Football: Benteke back for depleted Liverpool

Villarreal players training ahead of their clash against Liverpool with a sprinkling of hope of reaching a major continental final. They fell just short in 2004, 2006 and 2011.
Villarreal players training ahead of their clash against Liverpool with a sprinkling of hope of reaching a major continental final. They fell just short in 2004, 2006 and 2011.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Striker returns for Villarreal clash as Klopp seeks to maintain unbeaten run in Europe

VILLARREAL (Spain) • Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp is confident his team will head to Spain well prepared for their Europa League semi-final, first-leg clash with Villarreal, even though they are missing several first-team players.

Among those are defender Mamadou Sakho, who has not travelled while he remains under Uefa investigation for a failed drugs test.

The Reds are also hopeful that right-back Nathaniel Clyne will be fit to play after illness forced him out of the 2-2 draw with Newcastle United in the Premier League last weekend. On top of that, Klopp has played down the injuries of midfielders Jordan Henderson and Emre Can as well as forward Divock Origi, saying that Liverpool are always "ready to fight".

The German, who has yet to lose a European game with Liverpool, said: "The whole season has been very intensive, but the players are not injured because they are tired. In a moment, it happens.

"Momentum is not about having the best squad ready to play. Momentum is to be ready to fight.

"Villarreal also have had a lot of games. They play after our game against Real Sociedad and have a little fight for the Champions League.

"We need to be prepared. It isn't about always having the best players but being perfectly prepared for our next game. Then we can go on."

READY FOR BATTLE

Momentum is not about having the best squad ready to play. Momentum is to be ready to fight.

JUERGEN KLOPP , the Liverpool manager, downplaying injuries in his side ahead of today's Europa League semi-final, first-leg match against Spanish outfit Villarreal.

Striker Christian Benteke has at least returned after a knee injury and could provide an option for Klopp following Origi's season-ending ankle injury.

Villarreal are four points clear in fourth place in La Liga with three games left.

But the club - who have spent just 16 of their 93 years in the top flight - insist that a potential return to the Champions League next season will not distract them.

If anything, they are desperate to reach a major continental final, having come so close to doing so in 2004, 2006 and 2011.

Villarreal are determined to finally seize the moment.

"This club has got close several times and couldn't do it in the end, so we are really excited about playing this semi-final and above all reaching the final," said midfielder Denis Suarez.

"We're up against a historic opponent and that makes it extra special. It's a great stage for the club and for the players."

Villarreal's home ground, the Estadio El Madrigal, has a capacity of 24,890, compared with the 51,000 inhabitants of Vila-real, and it will definitely be rocking today.

REUTERS


VILLARREAL V LIVERPOOL

Singtel TV Ch112 & StarHub Ch212, tomorrow, 3am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 28, 2016, with the headline 'Benteke back for depleted Liverpool'. Print Edition | Subscribe