It was an exciting week for football fans all around the world as eight clubs from different parts of Europe clashed in the 2nd leg of the UEFA Europa League quarterfinals for a place in the elite tournament’s semis.
The Liverpool vs Dortmund tie was the highlight of the week with Liverpool staging a magnificent comeback to storm into the semis. In the other matches, Sevilla managed to win on penalties in a tight encounter against Athletic Club whereas Shakhtar Donetsk and Villareal cruised through to the semis against Braga and Sparta Prague respectively.
The draws for the much-anticipated semifinals are out, in which Sevilla will take on Shakhtar Donetsk while Liverpool will lock horns with Villareal. Lets have a look at how these ties could play out:
Liverpool vs Villareal:
Liverpool have had a late upsurge in form in the Europa League as they outclassed Manchester United in the Round-of-16 and came back from the gallows to snatch what seemed like an assured victory from Dortmund, both of whom are heavyweights in Europe. Villareal, on the other hand, have been a dark horse this season as they have defeated SSC Napoli and Bayer Levekusen in the earlier rounds of the UEL.
Villareal’s performance in La Liga has been pretty impressive too, as they currently sit 4th in the table. They have managed to defeat both Madrid teams and draw against a rampaging Barcelona. Liverpool’s performance in the English Premier League has been quite ordinary as they occupy the 8th position in the table with hardly any notable performances against the top four teams.
The semi-final first leg will take place on the 28th of April at Villarreal’s home, El Madrigal. The return leg will take place a week later at Anfield. These two teams have faced each other only once, a game which ended in a 0-0 draw.
The player who could be a thorn in the flesh for Villareal against Liverpool is Phillipe Coutinho. The Brazilian midfielder has a knack of scoring stunners and can create a good number of chances. James Milner showed against Dortmund that he can can wreak havoc against any opposition defense on his day. Firmino and Henderson too, are important players for Liverpool. The defense has been shaky but it has to buckle up if Liverpool want to book a place in final.
The key players who could turn the tide in Villareal’s favour are Cedric Bakumbu, Roberto Soldado and Bruno Soriano. Liverpool’s defense will have to think of a way to tackle these players, especially Bakumbu and Soldado as they lead the scoring charts for Villareal. The defense has been the cornerstone for Villareal’s impressive form as they have maintained 20 clean sheets this season.
The stakes in this match are high for the Reds, who have showed time and again that situations like these bring out the best in them. Villareal will undoubtedly go in to this match with all their might to ensure a place in Basel, Switzerland. This should be a thrilling one.