UEFA Champions League: Liverpool v Villarreal

UEFA Champions League: Liverpool v Villarreal

Liverpool and Villarreal have met just twice before in European competition, with both sides winning their home leg of the 2015-16 UEFA Europa League semi-finals, when Liverpool would go on to progress to the final against Unai Emery’s Sevilla.

Since a 2-1 victory in Merseyside over Everton back in August 2005, Villarreal haven’t managed to win any of their last eight away games in England in all competitions (D3 L5); already tasting defeat at Old Trafford in the group stages earlier this season.

During his managerial career, Villarreal boss Unai Emery has faced Liverpool five times (once with Sevilla and four times with Arsenal), with those matches producing 26 goals (5.2 per game on average), and both teams netting in each. The only European meeting between man and club was the 2016 UEFA Europa League final, in which Emery’s Sevilla side beat Jürgen Klopp’s Reds 3-1.

Liverpool have reached the semi-final of the European Cup/UEFA Champions League for the 12th time, with no English side playing in the final four more often (level with Manchester United). Indeed, as a club, the Reds have reached the semi-finals of the League Cup, FA Cup and European Cup in the same campaign for the very first time.

Of the 12 sides to have reached the semi-finals of the European Cup/UEFA Champions League on at least five occasions, only Benfica (7/8) and AC Milan (10/12) have a higher ratio of progressing to the final than Liverpool (82%), who have managed to reach the final on nine of their previous 11 occasions.

This will be the fourth time out of Villarreal’s last five semi-final appearances in major European competition to see them come up against English opposition at the final four stage, with their only other encounter in this competition coming against Arsenal in 2005-06. The Spanish side were eliminated 1-0 on aggregate, with Villarreal also being the final visiting side to play a European match at the old Highbury stadium.

Villarreal’s Gerard Moreno has registered four assists in the UEFA Champions League this term, with only three players managing more. Indeed, since 2003-04, this is the joint-most by a Spanish player in their debut campaign in the competition, along with Gabi (2013-14) and Isaac Cuenca (2011-12).

Only in 2017-18 (10) has Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah scored more UEFA Champions League goals in a single campaign than the eight he’s notched this season, moving his tally for the club onto 33. The Egyptian is now just three behind both Didier Drogba (Chelsea) and Sergio Agüero (Man City) for the most goals netted in the competition for an English side (36 each).

Of the remaining players in the competition this season, only Karim Benzema (15) has registered more secondary chances created than Villarreal’s Dani Parejo (14), which is the pass played before the final pass sets up a shot or goal, highlighting a player’s influence on their team’s ability to find shooting opportunities.

Since the start of the 2009-10 season, the inaugural UEFA Europa League campaign, Villareal manager Unai Emery has progressed from 84% of his UEFA Europa League/Champions League knockout ties (31/37), the second-best ratio of any manager to have taken charge of at least 10, after only Zinedine Zidane (14/16 – 88%).

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