Liverpool vs. Villarreal Champions League predictions: Jurgen Klopp's men pushed hard, but prevail reddit Streams
Watch Live=> Liverpool – Villarreal
Watch Live=> Liverpool – Villarreal
The UEFA Champions League semifinals are upon us. The action begins Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET on CBS and Paramount+. Manchester City host Real Madrid before Liverpool and Villarreal face off on Wednesday. Here is what to look out for as four teams chase spots in the Champions League final.
Villarreal make Liverpool work for their win
It couldn't happen again, could it? Almost certainly not is the answer, an unfortunate one for those of a Villarreal persuasion or indeed those who just want to see a bit of spice in the latter stages of the Champions League. Then again one could have written the exact same thing throughout this competition. Villarreal had just about enough to squeeze past Atalanta but it won't work against Juventus. Villarreal had just about enough to squeeze past Juventus but it won't work against Bayern Munich.
Be warned, Jurgen Klopp. This will not be a pleasant affair. All the statistics and underlying metrics do of course point to a gulf between these two teams. After 10 Champions League games, Liverpool's goal difference is twice as good as Villarreal's seven. The Reds average 2.15 xG for and 1.1 xG against per European game. Unai Emery's team are at 1.86 for and 1.46 against.
Then of course there is the on field talent gap. One of these teams has nine players in our top 25 of our best 50 left in the competition. The other has two. Villarreal have very good players such as Arnaut Danjuma and Pau Torres. But, set them against their counterparts in red (Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk for instance), and it becomes apparent that this is very good players against the best in the world.
Over time, you would expect that talent gulf to be reflected in the results. But, time may well be needed. One thing that is very true about Emery's side is that they are a tough nut to immediately crack. Across their Champions League games so far Villarreal have given up 4.85 expected goals and two actual goals in the first half as opposed to 9.73 and nine in the second. Those banks of four or more ahead of Geronimo Rulli take time to break down no matter the context.
In the second leg of the quarterfinal, with Bayern trailing by a goal on aggregate, these were the shots they put up. The size of the bubble reflects the xG value of each shot. And yes I have double checked that there hasn't been a mistake on their sizing. That's what 0.38 xG off eight shots looks like.
Bayern Munich's shots in the first half of the Champions League quarterfinal second leg against Villarreal TruMedia
Naturally that cannot last forever. Defenders tire. Opponents get more desperate. But, it was in that first half of the second leg that Villarreal seemed to conclude that they would win this tie, their belief not repressed even by Robert Lewandowski's goal. The same thing could happen again, in this leg or the next. But it seems altogether more unlikely.
When Julian Nagelsmann cast around his bench he had Serge Gnabry, left back Alphonso Davies and Eric-Maxim Choupo Moting as options to freshen up the attack. If the starters were not going to win it for Bayern, it was fair to question whether the bench could. The same cannot be said for Liverpool, who could make a rather devastating front three out of whoever does not make Klopp's starting XI. Against Inter Milan, Roberto Firmino was their match winner off the bench, for Everton in the Merseyside derby, Divock Origi was Thanos-level inevitable.
Flip the script of recent Villarreal games and if Klopp needs to tighten things up, he tends to have a top tier midfielder with fresh legs on the bench. Lately Jordan Henderson has excelled in that closer role. If he really needed, it he would also have one of Ibrahima Konate or Joel Matip waiting on the bench. Whatever the circumstances Liverpool can change them with fresh legs against tiring Villarreal minds. This looks like being the end of the road.
Bonus prediction: English teams sweep the European board
Here's one that has been sizzling away in the background for a while, not ready to be unleashed on the world until Barcelona crashed out of the Europa League. Now is the time to boldly declare this bit of Premier League exceptionalism. English teams are going to win it all. Certainly that's no great surprise in the case of the Champions League where Liverpool and Manchester City have been strides ahead of the field for some time now.
From the pinnacle of European football to base camp, Leicester go into their tie as relative underdogs to Roma but a squad that has been addled by injuries for most of this season looks rather stronger now that Jamie Vardy has returned from injury. Wesley Fofana and Jonny Evans have also been eased back into action with Brendan Rodgers prioritizing this cup run. That duo might well have enough to quell Tammy Abraham. At the other end, Inter Milan showed the rewards that can be won through the sort of direct counterattacking the Foxes can excel at... if their manager is ready to abandon the possession play he has gravitated to of late. Leicester may not be favorites for the Europa Conference League, but then these wouldn't be a very bold prediction if they were.
West Ham are in a similar position with RB Leipzig the most likely team to be lifting the Europa League trophy in Seville next month. But, there is something to be said for the remorseless momentum that has gripped this club, where everything is being funneled into their pursuit of continental silverware. David Moyes showed on Sunday he is prepared to sacrifice Premier League form to have the best possible chance against Eintracht Frankfurt, seasoned experts in this competition.
Come Thursday's first leg Michail Antonio, Jarrod Bowen and Declan Rice will be as well rested as anyone could expect for this stage of the season. A defense that may have only Craig Dawson as a fit center back will be tested but this is a team that has stood firm at both ends of the pitch in Europe. With the London Stadium at their backs they could well do enough to take control of the tie this week and book their passage back to Seville, where their knockout stage journey began. Who then would doubt West Ham's sheer will to win this competition would not prevail?