Liverpool overcame a spirited Villarreal performance to book their spot in the Champions League final with a 3-2 away win, netting three second-half goals after seeing their first-leg lead wiped out in Spain.

Boulaye Dia handed Unai Emery's men an early lead in front of a boisterous home crowd, before Francis Coquelin stunned the below-par visitors by wiping out their aggregate lead on the stroke of half-time.

But Liverpool grew into the game after their dismal start, and after Geronimo Rulli failed to make a routine stop from Fabinho's effort, half-time substitute Diaz headed home to send Jurgen Klopp's men to the final.

Sadio Mane raced clear to round Rulli and roll home a late third to make the result safe before Etienne Capoue was sent off late on, keeping the Reds on course to cap an incredible season by winning four major trophies.

After failing to record a single shot on target at Anfield, the Yellow Submarine needed just three minutes to open the scoring, Dia tapping home after Capoue turned Pervis Estupinan's delivery across goal.

Gerard Moreno saw a close-range header blocked as the visitors produced a dreadful first-half performance, and the Reds' advantage, which looked to be decisive prior to kick-off, was wiped out when Coquelin sparked wild scenes by heading Capoue's cross into the top-left corner.

Trent Alexander-Arnold struck the top of the crossbar with a deflected effort as Liverpool improved after the break, before Fabinho drilled a low shot through the legs of Rulli to restore the visitors' aggregate lead after 62 minutes.

Diaz went close to bending home a superb second moments later, but was on hand to nod home Alexander-Arnold's cross after 67 minutes and put the Reds back in full command of the tie.

The tie was settled once and for all when Mane took advantage of another Rulli error after 74 minutes, rounding the keeper well outside his area before rolling home to secure Liverpool's progress, with Capoue then dismissed for a second yellow card after fouling Curtis Jones.

Villarreal boss Unai Emery says his side are excited to pit themselves against "the best team in the world" in Liverpool, as they try to overcome a two-goal deficit in the Champions League semi-finals.

The Yellow Submarine enter Tuesday's decisive second leg against Jurgen Klopp's men 2-0 down after the first meeting at Anfield last Wednesday.

To reach the final in Paris, Villarreal must become only the second team to overturn a two-goal first-leg deficit in a Champions League semi-final after Liverpool did so in 2018-19, losing 3-0 to Barcelona at Camp Nou before recording an incredible 4-0 home triumph.

But Villarreal struggled against Klopp's in-form Reds last week, attempting just one shot and failing to hit the target, and they could become the first team since 2003-04 (Deportivo La Coruna against FC Porto) to fail to record a shot on target across two legs of a Champions League semi-final tie.

Having previously described Klopp's outfit as the "best-ever" Liverpool team, Emery has now labelled them the finest side in world football, but insisted his players are relishing the prospect of competing with the Reds.

"We are very excited. The favourites were better at their stadium, but we managed to defend well," Emery said. 

"The team is psyched up to play our match and have our chances against the best team in the world. To live this moment, with all our people and against a rival, and passing this test would be excellent. I don't know if we'll be able to."

 

Emery is no stranger to thrilling Champions League comebacks, having been on the receiving end of one of the most famous turnarounds in history when his Paris Saint-Germain lost 6-1 at Barcelona after winning the first leg 4-0 in 2016-17's last-16.

However, the former Arsenal boss said a lot of things have changed since that classic contest, highlighting that neither team would benefit from the scrapped away goals rule on Tuesday.

"A lot of things change from the game against PSG against Barca, even things that are not in our hands. It does not favour [either team] that there is no longer the double value of away goals," he added.

"The first thing that changes is that we play at La Ceramica with our fans. We have to win, but we have to play a brutal defensive game and find our game from there."

In reaching the Champions League semi-finals for the second time in their history (the other in 2005-06), Villarreal have relied on a strong home record: Emery's men are unbeaten in seven home knockout games in the competition's history, although five of those ended level.

After Villarreal's 1-0 home win over Bayern Munich helped them dump the German champions out of the competition in the quarter-finals, defender Pau Torres says that success can serve as an inspiration for the hosts. 

"The game against Bayern can serve as an example. They were favourites and we managed to subdue them in our stadium," Torres said. "We are aware of what is at stake and what needs to be done. We have our game plan. We have seen a very strong Villarreal in important games.

"The objective is only one, no matter how it is achieved. We know that the game is long. A goal puts us in the tie.

"The coach has told us to be ourselves. We are preparing very well for the tie. We are going to be able to see a very recognisable Villarreal, with whom we all feel identified."

Liverpool welcome Villarreal to Anfield on Wednesday and are heavy favourites in their Champions League semi-final tie.

Under Jurgen Klopp, the Reds have become one of the world's best teams. They have reached two Champions League finals, winning their sixth title in the competition in 2019, and followed that up with a maiden Premier League crown a year later. This season, their eyes are fixed firmly on an unprecedented quadruple – the EFL Cup is already theirs, they will face Chelsea in an FA Cup showdown next month and their race in the league with Manchester City is set to go to the wire.

