Villarreal come into the game in far better spirits and a crucial lead, whereas Liverpool may have to rely on a mighty comeback to sink the ‘Yellow Submarines’.
Football can be cruel. Liverpool defended resolutely for 90 minutes in the first leg of the Europa League Semi-Final against Villarreal at the El Madrigal. However, two minutes into injury time, a solitary defensive lapse allowed substitute Adrian Lopez to tap in Denis Suarez’s low cross.
Unlike the previous round against Borussia Dortmund when they took a draw to Anfield with a crucial away goal, if Liverpool start the game as they did against the Germans, going two goals down, this time it would be hard to see them come back from it.
However, in Spain, the Reds did not play with any recognized out-and-out strikers, with Firminio the most advanced player. For the return leg it would be hard to see a continuation of a strategy which hardly saw any threat to the Spaniards last week.
With Jurgen Klopp’s favoured European starting striker Divock Origi injured, the onus will be on Daniel Sturridge. However, Sturridge was almost anonymous in a largely weakened line-up at the weekend as Liverpool were soundly beaten 3-1 by Swansea at the Liberty Stadium.
The sole Reds goalscorer Christian Benteke will probably start from the bench, although Klopp could consider the Belgian’s physical presence a bonus over Sturridge’s guile.
Villarreal also warmed up for the game at Anfield with a weakened side, but unlike their upcoming Europa League midweek hosts, they won 2-0 at their regional rivals Valencia and secured Champions League qualification next season. Roberto Soldado, the sole player to start who also featured in the Europa League Semi-Final First Leg set up both goals, for Samuel García and Adrian Lopez, in their comfortable win.