Mark O’Haire’s Europa League Tips – Liverpool v VillarrealStats
Liverpool v Villarreal
A late Liverpool defensive lapse handed Villarreal the advantage in this Europa League semi-final but the two teams head to Anfield for the second leg on Thursday night with the tie finely poised.
Liverpool v Villarreal, Thursday 5th May 2016, 20.05, BT Sport Europe
The Merseyside faithful are confident their side are capable of yet another famous comeback in front of the Kop but it’s a feeling not shared by the bookmakers with the Reds 6/4 outsiders to overturn their 1-0 deficit.
Encouragingly for Liverpool fans, only 16/27 (59%) of teams to win 1-0 at home in the first leg of Europa League knockout have gone on to progress since 2009/10, with the record of teams to have lost the first leg of an away Europa League knockout tie from the last-16 onwards since 2004/05 an outstanding W19-D4-L1 when back on home soil.
The Reds have overcome a first leg semi-final deficit in three of their five previous European semi-finals whilst their last seven Anfield second legs at this stage of continental competition has seen the Merseysiders win in 90 minutes.
Jurgen Klopp’s curious decision to leave sulky Daniel Sturridge on the bench cost the Premier League outfit a focal point for their counter-attack in Spain last week but should the German field Sturridge alongside Roberto Firmino and fit again Philippe Coutinho, Liverpool ought to have the firepower to open this tie up.
At El Madrigal, the Reds put in a decent shift off the ball, hassling and harrowing their La Liga hosts with a well-executed pressing system. Produce a similar approach at Anfield and the high-tempo bluster we saw against Dortmund in the quarter-finals could easily be repeated.
The home side have scored in each of their six Europa League ties in front of their home supporters this season and their W11-D8-L3 record at Anfield under Klopp gives the club further hope. And the Reds’ European record as hosts since 2010/11 (W14-D7-L2) adds further fuel to the fire.
If we drill down to the Europa League (and specifically knockout football) since 2009/10, Liverpool have W10-D1-L0 on home soil, recording eight clean sheets.
And there’s a very fair suggestion doing the rounds that Klopp’s charges are at their best when taking on elite opposition, such as Villarreal.
No Spanish side has exited European football to a non-La Liga club this season and the Yellow Submarine rested 10 players for Sunday’s 2-0 triumph at Valencia, a deserved result that guarantees Marcelinho’s men a top-four finish and Champions League football in 2016/17 with two weeks to spare.
The Yellow Submarine have never reached a European final but 10 years ago were denied a Champions League final berth thanks to Juan Roman Riquelme’s penalty miss against Arsenal, at this stage. The visitors are desperate to right those wrongs and create their own slice of history on Merseyside.
Villarreal have only W8-D9-L9 in 26 road trips across all competitions this season and their final whistle celebrations at El Madrigal last Thursday did look a touch premature. But an away goal changes the landscape in the Spaniards’ favour and they have found the back of the net in all bar one of their previous 32 Europa League matches.
The Yellow Submarine have W9-D3-L0 in their last 12 continental outings and in Cedric Bakambu, boast the competition’s second-top goalscorer. Having triumphantly defended first leg leads away at Napoli, Bayer Leverkusen and Sparta Prague, the guests are well accustomed to what’s required here.
The Yellows are no pushovers, for sure. Bruno Soriano and Tomas Pina will patrol the midfield elegantly to keep possession and keep their side ultra compact and organised. With the visitors grabbing a goal in 11 of their 12 away European trips since the start of last season – not losing one by more than a one-goal margin – you can see why the odds-compilers favour Villarreal’s progress.
Being the keen La Liga follower I am, I wouldn’t want to oppose Marcelinho’s men in the To Qualify market but I do reckon this fixture could go against the goals grain and produce another grandstand finish, ala Dortmund.
Bets, Bets, Bets
Liverpool have scored at least twice in six of their last seven at Anfield and will be forced to go for the jugular at some stage. However, the evidence above suggests Villarreal can play their part by grabbing a goal.
Therefore, I don’t think we can scoff at 3/1 quotes on a Liverpool win and Both Teams To Score as well as backing the 12/5 on a Reds win by exactly one goal.
Liverpool to win by exactly one goal (12/5)
Liverpool to win and Both Teams To Score (3/1)
*Prices correct at time of publication