JURGEN KLOPP says Villarreal have lost the shock factor — but he will not be taking them lightly.
The Liverpool manager claims the Spanish underdogs were under-estimated by powerhouses Bayern Munich and Juventus in earlier Champions League knockout stages and Klopp is wary ahead of tonight’s first-leg semi-final tie at Anfield.Jurgen Klopp is not under-estimating Villarreal as he leads his Reds into battle[/caption]
The German has warned Virgil van Dijk and Co they will have to be at their best to see off Unai Emery’s men.
He said: “We face very, very difficult opponents made for this competition in the way they set up.
“I think there might have been a little advantage for them in the last two games as Juventus and maybe Bayern underestimated them.
“But it never happens with us and after those four games, maybe their advantage has gone.
“They are a really good team and this could be the first time they reach the final, so it is a massive thing for them but it’s of the same importance for us.”
Villarreal shocked Juve 4-1 on aggregate in the last 16 and then stunned Bayern 2-1 over the two ties in the quarter-final.
But former Arsenal boss Emery admitted: “The surprise factor goes down — the first tie against Juve the surprise factor was maybe more important.
“Against Bayern it was important. That’s not present any more but every team who is in the semi-final deserves it, we know they will respect us.
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“Of course they will feel favourites as that is natural. They have built a Liverpool team like their coach, with that smile, that energy.
“We will try to surf the wave of experience we started accumulating last season.”
Klopp added: “It is absolutely special to be part of the semi-final. It is crazy. A massive game.
“So many coaches and so many players work their socks off their whole life and have no chance to be close to a semi-final so we have to cherish it.”
Emery has won the Europa League FOUR times, including last season when he led Villarreal to victory over Manchester United.
Klopp said: “Unai is a detail-obsessed manager who is ready for all situations in a game.
“Different ways to build up, to press, to react. Really impressive. Unai is a world-class coach and is doing an incredible job.
“We have had a hectic schedule with City, United and Everton. Now, bring on Villarreal.”Villarreal sparked chaotic scenes with their late goal at the Allianz[/caption]