Liverpool seeks to complete the job against Villarreal in the second leg of their semi-final tie at La Ceramica stadium here on Tuesday, with one foot already in the final of the 2021-22 Champions League.
It would take a near-miraculous recovery to deny Liverpool, 2-0 winners in the first leg, a third final in five seasons, but the Jurgen Klopp-led side is plagued by injuries, including forwards Roberto Firmino and Divock Origi.
Origi missed the weekend’s game against Newcastle United due to illness, while Firmino is recovering from a foot injury.
Firmino’s foot injury was not expected to keep him out for long, but it is proving more difficult than expected for the attacker to overcome, and he is set to miss out again this week.
“Roberto Firmino will miss the second leg of Liverpool’s Champions League semi-final with Villarreal, but Divock Origi is expected to be available,” the club said in a statement on Monday.
Offering an update on Monday, Jurgen Klopp told his pre-match press conference, “Bobby (Divock Origi) is now running, so it’s good. Firmino continues to make encouraging progress with the foot injury he picked up at Wembley last month in the Emirates FA Cup victory over Manchester City.”
“A little strain here in the middle foot bone, so it’s very painful to take each step. But he was running today again, will travel with us but will not be involved in the squad yet. But we hope sooner rather than later. We had the issues with a stomach bug – they are all back. I think that’s it. “o concerns,” he said.
Klopp’s team won the first leg 2-0 at Anfield, but Unai Emery’s men have a history of defying the odds.
Only one team has ever come back from a two-goal deficit in a Champions League semi-final, with Villarreal attempting to do so against the comeback kings in Liverpool after their incredible 2018-19 turnaround against Barcelona, but a 12-game unbeaten run at home does help.
Villarreal have not lost in front of their own fans since November, but Emery’s side failed to register a single shot on target in the first leg, and few bets will be placed on the La Liga side booking a ticket to the showpiece event right now.
Even Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp has admitted as much, saying that the opponents will give it their all in the second leg.
“We know that. It’s half-time. In the best possible way, you ignore the result from the first game. If that would be a cup game. We would try to win there – and that’s what we want to try there. Knowing that they will go with all they have, it’s absolutely clear,” he said.
“We never expected it to be easy. This will not be easy. But we played a good game at home and we better play a good game there as well.”
Villarreal only had the ball 26 percent of the time at Anfield and only managed one shot, which was not even on target. In the small town of Villarreal, however, there is optimism that the second leg will be different.
(Inputs from IANS)