In Review

Liverpool vs Villarreal: Attack the best form of defence

Reds will hope to round off an emotional week with victory in the Europa League

Liverpool take on Villarreal in the first leg of the Europa League semi-final this evening, with the tie likely to be decided by the strikers.

Jurgen Klopp's side staged one of the great comebacks to beat Borussia Dortmund in the last round, but they were forced to do so by the vulnerability of their defence. That was in evidence once again on Saturday, as they surrendered a two-goal lead against Newcastle.

Tonight, the Liverpool backline will be up against Villarreal's Cedric Bakambu, one of the most sought-after young strikers in Europe.

And the Reds have every reason to be wary. "He's quick, he can carry the ball well at speed, he turns quarter-chances into half-chances and he works hard off the ball, too," says Jonathan Liew of the Daily Telegraph. "His speed allows Villarreal to sit deep in big games and play on the counter-attack, which they may well do again on Thursday."

Klopp has made it clear his plan will be to deny Bakambu service, while hoping that his front three of Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Daniel Sturridge (pictured above) can torpedo the Yellow Submarine.

However, Liverpool have personnel issues behind the strikers. "The complicating factor for Klopp is his team will be without the spine that helped Liverpool get this far," says The Times, noting that Divock Origi, Jordan Henderson, Emre Can and Mamadou Sakho, suspended for 30 days after failing a drug test, will all be missing.

That leaves only one thing for it, says Scott Murray of Eurosport - go for the jugular in front of the Anfield faithful who have made the journey to Spain.

"If a defence is proven to be unreliable, there's little sense in a gameplan that relies on it. Pour forward, then... and see where it takes you. Risking the shipping of an occasional two-goal lead for the greater statistical good - Liverpool have scored 16 times in the previous five matches, after all - might be a price worth paying. For now, at least."

Liverpool can also benefit from the emotion generated by the Hillsborough inquests this week. The club and its supporters won a vital victory, "the football team will now seek to follow suit", says the Daily Express.

"Villarreal will pay their own tribute to the victims prior to kick-off before the focus switches to a Europa League semi-final which provides Liverpool with a shimmering opportunity to maintain the good work Klopp is overseeing."

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