15:30 ET Canada-USA | 21:30 Cairo Local Time
Szymon Marciniak (Poland)
Liverpool are set to host Villarreal at Anfield on Wednesday evening in the first leg of their encounter in the semifinals of the Champions League this season.
It has been an incredible month for Jurgen Klopp’s men, one in which they managed to beat all three of their most fierce domestic rivals; all in the last 10 days.
Having flown past the group stages in the Champions League, where they dealt with Atletico Madrid, FC Porto and AC Milan, Liverpool beat Inter Milan in the round of 16 before knocking Benfica out in the quarterfinals.
They’ve also reached the FA Cup final and are just one point behind defending Premier League champions Manchester City, with five matches left to play for both sides.
On top of all that, they’ve already won the Carabao Cup, which basically means they have a chance – and a decent one too – of doing what no English team has ever done – winning all four trophies on offer. Their football maybe isn’t as high-flying as it could be lately, but they’ve shown extreme levels of consistency.
The last six matches Liverpool have played were a 1-3 win away to Benfica, a 2-2 draw away to Manchester City in the Premier League, a 3-3 draw at home against Benfica in the second leg, a 3-2 win in the FA Cup semifinal over Manchester City at Wembley, a 4-0 thrashing of Manchester United at home, and a Merseyside Derby win over Everton at Anfield by 2-0 on Sunday.
The shock of the season in the Champions League so far, Villarreal surely won’t be going to face Liverpool purely for the fun of it. It may be that most people consider them as the underdogs here, but they will only see that as added motivation and pressure relieved from their shoulders.
Having finished second to Manchester United in Group F, ahead of Atalanta and Young Boys, the Yellow Submarine went on push out Juventus in the round of 16, before disposing of Bayern Munich as well in the quarterfinals. Those successes will certainly have boosted their confidence ahead of facing Liverpool.
Over in Spain, Unai Emery’s side are currently in seventh place with 52 points from 33 matches. A nine-point gap separates them from Atletico Madrid in fourth, which means they’re unlikely to make the Champions League again next term unless they go on to win it now. A place in the Europa League, of which they are still the holders, would be a fine achievement from this perspective.
Even though their last-six run begins with an underwhelming 2-0 defeat away to Levante, Villarreal’s recent form has been excellent. They managed to beat Bayern at home by 1-0, to draw 1-1 at home against Athletic Bilbao, to get the same scoreline against Bayern in Germany, to beat Getafe 1-2 away and Valencia 2-0 at home.
LIVE: Liverpool vs Villarreal | Champions League | semifinals