This Thursday sees the first leg of the semi-final match-up between Villarreal and Liverpool in the Europa League. Buoyed from their memorable quarter final victory over Borussia Dortmund earlier this month, Jurgen Klopp’s men will fancy their chances of going all the way in the competition but will certainly have their work cut out against a Villarreal side who are currently placed fourth in the Spanish Primera division table.
In the lead up to this week’s tie, we preview all the action and speculate on where the betting value lies for this game.
Liverpool’s last-gasp win over Dortmund last week was arguably the most exciting European night since ‘you know what’ happened in Istanbul back in 2005. After their German quarter final opponents had made such light work of title-chasing Spurs in the previous round, many had envisaged Liverpool would suffer the same unavoidable fate.
But with Klopp at the helm, the Reds were more than ready for the task at hand and defeated a Borussia side playing the ‘normal one’s’ trademark brand of dynamic attacking football.
Whilst arguably not as feared, their opponents this week Villarreal have overcome the likes of Napoli and Bayer Leverkusen en route to the Europa League final four and will surely provide the sternest of tests for Liverpool in a stadium they’ve lost just three times in all season. (all competitions)
Villarreal: Defenders Mateo Musacchio and Jaume Costa are the Yellow Submarines’ only notable absences going into Thursday’s tie.
Liverpool: Midfielders Jordan Henderson and Emre Can are both out for the season with respective ligament injuries sustained this month. Divock Origi is also unavailable after he went off injured in Liverpool’s 4-0 win against Everton last week but there is some good news for the reds with striker Christian Benteke almost at full fitness following his recent period on the sidelines.
Where does the betting value lie?
What makes Thursday night’s fixture especially tricky for Liverpool is Villarreal’s impressive home record. Only Atletico have conceded more goals at home this season and Klopp’s men may find goals hard to come by with in-form striker Origi now out for the remainder of the season. Not only that, with central midfielders Jordan Henderson and Emre Can now also sidelined through injury, the Reds have now lost two important cogs in their midfield engine with Can especially a big loss with the amount of ground he can cover up and down the pitch.
Yes, although it may be highly unfashionable to bet against Liverpool after their Dortmund heroics two weeks ago, with Villarreal priced up at well over even money on Thursday night, we feel this is a piece of value too good to ignore. And whilst we have no doubt Liverpool can still go onto win the tie in front of the Kop next week, we still see value in tipping a side who may have had their chances of winning the competition underplayed a tad.
With Villarreal possessing a resolute back line but not scoring too many goals at the other end of the pitch (42 in the Primera Division is hardly awe-inspiring), the home side to win and the match to stay at under 2.5 goals also looks a good bet at a price of 3/1.