While Liverpool were preparing for their 2-0 win over Everton, Villarreal were given a rare advantage of a break before the Champions League semi-final.

The Reds boxed off a Merseyside derby double with a two-goal victory at Anfield on Sunday, keeping up the pace at the top of the Premier League.

But with three more trophies to fight for, their focus will now turn to the Champions League, with Villarreal the visitors in the first leg of the semi-finals on Wednesday night.

Villarreal have overcome both Juventus and Bayern Munich so far in the knockout stages, having finished second to Man United in the group stage, and resemble a surprise package for the final four.

They head to Liverpool on the back of a five-game unbeaten run, too, with a win and a draw against Bayern sandwiched between a draw with Athletic Club and victories over Getafe and Valencia in LaLiga.

2GKKACJ Valencia, Spain. 14th Sep, 2021. Arnaut Danjuma of Villarreal seen in action during the UEFA Champions League group F match between Villarreal CF and Atalanta at Estadio de la Ceramica in Villarreal. (Credit Image: © Xisco Navarro/SOPA Images via ZUMA Press Wire)

Arnaut Danjuma scored twice as Villarreal beat rivals Valencia on Tuesday evening, pushing away from their neighbours and closer to a European qualification spot in the league.

Given that was their last game before the Champions League semi-final, Unai Emery’s side will have been given a full week off to prepare for Liverpool.

Villarreal’s last five games

  • Bayern (H), April 6 – 1-0 win
  • Athletic Club (H), April 9 – 1-1 draw
  • Bayern (A), April 12 – 1-1 draw
  • Getafe (A), April 16 – 2-1 win
  • Valencia (H), April 19 – 2-0 win

  • In fact, the only LaLiga game to be held over the weekend saw Rayo Vallecano win 1-0 at Barcelona, with the Spanish top flight taking a reprieve during the run-in.

    It is not uncommon for leagues outside of England to build their schedule around crucial European ties for their clubs – as much as it is unfathomable for the FA and the Premier League to do so themselves.

    However, the reason for LaLiga taking a break was due to the Copa del Rey final taking place between Real Betis and Valencia on Saturday.

    Betis, managed by Manuel Pellegrini, won the tie on penalties, clinching only their third Copa del Rey trophy, and their first since 2005 – with their only silverware in between being two Segunda Division titles.

    BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - AUGUST 11: Gerard Moreno of Villarreal celebrates after scoring his penalty in the shootout during the UEFA Super Cup 2021 match between Chelsea FC and Villarreal CF at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park on August 11, 2021 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Lukas Schulze - © UEFA)

    A pause in the calendar has allowed Villarreal to spend more time preparing for their visit to Anfield, and more time for Gerard Moreno to recover from his hamstring injury.

    It is still likely that the striker will be absent, at least from the first leg, with Giovani Lo Celso considered as an attacking replacement as Manu Trigueros comes into midfield.

    Alberto Moreno, the former Liverpool left-back, is certain to miss the tie having torn his ACL back in March.


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