Champions League Semi-Final: Liverpool vs Villarreal Head to Head Preview

Six-time European champions Liverpool will have a stern challenge in front of them on Wednesday (April 27) as they take on giant-killers Villarreal in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League. 

Liverpool are in the middle of an unprecedented title charge in the Premier League while Unai Emery’s side makes it to their second-ever Champions League semi-final after 16 long years when they lost to English side Arsenal.

Liverpool vs Villarreal: Head to head Record

The two teams have met only twice in Europe, also a semi-final meeting in the 2016 Europa League as Liverpool got the better of the Spanish side before losing to another Spanish team Sevilla in the final. 

Liverpool won 3-0 at Anfield with goals from Daniel Sturridge, Adam Lallana and an own goal from Bruno Soriano. Villarreal did win the return leg in Spain, but it was the English side who advance to the final.

Player Analysis | Mohamed Salah vs Gerard Moreno

Mohamed Salah

The Egyptian has been in top form having notched 22 goals in the Premier League while he has scored eight in the Champions League. However, he is yet to open his account for assists this season and will be determined to do so against Villarreal. 

The contract situation has been surrounding him for a while but that hasn’t affected his style of play. Salah will be an important asset for Jurgen Klopp’s side if they are to make the final in Paris in a month.

Gerard Moreno

The versatile player has been a key miss for the Yellow Submarine throughout the season due to injury, but when he is on the field he makes a world’s difference. 

In six Champions League matches, he has scalped two goals, but it is his number of assists that make him a better player. 

In those six Champions League matches, the 30-year-old has four assists, one more than his La Liga tally of three assists. Moreno also has nine goals in the La Liga as he will try to replicate his league form in Europe.

Journey so far

Liverpool have been fluent throughout the campaign but interestingly haven’t won their last two home European games, losing to Inter Milan in the Round of 16 and drawing against Benfica in the quarter-final, however, on both occasions, the Reds prevailed to go through. 

The Merseysiders were the team to beat in the group stages as they won all six matches which included wins against Atletico Madrid, Porto and AC Milan.

Villarreal on the flip side have been silently taking care of business, a 2-1 aggregate against Bayern Munich wasn’t seen coming by many teams. 

Matter of fact their solitary defeat away from home came against Manchester United in the group stage, even though that was a stoppage-time winner from Cristiano Ronaldo. 

Villarreal are unbeaten in their last four away Champions League matches, winning three and drawing one against Bayern while upsetting Juventus 3-0 in Turin. 

In the group stage, they finished runners-up to Manchester United and beat Young Boys and Atlanta to the second spot.

Cross-country record

Liverpool have faced Spanish opposition on 46 occasions including four finals. The Reds have been victorious on 17 occasions, drawing 13 and losing 16. 

The Reds famously lost the Champions League final in 2018 to Real Madrid while they were on the receiving end in the Europa League final in 2016 against Sevilla.

The Spanish giant-killers have enjoyed recent meetings with English opposition, despite a double by Manchester United in the group phase they have a proud record in recent times. 

They beat the same United side on penalties in the Europa League final, not before they had outclassed Arsenal in the semi-final. 

However, those victories have been rare, as Villarreal have won only five times against English opposition with only one away win against Everton in 2005.

What to expect?

Villarreal have been playing a free-flowing brand of football and keep a high line which could profit Liverpool players. 

However, the experience of Villarreal defenders, especially Juan Foyth and Sergie Aurier who have played in the Premier League could come in handy. 

Liverpool will once again rely on their front three of Mane, Salah and Firmino but Diego Jota and Luis Diaz have given them a new dimension. So the affair could be a close one to call.

Prediction: Liverpool 3-1 Villarreal

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