Villarreal-Liverpool and an opportunity to forget Riquelme’s penalty

Villarreal visits Liverpool on Wednesday in the first leg of the Champions League semi-finals (7:00 p.m. GMT) to try to definitively leave behind the night that touched the final of the continental tournament.

Sixteen years later, Villarreal returns to a Champions League semifinal, the second in its history, wanting to forget the first and make history.

Three decades ago, the ‘Yellow Submarine’ touched on glory when, after losing 1-0 to Arsenal in the first leg, Juan Román Riquelme had the opportunity to level the tie.

With 0-0 on the scoreboard at the Madrigal stadium, the Argentine missed a penalty five minutes from the end that would have allowed the ‘Submarino’ to continue dreaming of the final.

So at the helm of Manuel Pellegrini, Villarreal has a new opportunity at the hands of Unai Emery, a specialist in the Europa League, who is still missing the Orejona.

“This is a Villarreal that has improved in everything compared to that Villarreal. We arrived at this semi-final improved in everything,” warned the president of the Castellón club, Francisco Roig, in an interview with AS.

Executioner of Juve in the round of 16 and of Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals with a goal over the bell by Samu Chukwueze, Villarreal aspires to continue that positive streak against the English, which has also led them to win their last two league games.

“Liverpool are the clear favourites, but so were Juventus and Bayern,” central defender Pau Torres reminded Marca.

The ‘Yellow Submarine’ goes to Anfield with practically all his crew ready, except for his injured striker Gerard Moreno, who has little chance of arriving due to his hamstring problems.

He is also aware of the situation of Francis Coquelin, who has been dragging some discomfort that led Emery to leave him out in the last two games against Getafe and Valencia.

‘It will be very difficult’

Villarreal is again measured with a Liverpool that already eliminated him in the semifinals of the Europa League in 2016 under the orders of Jurgen Kloop himself, who returns to receive the Spanish at Anfield.

“It’s going to be very, very difficult against Villarreal, but it’s the semifinal of the Champions League, if it weren’t difficult there would be something wrong,” the German coach had warned after meeting his rival in the semifinals.

The English team arrives at the match in their best form and as the only team with a chance of completing the league-Champions-Cup triplet.

Second in the English championship, one point behind leader Manchester City, which is contesting the other Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid, Liverpool also eliminated the ‘Citizens’ in the FA Cup semi-finals.

Now Kloop’s team is looking to win a place in another final to try to repeat their success from 2019 when they last lifted the ‘Orejona’.

The English team will try to assert the great offensive power of its attacking men, three of whom are among the top five scorers in the English championship, a ranking led by Egyptian Mohamed Salah with 22 goals.

The Liverpool striker is also the fourth best scorer in the Champions League with eight goals, a real warning for Villarreal, who will not stop dreaming of the feat.

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