Sky Sports pundit predicts Villarreal v Liverpool

Anfield

The Reds visit El Madrigal in a last-four clash tonight.

Sky Sports pundit Charlie Nicholas has backed Liverpool to score a vital away goal in tonight's first-leg Europa League semi-final away to Villarreal, which he claims will finish 1-1 on the night.

The Reds travel to Spain still on something of a high following their dramatic quarter-final win over Borussia Dortmund, in which they netted three second-half goals - including a last-minute winner - to eliminate the Bundesliga giants and became favourites to win the competition.

El Madrigal plays host this evening as Jurgen Klopp's side face a different, but stern, test of their credentials and they will look to get Saturday's draw at home to Newcastle United out of their system, having surrendered a two-goal lead at Anfield.

 

 

Defender Mamadou Sakho remains absent for the Reds after testing positive for a banned substance, thought to be a 'fat burner' (the Liverpool Echo), and Nicholas is concerned about how Kolo Toure will cope with the lethal Roberto Soldado and jet-heeled forward Cedric Bakambu this evening.

"I know my Soccer Saturday mate Thommo is very excited about the draw but Villarreal are a dangerous side. We know Roberto Soldado isn't quite the prolific striker he once was but they've got a real threat in Cedric Bakambu, who is very, very quick," he said to Sky Sports.

"The situation with Mamadou Sakho concerns me because while Dejan Lovren has picked up Kolo Toure struggles against pace these days and I think Villarreal will look to exploit him. They've got plenty of quality technical players in midfield and they're not that dissimilar to Manuel Pellegrini's side that Arsenal faced, so it's going to be a tough game.

"However, if Liverpool can rediscover top form again after Saturday's second-half lapse, I fancy them to come away with a 1-1 draw, which would be a very good result."

 

1-1 would indeed represent an excellent result for the Reds, who managed that scoreline at Signal Iduna Park.

 

Villarreal, however, will have seen the electric atmosphere created by Liverpool fans for the return leg, and coach Marcelino will know that a first-leg victory is vital for his side's hopes of reaching the final.

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