, I know that now already.
“That’s what we have to be ready for. There is no need to get nervous or whatever, that’s how it is.
“But we can make them suffer as well and that’s what we have to do, all together.”
9. A familiar face in the middle
Szymon Marciniak (Poland) will take charge of Liverpool for the third time this season, following on from the victories earlier in the competition at home to AC Milan and away at Inter.
Perhaps we could opt for the less dramatic option on the scale of those two games!
He also refereed Villarreal’s 3-0 win at Juventus in the round of 16 last month.
10. How to watch
Liverpool vs. Villarreal is live on BT Sport 2 for those of you in the UK, with coverage starting from 7pm (BST) ahead of the 8pm start.
As ever, if you want to follow the game with an unabashedly Liverpool bias then This Is Anfield’s live blog is the place to be, with Dan Clubbe to take you through the build-up and the 90 minutes!