Unai Emery’s Villarreal prepares to meet Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool at Anfield for the first leg of their Champions League semi-final fixture. The Spanish manager spoke at a conference ahead of the game. 

Emery, who bested Klopp in the 2016 Europa finals while managing Sevilla, but also saw the German in action when Emery was coaching Arsenal, knows the upcoming challenge Villarreal faces. 

He said, “The surprise factor goes down; the first tie against Juventus the surprise factor was maybe more important”, adding, “Against Bayern it was important, because we managed to find our own performance and we could use our weapons against another powerful rival.” 

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Emery noted the loss of the surprise element, saying “That’s not present anymore but every team who is in the semi-final deserves it, we know they will respect us,” and continued, “We have been able to compete against big teams like Juve and Bayern, so they know it will be a tough game and will have to be 100 percent and give it all at Anfield.” 

Liverpool are the favourites to win the game, as the Merseyside club has shone in all competitions. Emery, aware of this, said “Of course they will feel favourites as that is natural. It is an even higher difficulty than Juventus and Bayern Munich”, adding, “What I see gives me huge motivation to try to play the perfect game in order to beat the best Liverpool.” 

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Going into the match, both managers have a lot of respect for each other. Klopp had previously hailed Emery as ‘King of Cups‘, seeing that the manager has an unprecedented four Europa Cups with Sevilla. Emery too returned the compliment ahead of their game, saying “They have built a Liverpool team like their coach, with that smile, that energy.” 

The 50-year-old concluded, “We will try to surf the wave of experience we started accumulating last season.”