The Champions League games are over for the week, so now it is the turn of the Europa League to take centre stage. Just like its more prestigious competition, the Europa League has one remaining English team in the draw – Liverpool. After a highly impressive win over Borussia Dortmund in the last round, as well as an equally impressive victory over Manchester United in the round before that, they now take on Spanish side Villarreal, with the winners of the tie advancing to the final.
While there’s no doubting that Villarreal don’t present as much of a challenge as either Dortmund or United, Liverpool will still need to be at their best to get past them. After all, the Spanish side are currently fourth in La Liga, and have reached this stage of the competition twice before, and have also managed to reach the Champions League semi-finals before as well.
The first game will take place in Spain, where Liverpool will hope to score at least one valuable away goal. Their chances of scoring have been boosted by the news that Christian Benteke is fit to play, which is especially important as Divock Origi has been ruled out with an injury. Benteke hasn’t been I the best form this season, however Liverpool will hope that his physical presence can give the Villarreal defence some problems.
When it comes to the Liverpool defence, Mamadou Sakho will not be available for selection. This is due to a failed drugs test, and Liverpool have agreed that he won’t play while the result is investigated by UEFA. This probably means that could be sidelined for the rest of the season. They should be able to find cover for him though, as Kolo Toure was drafted into the starting XI in their previous game.
While Villarreal might not be the biggest name in European football, there are signs that they are capable of upsetting Liverpool. This season they have managed to take points off Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid, plus they managed to turn around their Europa League quarter-final in dramatic style. Their recent form hasn’t been great though, having failed to win in their previous three La Liga games, during which they only managed to score one goal in total. Their star player is striker Cedric Bakambu, and Liverpool will need to find a way to shackle him if they are going to progress to the final of the Europa League.