HomeSportsLiverpool vs. Villarreal Champions League odds, prediction

Liverpool vs. Villarreal Champions League odds, prediction

The second semifinal of the UEFA Champions League kicks off Wednesday in Merseyside as Liverpool hosts Villarreal for the opening leg.

Hosts Liverpool, which knocked out Benfica in the quarterfinals, are sizable favorites for the opener. Manager Jurgen Klopp’s side is a -300 favorite while Villarreal, which pulled a shocking upset over Bayern Munich in the quarters, is a +850 underdog in Liverpool (the draw moneyline is +425).

Liverpool are also a sizable favorite to advance to the Champions League Final in Paris. Entering the first leg, Liverpool are -550 to advance while Villarreal are +325 on the comeback.

This will mark the first meeting between these sides in the Champions League. Their most recent head-to-head encounter — a 2016 Europa League semifinal — saw the Reds advance 3-1 on aggregate.

Liverpool Attack Informing Champions League Success

Put simply, a large portion of Liverpool’s success in this year’s Champions League campaign can be attributed to its attacking efforts.

The 2019 UCL winners have created 19.5 expected goals through 10 fixtures, the second-highest mark amongst the four semi-finalists. Plus, only two sides have kept Liverpool under one expected goal while only two further teams have kept it under 1.5 xG, per fbref.com.

Liverpool also ranks first amongst the four semifinalists in shots on target per 90 minutes, big chances created and goals per match.

All that said, its defense has simultaneously caused problems for opposing offenses, especially in the knockout rounds. In Liverpool’s four UCL fixtures this calendar year, only one team has created more than one expected goal. That came in the second leg against Benfica with the tie virtually wrapped up.

Trent Alexander-Arnold (left) and Sadio Mane (right) celebrate.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (left) and Sadio Mane (right) celebrate.

Klopp’s defensive unit has also allowed the second-fewest shots on target per 90 amongst the four semifinalists and the second-fewest expected goals of the four remaining sides.

Can Villarreal Continue Dream Run, Pull Another Upset?

Don’t think for a second this Villarreal run has been a fluke.

In a round of 16 matchup with Juventus, the Yellow Submarine won 4-1 on aggregate while winning the expected goal battle 3.4-1.6. In its most recent upset of Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals, manager Unai Emery’s side won the tie 2-1 on aggregate despite losing the xG battle 2.6-2.0, per fbref.com.

That said, Villarreal will need to clean up its defensive trends if it hopes to knock off a heavily-favored Liverpool. Through 10 Champions League fixtures, Villarreal has only kept one opponent under one expected goal and could see some negative defensive regression based on its last three such fixtures (one goal against on 3.7 expected).

At the same time, though, Villarreal’s attack has proven somewhat reliable of late. It has created at least one expected goal in three of its last four and has only been held under that benchmark in two UCL fixtures this campaign.

But, this is also an attack that has put only a single shot on target in three straight UCL fixtures and is creating only 1.75 big scoring chances per match over its last four UCL fixtures, which is down from 2.5 big chances per match in its first six.

Market Analysis & Best Bet

The critical aspect of this handicap for me is that Villarreal won’t have talisman Gerard Moreno available after he suffered a hamstring injury over the weekend.

Expect that to send the Yellow Submarine into a defensive shell as it seeks to limit Liverpool’s attack and head back to Spain either level or with a (somewhat) manageable deficit. Add in Liverpool’s defensive numbers in the Champions League and I don’t believe Villarreal are capable of grabbing more than a single goal.

Plus, for as strong as Liverpool’s attack has played in the Champions League, I would expect some tired legs here. This will mark the Reds’ fourth fixture in the last 11 days and its eighth match in the month of April. Furthermore, negative offensive regression could be on the way for Liverpool as it has scored six goals on 3.4 expected in its last two EPL fixtures.

Lastly, three of Villarreal’s four Champions League knockout fixtures have featured under three combined expected goals while three of Liverpool’s four “meaningful” home UCL matches have stayed under the same benchmark.

Best Bet: Total Under 3 Goals (-135)

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