Vilareal will be a tough nut for Liverpool t rack in Thursday's Europa League semi-final.
Since making it past Sparta Prague in the quarter-finals, Villarreal have suffered a dip in form as they lost at Vallecano and the Bernabeu and were also held to a goalless draw at home to Real Sociedad on Sunday. It would have been reasonable to expect Liverpool also to have had some sort of hangover after their remarkable win over Dortmund, but they since managed to win at Bournemouth and thumped Everton 4-0 in the Derby, though they did let a 2-0 lead slip at home to Newcastle on Saturday.
After losing their opening game in the group stage, Villarreal’s Europa League record this season is W8-D3-L0 and they’ve also won all six of their home games whilst conceding just one goal. Indeed, their record at El Madrigal in the Europa League since the start of last season is W10-D1-L1 as competition specialists Sevilla are the only side to have beaten them. That defeat was the only time The Yellow Submarine have lost at home in a European knockout match since 2005/06 as they’ve had a W10-D5-L1 record during this period. What’s more, in La Liga this season when hosting top-five sides, Villarreal’s record is W3-D1-L0 as they’ve beaten Champions League semi-finalists Atletico and Real, whilst managing a draw against league leaders Barcelona.
Liverpool are unbeaten in this season’s Europa League but have drawn seven of their 12 matches, including both away legs of their ties with Man Utd and Dortmund and it was thanks to spectacular wins at Anfield that they made it through. The Reds’ only European away win in 10 games since the start of last campaign came against Rubin Kazan and these matches have all tended to be tight affairs, with nine seeing fewer than three goals and six with fewer than two. Liverpool’s away record in Europa League knockout matches since 2009/10 is W1-D4-L6, with that sole victory coming against Unirea Urziceni in the last-32 stage back in 2009/10. Since Klopp took over, Liverpool have struggled in the Premier League when travelling to top-eight teams as they’ve lost at Leicester, West Ham and Southampton, conceding at least twice in each of these games whilst only managing to beat Man City of teams failing in this category, who have themselves struggled against top-half sides all season.
Whilst Villarreal have struggled somewhat since their last Europa League tie, two of those games were on the road and the other was with a weakened side against Sociedad as Toral rested some of his players ahead of this game. Given their impressive overall home form in the league this season and in Europe recently, we’re siding with the Spaniards in this one to continue Liverpool’s struggles on the road in Europe. Home teams have a W8-D1-L1 record in Europa League semi-final first legs since 2009/10 and since Villarreal have kept a clean sheet in 12 of their last 16 at home in all competitions, the win to nil is worth consideration at 4.1.
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