Semifinals / Second leg
After the 2-0 defeat in the first leg at Anfield, the submarine clings to the illusion and its public to overcome the tie
“Passing would be excellence. I don’t know if we’ll be able to.” Between the emotion, the illusion and a tremendous respect for playing “against the best team in the world”, the words of Unai Emery resound in the preview of one of the most important clashes in the history of Villarreal. At La Cerámica, Jurgen Klopp’s sublime Liverpool will be the last hurdle before the grand final of the highest European competition. A complicated dream, and a lot, especially after the result harvested in the first leg -2-0 for the English- and the enormous favoritism ‘red’. Handicap that, however, does not stop the yellows. “There is only one objective, no matter how it is achieved,” says Pau Torres.
In search of that level of perfection, so necessary for the Basque coach in a high-flying tie, a team from Castellón appears, eager to break with the history of the Champions League to repeat the feat of last year. Then, Emery’s men managed to win the final of the second continental tournament against Manchester United against all odds. The company seems more complex on this occasion, with a Liverpool that has an important advantage and that at Anfield gave clear symptoms of that excellence to which the yellow coach refers. Just two minutes served to put the tie very face for the ‘red’ in a clash in which they were tremendously superior and stifled Villarreal’s ball output.
Aware of the difficulties, Emery acknowledges that the team must find its “game”, also delving into the importance of the public factor. “He was very important in Liverpool and here we would like him to be with us.” As was the case against Bayern, La Cerámica will register a full house in a crowd that is dedicated and shares a dream with the team. It will be a moment to enjoy, recalls Pau Torres, because “this has only happened once in the history of the club.”
Without being a definitive advantage, Klopp’s men arrive with the appointment on track. Knowing the suffering that awaits them and that a goal could be crucial for Villarreal’s mood, they are cautious and without any relaxation. “If we start off on the wrong foot, everything can get complicated, but we are ready. We are a great team,” says the German, for whom reaching the penultimate phase of the Champions League “is a great achievement.” Also immersed in the fight to get the local tournament in what could be a dream season, they seek to give the definitive blow in Europe.
doubts in attack
Liverpool could achieve it in an appointment in which the submarine goes, once again, with serious doubts in attack. If everything goes smoothly, and after having started the week training with the rest of the group, Gerard Moreno would be the best news and the most awaited novelty for a Villarreal that awaits him like water in May after not having been able to count on him in the match outward. The Catalan striker is one of the essential men in Emery’s scheme. Fundamental, for example, in the round of 16 in Turin, when he managed to unblock a complex tie against Juventus with his departure to the field.
Also in doubt is the presence of the Dutchman Danjuma, who has become one of the most important footballers for the ‘groguet’, contributing goals, overflow and devilish speed. Disappeared in attack at Anfield, the inconvenience could make it impossible for him to be present at La Cerámica.
Seeking to give the bell, as was already achieved in the round of 16 against Juventus and, above all, in some fateful quarters against the great Bayern Munich when everyone considered them dead, now Villarreal’s illusion is to overcome the most difficult yet. Leading 2-0 and in great form, another giant awaits. Klopp’s Liverpool, a team that dominates practically all the records and that hardly a single rival resists. The reward, yes, is an important place in the Champions League final. Prize that for the Spanish would be unprecedented and that, if achieved, would mythologize a little more, if possible, to Emery and his. “If Villarreal gets a good result and beats us, we’ll congratulate them and that’s it,” concludes Klopp.
Rulli, Foyth, Albiol, Pau Torres, Estupiñán, Capoue, Parejo, Coquelin, Lo Celso, Gerard Moreno and Dia.
Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Konaté, Van Dijk, Robertson, Fabinho, Henderson, Thiago, Salah, Mané and Luis Díaz.
Danny Makkelie (Netherlands).
9:00 p.m. Movistar Champions League.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.