Jordan Henderson awaits “very difficult” Villarreal tie – “Need to be 100% ready”

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson has given his verdict on the Champions League semi-final against Villarreal, after a 6-4 aggregate win over Benfica.

The Reds edged into the last four of the Champions League on Wednesday night despite a 3-3 draw at Anfield in the second leg of the quarter-finals.

Jurgen Klopp made seven changes to his side for the decider, but brought in the likes of Kostas Tsimikas and Roberto Firmino, who directly contributed to two goals apiece.

It has been suggested in certain circles that Villarreal were the easy opponent in the semi-finals – with Man City to play Real Madrid in the other tie – but the Spanish side have already despatched of both Juventus and Bayern Munich.

Henderson noted this as he looked ahead to the next stage, urging Liverpool to be “100 percent ready” for a “very difficult” semi-final.

“No, [they are] definitely [not to be taken lightly],” he told BT Sport.

“They’ve knocked out Juventus and Bayern, two very good sides.

“So they’re a very good team in their own right. That’ll be a very difficult tie, both legs.

“So we’ll need to be 100 percent ready, give it everything, and hopefully we can progress to the final.”

In his post-match press conference, Klopp added: “Villarreal has possibly the most successful cup-competition manager in football.

“It will be difficult, but it’s the semi-finals of the Champions League, so if not it would be really wrong.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, April 13, 2022: Liverpool's Roberto Firmino celebrates after scoring the third goal during the UEFA Champions League Quarter-Final 2nd Leg game between Liverpool FC and SL Benfica at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

This season sees Liverpool contest their third Champions League semi-final in five years, but Henderson insists it is still a special feeling for the players.

“It’s definitely not taken for granted, definitely not in the dressing room,” he continued.

“It’s huge to get into a quarter-final of the Champions League, to get into the semi is massive.

“Yes, we’ve been in a few over the last few years, but that doesn’t take away how special this competition is.

“We want to do our very best in every single competition. We take it game by game, we give it absolutely everything, and so far it’s worked.

“We’ve got a lot of football over the next couple of months and we want to give it a big push to try and compete in all competitions.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, April 13, 2022: Liverpool and Benfica players line-up before the UEFA Champions League Quarter-Final 2nd Leg game between Liverpool FC and SL Benfica at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The first leg of the semi-final slots in between the Merseyside derby on April 24 and the trip to Newcastle on April 30, with five more games still to play this month.

With Liverpool battling for three more trophies, Diogo Jota believes the management of the squad by Klopp – including those seven changes on Wednesday night – have helped keep the hunger alive.

“The desire is there,” Jota said.

“Obviously we are still fighting for three competitions, so everybody is very excited.

“We are rotating the squad, so everyone feels involved. And now City at the weekend, to fight for a place in the final.”