Unai Emery full of respect for Liverpool but confident of Villarreal’s chances of an upset

Liverpool welcome Villarreal to Anfield this evening.

It’s the first leg of the Champions League semi-final and it promises to be an intriguing encounter between two strong sides.

The Reds have eliminated Internazionale and Benfica to make it to the final four while the Yellow Submarine have sank Juventus and Bayern Munich. Liverpool are strong favourites.

Jurgen Klopp will set his team up in a 4-3-3.

That’s according to Marca, who believe Liverpool will start Alisson Becker in goal behind a back four of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip and Andy Robertson.

Fabinho will anchor the midfield with Thiago Alcantara and Jordan Henderson serving as the two interiors. Sadio Mane will lead the line flanked by Mohamed Salah and Diogo Jota.

Unai Emery, on the other hand, will set his team up in a 4-4-1-1.

Villarreal will start Geronimo Rulli in goal behind a back four of Juan Foyth, Raul Albiol, Pau Torres and Pervis Estupinan.

Etienne Capoue and Dani Parejo will sit in a double pivot with Francis Coquelin and Alfonso Pedraza either side of them. Giovani lo Celso will start in behind Arnaut Danjuma.

Emery, speaking pre-match in comments carried by The Guardian, admitted that he’s well aware of the scale of the task before them. But while he’s respectful of Liverpool he’s not afraid.

“You see a Liverpool built in the image of their manager,” he said.

“With a smile, happiness, energy. And as well as that, as the ability to run, which they always had, there’s a pause now. They might find it harder against deep defences but that happens to everyone and this is a side that can play deeper, open the pitch and accumulate players inside. An improved team.

“[But] if you’re in the semi-final it’s because you deserve it. And what we’ve heard from Liverpool, the things they have said have been very intelligent, the respect they have shown. They know us, they know that it will be hard, the potential we have.

“They’re favourites but with respect. We have to analyse, prepare, produce the best version of ourselves, let the wave carry us. We have to try to get the perfect game.

“We know this is a semi-final and that we’re playing the biggest favourite, but we believe in ourselves and we want to have our place on the pitch.

“It’s not a case of finishing and being satisfied [to be here], no. We play a team that under normal circumstances could be better than us but we have our mechanisms, our response, and we have to seek ways to beat them, to compete.

“Above all, we’re going to live it.”

Tags Champions League La Liga Liverpool Unai Emery Villarreal
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