Standing in Liverpool's way of a final against Manchester City or Real Madrid are, however, Unai Emery's Villarreal. While the Yellow Submarine will be considered underdogs, the reigning Europa League champions will be no pushovers.

Liverpool were frustrated for just over an hour by their relegation-threatened local rivals Everton in the Merseyside derby on Sunday, until Andy Robertson headed home and Divock Origi settled matters late on. They should be anticipating a similar test on Wednesday.

Yet whereas Everton are devoid of confidence or quality, Villarreal have both in abundance. They have already overcome European heavyweights in the form of Juventus and Bayern Munich, and will have home advantage in the second leg. They averaged just 35 per cent of possession across the two legs against the Bundesliga giants.

The last time these semi-finalists met was in the last four of the 2015-16 Europa League, and the two legs of this tie will come just a day under six years after each match in that previous fixture. Back in 2016, matters were rather different for Liverpool, who progressed 3-1 on aggregate, but went on to lose in the final to a Sevilla side coached by Emery.

It is fitting, then, that as Liverpool bid for European glory once more, a team that stood in the way of their first continental final under Klopp will try to prevent the Reds reaching a fourth with the German at the helm.

A remarkable turnaround

A quick glance at the team that started in the second leg of that 2016 tie, which Liverpool won 3-0 at Anfield, tells you the transformation that the Reds have gone through under Klopp has been dramatic.

Simon Mignolet started in goal, behind a back four of Nathaniel Clyne, the now-retired Kolo Toure, Dejan Lovren and Alberto Moreno (who might have been facing his former club for Villarreal if not for a serious knee injury sustained last month). Roberto Firmino and James Milner started, but they are the only two of that 18-strong squad that remain at Liverpool, and neither can be considered regular starters anymore.

Liverpool were convincing winners – racking up an xG of 3.8, producing 25 shots with 12 of those on target.

The team that take to the field on Wednesday will almost certainly feature a world-class goalkeeper in Alisson, one of Europe's best defenders in Virgil van Dijk, a Champions League-winning midfielder in Thiago Alcantara, two exceptional full-backs and, of course, a devilishly potent attacking trident, whichever three of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Diogo Jota or Luis Diaz line up. Firmino is unavailable.

Salah has returned to goalscoring form in timely fashion, after a relative dry spell. Only in 2017-18 (10) has he scored more Champions League goals in a single campaign than the eight he has netted this season, moving his tally for the club to 33. He is now just three behind both Didier Drogba and Sergio Aguero for the most goals scored in the competition for an English side.

For Klopp to take that Liverpool team back in 2015-16 to two finals (they lost on penalties in the EFL Cup to Manchester City that year) was, looking back, an extraordinary achievement, especially considering he only took over in October.

Since then, they have gone from strength to strength. In the Premier League, Klopp has won 162 of his 253 games (64 per cent), with his team scoring a remarkable 544 goals, and the German has averaged 2.15 points per game. He is building a true dynasty.

Emery to have his say?

"Unai's a world-class coach and is doing an incredible job," said Klopp in his pre-match news conference on Tuesday. And he is right, Emery – perhaps unfairly maligned during his stints at Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain – has been brilliant for Villarreal.

He could well have left for cash-rich Newcastle United earlier this season but elected to stay put, and Villarreal are, at least in Europe, reaping the rewards. Their shoot-out success against Manchester United in last season's Europa League final represented Emery's fourth triumph in UEFA's second-tier tournament, and he also took Arsenal to the final in 2018-19, losing to Chelsea.

Villarreal are not flying quite as high in LaLiga, though surely that can be forgiven. They sit seventh, having won their last two games, and still have hope of qualifying for European competition through the league, too.

Emery has taken on Klopp five times as a coach, winning the first meeting – that Europa League final back in 2016.

Klopp claimed victory in two of the three Premier League encounters with the Spaniard's Arsenal, with those victories being 5-1 and 3-1 respectively. The other league match was drawn 1-1, while Liverpool also beat Arsenal on penalties in the 2019-20 EFL Cup after a wild 5-5 draw.

Emery can feel hard done by that he was not given more time at PSG. His win percentage of 76 was the best of any coach during the QSI era, putting him above the likes of Carlo Ancelotti (64) and Thomas Tuchel (75). He succeeded in 87 of his 114 matches in charge and claimed seven trophies. Only Laurent Blanc (11) has won more silverware at PSG since 2011, while Emery's team scored 2.7 goals per game, with just Tuchel managing to match that.

Yet Emery's ability to get a side competing way beyond their expected level is what he is renowned for. His run of three successive Europa League titles with Sevilla was extraordinary, and he seems to be in a similar position at Villarreal.

