Liverpool face Villarreal side with ‘nothing to lose’ in Champions League semi-final second leg

Liverpool head to Villarreal on Tuesday night knowing they hold a strong position to reach the Champions League final – but former Spain international midfielder Marcos Senna says his old club can still cause another upset.

Under Jurgen Klopp, the Reds are bidding to reach their third final in five seasons in Europe’s top competition, but first they must complete the job started last week against the current Europa League holders.

Villarreal sit only seventh in La Liga but have already knocked out Juventus and Bayern Munich in their run to the last four, while they have not lost at the Estadio de la Ceramica since the end of November. It all has Senna believing they are in a win-win position which plays into their favour – and he picked out the midfield pairing as critical to any hopes of a comeback for Unai Emery’s side.

“It’s a very complicated match but a historical one. We have nothing to lose and we’ll see what we do. From the first minute to the last we’ll fight,” he told The Independent on a media call ahead of the match.

“[Etienne] Capoue, with [Dani] Parejo, is the player who gives balance to the team. He’s the key.”

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It’s almost an all-or-nothing situation for Villarreal in terms of European football for next season at this point.

Winning the Champions League would of course see them back in the competition for 2022/23 as holders, but should they fail to reach that lofty objective, the Europa Conference League might beckon – at best.

Seventh will claim that spot but Athletic Club are only a point behind and hold a better head-to-head record which is decisive in Spain at the end of the season, with Villarreal facing Sevilla, Real Sociedad and Barcelona as three of their last four opponents, all teams above them in the table.

Senna points out that under Emery, inconsistency has cost a shot at a top-four spot but steady improvements made over the last couple of years mean there’s still plenty of reason for optimism.

“We’ve dropped points against teams at the bottom and that’s why we’re not near the top four. But there are games to go and after [the second leg against Liverpool] we’ll have a bit more time to work between games.

“We can fight to be in Europe with the squad, maybe not the top four, it’s very tough to stay up there. But I’m very proud of the work we’ve done this year. We’ve already taken big steps, we won our first major title last year with the Europa League and this year we’ve improved again in the Champions League.

“Step by step, little by little in our own style we can do important things in the future. Win the title is difficult but we were runners up in 2008. Villarreal are on a good path and can keep building.”

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