Liverpool will be hoping for another European comeback on Thursday as Jurgen Klopp’s men prepare to welcome Villarreal in a return semi-final match of the Europa League. The Spanish outfit have already secured Champions League berth through La Liga spot and that could be Liverpool’s biggest chance of overcoming the 1-0 deficit from the first leg.
Long season taking its toll
Liverpool are exhausted after a long and difficult season and it might seem they are slowly running out of steam. Jurgen Klopp has demanded improvement from his players as Reds need to be at their best in order to finish the season on a high. Trailing from a first-leg away tie is quite a familiar situation for Liverpool, but Reds would have rather avoided it. German tactician was unhappy with his team’s performance at El Madrigal, especially in the closing stages of the match when defence line showed lack of composure to concede a 92nd minute goal. Defeat in Spain was followed by another set-back as Liverpool suffered a 3-1 loss at Swansea, which was the third game in a row without a win for the Reds. A clear sign of a dip in form is attributed to a long season, there is no doubt about it. Jurgen Klopp willingly sacrificed the result at Swansea as he fielded a much changed squad, with as many as seven reserve members of the squad having been given a run in the game. He is expected to go full strength this time as Liverpool edge closer to reaching the ultimate goal.
Sakho is banned following a doping scandal, while Jurgen Klopp will also be without injured Jordan Henderson, Divock Origi and Emre Can. Danny Ings returned to training, but Klopp is unlikely to risk the striker.
Villarreal are enjoying an improved run of form which saw them go three matches without a defeat and without a single goal conceded. A win over Liverpool was followed by a 2-0 triumph at Valencia which meant that the Yellow Submarine have officially secured their place in the qualifications for the Champions League. Marcelino’s men will still be eager to go out and try to grab the direct promotion to the elite competition with another inspiring result at Anfield. Villarreal are an excellent team able to beat the greatest of teams and Liverpool will have to be careful if they are to repeat the Borussia Dortmund heroics. It has to be noted that Villarreal are unbeaten in their last 12 matches in Europa League and Marcelino’s charges will be more than motivated to extend the positive run. With a place in the group stage of Europe’s top competition at stake, both Liverpool and Villarreal will be keen to grab their chance to fight in the final match and we are definitely in for a feisty affair on Thursday.
Eric Bailly will be forced to sit out through the game as he failed to recover from the knock he picked up in the first leg. In addition, Marcelino will be without Leo Baptistao who is suffering from a groin problem.
This is bound to be a close-knit competition between two teams of similar quality. First match was solved in the dying moments and visitors will have been buoyed by their late victory, but Liverpool are keen to show they are no pushovers in their attempt to repeat the turnaround.
Top pick: Home win 1.8 (4/5) @Coral
Alternative pick 1: HT/FT Home win 2.85 (24/13) @Unibet
Alternative pick 2: Liverpool to win to nil 2.75 (7/4) @BetVictor