Madrid (AFP) – Villarreal captain Dani Parejo said on Tuesday his team are convinced they can spring another surprise and beat Liverpool in the Champions League semi-finals.
After knocking out Juventus in the last 16 and Bayern Munich in the quarters, Villarreal are looking to pull off another shock by defeating Liverpool, the six-time European champions and favourites for this year’s tournament.
Villarreal sit seventh in La Liga but have a knack for upsetting Europe’s biggest teams, after also prevailing against Arsenal and Manchester United to win the Europa League last year.
“We have complete confidence,” said Parejo in a press conference ahead of the first leg at Anfield on Wednesday.
“On the basis of the teams we have beaten, not only this year, but also last year in the Europa League, and now the journey we have had in this Champions League.
“We are calm and we look at the group we have — we have good individuals but our greatest strength is the team.
“Knocking out Juventus and Bayern was very important for us because it showed we can reach a level where we can compete with these teams.”
With Real Madrid up against Manchester City in the other semi-final, Villarreal are certainly the under-dogs of the last four.
“We’re playing the favourites but we want to be us and to play on the front foot,” said Villarreal coach Unai Emery.
“The journey does not have to end, we want to be in charge, to create chances.
“In normal conditions they are superior to us but we have our own ideas, individually and as a team, to allow us to compete.”
Emery said Villarreal will no longer be an unknown to Liverpool after their victories over Juve and Bayern.
“The surprise factor decreases,” he said.
“That was more important against Juve and Bayern but it won’t be the case now. Liverpool know that we are here because we have been able to compete. For us, that means the challenge is greater.”
Emery has faced Liverpool twice at Anfield and lost both times, 5-1 and 3-1, when he was Arsenal manager.
“They have a very clear identity at Anfield,” said Emery.
“It’s Liverpool, I think the best Liverpool that I have known, but I take that as motivation to play the perfect game and to beat Liverpool at their best.”
Emery confirmed Yeremy Pino will miss the first leg through injury while striker Gerard Moreno is still recovering from a hamstring strain and is also unlikely to be available.
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