With one foot already in the final of the 2021-22 Champions League, Liverpool seek to complete the job against Villarreal in the second leg of their semi-final tie at La Ceramica on Tuesday. Jurgen Klopp’s side ran out 2-0 winners in the first leg at Anfield, but Unai Emery’s men have certainly upset the odds before. The yellow brick wall came under siege for the entirety of the 90 minutes during the first leg at Anfield, and even though Villarreal got to half time with their clean sheet still intact, Klopp’s side found their way through twice in quick succession in the second period.
A cross from Jordan Henderson cannoned off the boot of Pervis Estupinan into the back of the net past the shaky Geronimo Rulli, and Liverpool doubled their lead not long after as Sadio Mane poked home to hand the Merseyside giants a healthy first-leg advantage. The Champions League hangover appeared to be in full effect for Villarreal as they went down 2-1 to Alaves in Saturday’s La Liga battle – albeit with a much-changed XI – and they are now welcoming Liverpool to a ground where Juventus and Bayern Munich both failed to triumph. Villarreal’s treatment room has started to fill up again at the worst time possible, with ex-Liverpool man Alberto Moreno and Yeremi Pino still absent, while Arnaut Danjuma was ruled out of the Alaves defeat at the last minute due to discomfort and is uncertain.
Only one side has ever overturned a two-goal deficit in a Champions League semi-final, with Villarreal seeking to come back against the comeback kings in Liverpool following their extraordinary 2018-19 turnaround against Barcelona, but a 12-game unbeaten run on home soil does stand them in good stead. Not since November have Villarreal slumped to a defeat in front of their own supporters, but Emery’s side failed to register a single shot on target in the first leg, and not many bets will be placed on the La Liga side booking their tickets to the showpiece event now. Pau Torres and Dani Parejo were taken off at half time in a tactical move from Emery at the weekend, and the Villarreal boss will revert to his strongest possible XI this week after ringing the changes for the domestic encounter.
With less than a month to go before the curtain closes on a whirlwind of a 2021-22 season, the quadruple dream is still a realistic possibility for Liverpool, who briefly returned to the top of the pile in the Premier League by halting the Newcastle United momentum on Saturday lunchtime. Despite reportedly seeing a request to move the game rejected by the Premier League, the Reds responded in perfect fashion as Naby Keita struck the only goal of the contest at St James’ Park before Manchester City taught Leeds United a footballing lesson to return to the summit.Francis Coquelin and Raul Albiol will hope to be fine for the second leg, but Gerard Moreno is still a doubt due to his hamstring problem and may only be fit enough for a spot on the bench this week.
While their domestic title destiny remains out of their own hands, Liverpool are only 90 minutes away from making their 10th appearance in the final of Europe’s premier cup tournament – only Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and AC Milan have also posted double-figure appearances in the showpiece event. Victory at Newcastle represented Liverpool’s fifth on the bounce in all tournaments – their last four of which have come with a clean sheet – and not since going down to Leicester City in December have Klopp’s side lost on the road in any competition.
Such a remarkable set of results on the road has also seen Liverpool win all five of their Champions League away games in 2021-22 – scoring at least two goals on each occasion – and Villarreal will need to better their 1-0 triumph over Liverpool at La Ceramica in the 2015-16 Europa League semi-finals if Emery is to have the chance to add a Champions League crown to his glittering collection in the continent’s secondary tournament. In contrast, Liverpool’s only injury concern remains Brazilian attacker Roberto Firmino, whose foot injury is proving more difficult to overcome than initially anticipated, and he will not be involved here.
Curtis Jones and Kostas Tsimikas both returned from illness to make the bench for the win over Newcastle, while cult hero Divock Origi is also fit again after picking up a bug, and Klopp was not afraid to make a multitude of changes at St James’ Park. Trent Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, Mohamed Salah and Thiago Alcantara are among those who will return to the first XI this week, and a 15th Champions League knockout goal for Sadio Mane would see him equal the record for the most strikes at this stage of the tournament for an English club – currently held by Frank Lampard.
Liverpool travel to Spain to face Villarreal on Tuesday as they try and book their place in this season’s Champions League final and we can bring you the details of when and how to watch the match. The Reds were dominant in the first leg at Anfield on Wednesday and ran out comfortable 2-0 winners but know they will face a much more difficult task in the Estadio de la Ceramica. Liverpool FC and Villarreal CF will match up in Champions League action on Tuesday, May 3. The game at Estadio de la Ceramica starts at 3:00 PM ET on Univision.
Rulli; Foyth, Albiol, Torres, Estupinan; Capoue, Coquelin, Parejo; Lo Celso; Chukwueze, Dia
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Thiago; Salah, Mane, Diaz