JURGEN KLOPP says Villarreal have lost the shock factor – but he won’t take them lightly.
The Liverpool manager claims the Spanish outsiders were underestimated by powerhouses Bayern Munich and Juventus in previous Champions League knockout rounds and Klopp is wary ahead of tonight’s first-leg semi-final at Anfield.
The German has warned Virgil van Dijk and co that they must do their best to defeat Unai Emery’s men.
He said: “We’re up against very, very difficult opponents who were made for this competition because of their line-up.
“I think they might have had a little advantage over them in the last two games as Juventus and maybe Bayern underestimated them.
“But that never happens with us and maybe after those four games their advantage is gone.
“They’re a really good team and this could be their first time reaching the final so it’s a massive thing for them but it’s just as important for us.”
Villarreal shocked Juve 4-1 on aggregate in the round of 16 and then stunned Bayern 2-1 over their two quarter-final ties.
But former Arsenal boss Emery admitted: “The surprise factor is going down – perhaps in the first draw against Juve the surprise factor was more important.
“It was important against Bayern. That’s no longer present, but every team that’s in the semifinals deserves it, we know they’ll respect us.
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“Of course they will feel like favourites, because that’s natural. They built a Liverpool team like their manager, with that smile, that energy.”
“We’ll try to ride the wave of experience we’ve had over the past season.”
Klopp added: “It’s very special to be part of the semi-finals. It’s crazy. A mighty game.
“So many coaches and so many players work their whole lives out of their socks and have no chance of being close to a semi-final, so we have to appreciate it.”
Emery has won the Europa League FOUR times, including last season when he guided Villarreal to victory over Manchester United.
Klopp said: “Unai is a detail-obsessed manager who is ready for any situation in a game.
“Different ways of building up, pushing, reacting. Very impressive. Unai is a world class coach and does an incredible job.
“We’ve had a hectic schedule with City, United and Everton. Bring on Villarreal now.”
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/5213630/jurgen-klopp-liverpool-villarreal-champions-league/ Jurgen Klopp says Liverpool won’t take Villarreal lightly in the Champions League after Bayern Munich and Juventus won