VILLARREAL - LIVERPOOL
Cazorla: “Villarreal will suffer at Anfield; El Madrigal is the key”
Santi Cazorla is predicting an evenly-poised tie between Villarreal and Liverpool but plumps for his ex-team over the two legs. Nadal vs Thiem
Villarreal are facing their fourth chance at qualifying for a European final. In their three previous semi-finals - against Arsenal in the Champions League and Valencia and Porto in the Europa League, that extra dose of luck you need wasn't with them, and former 'Submarine' player Santi Cazorla is hoping “as a big 'groguet'* fan”, Villarreal can finally put that right this time against Liverpool. It's a match which Cazorla says he wouldn't miss for the world and adds “if I can get permission from Arsenal, I'd like to watch the return leg from the stands at Anfield”.
Cazorla, who puts Villarreal's success this season "down to their great coach, Marcelino”, is expected a close, evenly-fought tie but told AS that he fancies his old team to go through, “There won't be a lot in it, but I think if Villarreal are at their level, they'll be in with a good chance”.
The Asturian warned however that since Jürgen Klopp's arrival, “Liverpool are another prospect entirely” and will be equally as keen to be in the final in Basel on 18 May. “Liverpool have a very clear philosophy; they are very intense in the final third, they press a lot when their rivals are trying to take the ball from their half... but if Villarreal can ride out that pressure and manage to circulate the ball, they'll have half the battle won”, said Cazorla, who rates Philippe Coutinho as the Reds dangerman; “He's Liverpool's best player, the one who makes a difference to them because much of their play goes through him”.
Villarreal have experience of playing on Merseyside but across Stanley Park at Goodison, this will be their first experience of Anfield. Cazorla has warned Villarreal what to expect: “Every team suffers at Anfield and I am sure that Villarreal are going to suffer there; the key to this tie is Thursday's game at El Madrigal”.
*'Groguet' is the name of Villarreal's mascot, a character based on a yellow and blue submarine
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