Yellow Submarine lock horns with Liverpool in the first leg of the UEFA Europa League semi-final at the Estadio Madrigal on Thursday eager to continue the flawless home stretch in the competition.
Perfect home record
Spanish side Villarreal boast a perfect home record in the competition this season. The Yellow Submarine have won all of their six matches in the UEFA Europa League and are heading into the semi-final game against Liverpool with great optimism, despite a poor league patch. Winless in last three La Liga rounds, Villarreal have suffered back-to-back away defeats to Rayo Vallecano and Real Madrid respectively before a goalless draw with Real Sociedad last time out. Marcelino’s men will be eager to get back to winning ways when they welcome Liverpool and will look to build upon the quarter-final aggregate win of 6-3 over Sparta Prague to continue on path to the final match. Cerdic Bakambu scored a brace in his team’s last match in the competition in Prague and the 25-year-old forward will be the one to watch against the Reds. Congo international has scored 12 La Liga goals this season, while he also added 9 in the Europa League and Villarreal’s summer signing from Bursaspor has been one of the most prominent players in Marcelino’s side.
Pablo Musacchio and Juame Costa re fitness doubts, while Carrilho Baptistao is ruled out through injury. Soldado and Bakambu are expected to lead the line upfront as Marcelino is likely to field his strongest side.
Klopp’s injury woes
Once again in just a couple of months of his reign at Anfield, Jurgen Klopp is faced with plenty of injury problems. In addition to injuries, the club has been hit by a doping scandal involving the French defender Mamadou Sakho, who has been suspended by the club pending investigation. The Reds face a tough task against Villarreal as they look to secure their first European final since 2007. Much like their Thursday rivals, Liverpool are too undefeated in the competition so far, with 5 wins and 7 draws in 12 matches. Reds will have plenty of motivation heading into the game as they are coming off from an impressive 3-2 come-from-behind win over Borussia Dortmund. With a price of a Champions League place for the winner of the competition, the clash with Villarreal holds great importance to Jurgen Klpp’s side. Liverpool have sacrificed their domestic campaign for the sake of winning Europa League and the team was already minds in Spain when they played 2-2 against Newcastle United at the weekend.
Christian Benteke, Joe Gomez, Jordan Henderson and Danny Ings are out with knee problems, while Emre Can and Divock Origi have injured their ankles and Liverpool will once again have plenty of selection issues to work out.
Villarreal hold the upper hand over Liverpool in the first leg, but only because Reds are coming to Spain plagued by injuries to their key players. Jurgen Klopp will look to avoid being beaten and will most certainly go for a goal at Madrigal. Both teams have players that are able to solve the game with their individual moments of brilliance and I expect an openly contested affair despite all.
Top pick: Both teams to score – yes 2.07 (15/14) @888sport
Alternative pick 1: Over 2.5 goals 2.33 (4/3) @Unibet
Alternative pick 2: Away win 3.3 (21/10) @PaddyPower