Having to rebuild his reputation slightly after his spell at Arsenal, Emery has won 51 of 104 matches in all competitions (49 per cent), with Villarreal scoring 188 goals and conceding 101, keeping 37 clean sheets.

Emery's win percentage has not been beaten by any other Villarreal coach to have taken charge of 100 matches, while in Gerard Moreno, who has directly contributed to 60 goals during Emery's tenure, the Spanish side have a brilliant striker to call on.

Liverpool have, in many ways, come full circle with this tie, but the Villarreal they will face on this occasion have improved just as much, in relative terms, as Klopp's team have. It is set to be a fascinating tussle.

Unai Emery says Villarreal must try and "surf the wave of experience" they have gained when they do battle with the "best-ever Liverpool" for a place in the Champions League final.

Villarreal dumped out Serie A giants Juventus and Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich on a surprise run to the last four.

The Yellow Submarine travel to Anfield for the first leg on Wednesday plotting to tear up yet another script.

Villarreal beat Manchester United in the Europa League final last season and it would be an incredible story if they won Europe's premier club competition in Seville next month.

Emery rates Premier League title contenders Liverpool, who are eyeing an unprecedented quadruple, as the favourites to lift the trophy and knows his side are no longer a surprise package

The Villarreal head coach said at a pre-match news conference on Tuesday: "We face a bigger challenge than before. The surprise factor is no longer there. They are the number one favourites to win this competition.

"The team is a mirror of their coach, Jurgen Klopp, in terms of playing with joy, with enthusiasm. They are in the best moment.

"I remember my experiences against Liverpool [when he was Arsenal boss] at Anfield as challenging. I recognise the work done and the identity created by Klopp, which has since been further improved.

"I see that as an additional motivation for me, to try and beat the best-ever Liverpool. For that we will need to show our best version."

Emery says the LaLiga side must draw on the experience they have gained from their exploits in Europe.

He added: "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 per cent and give it all at Anfield.

"Of course they will feel favourites as that is natural. It is an even higher difficulty than Juventus and Bayern Munich.

"We will try to surf the wave of experience we started accumulating last season."

Villarreal have not won in their previous eight matches in England, but their last victory came on Merseyside against Everton in August 2005.

Manchester City and Liverpool will put their epic Premier League title race on hold for a few days, as they have the small matter of the Champions League semi-finals to think about.

City are hoping to go one better than last year after losing in the final to Chelsea. Standing in their way in the last four are Real Madrid, who eliminated the holders in the quarter-finals and boast a striker in Karim Benzema who has 12 goals in nine Champions League appearances this season.

Also facing LaLiga opposition are Liverpool, though Villarreal are unlikely to be a team they expected to meet at this stage of the competition.

Led by a knockout football specialist in Unai Emery, Villarreal cannot be taken lightly by the Reds, even with Emery's men historically struggling in games in England.

Ahead of the first legs, Stats Perform digs into some of the best Opta numbers around the two semi-final ties.

Manchester City v Real Madrid

Madrid might just be beginning to feel it is their year after progressing from remarkable knockout ties against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea.

However, the omens are against them ahead of their first leg with City. Los Blancos haven't won on any of their previous three trips to face Manchester City in European competition (two draws, one defeat), with the most recent two coming in the knockout stages of the Champions League – a 0-0 draw in the 2015-16 semi-final first leg and a 2-1 loss in the 2019-20 last-16 second leg.

Pep Guardiola won't need any additional motivation as he looks to finally end his wait for a Champions League triumph with City, and the Barcelona legend can complete a historic hat-trick by overseeing an elimination of Madrid.

Indeed, Guardiola has eliminated Madrid from the knockout stages of the Champions League on two previous occasions, beating them 3-1 on aggregate in the 2010-11 semi-finals with Barcelona and 4-2 on aggregate in the 2019-20 last-16 with City. He is looking to become the first manager to eliminate Madrid from the competition on three occasions.

Madrid won away from home in the first leg at Chelsea in the quarter-finals, their only victory in their last six away games against English teams in the Champions League. No team has ever beaten two different English sides away from home in the knockout stages in a single Champions League campaign.

Champions League history between the two managers, however, is with Madrid's Carlo Ancelotti. He and Guardiola have faced each other six times, with the City boss claiming four wins to Ancelotti's two.

However, all four of Guardiola's wins came with City against Ancelotti's Everton, while the Italian saw his Madrid side beat Guardiola's Bayern Munich in both legs of the 2013-14 Champions League semi-finals, claiming a 5-0 aggregate triumph. Such a one-sided tie is unlikely this time around.

Liverpool v Villarreal

Villarreal are arguably the story of the 2021-22 Champions League, having sensationally knocked out Juventus and Bayern Munich to reach this stage.

However, games in England have historically been a problem for the Yellow Submarine. Since a 2-1 victory over Everton back in August 2005, Villarreal haven't managed to win any of their last eight away games in England in all competitions (three draws, five defeats), tasting defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford in the group stages earlier this season.

Despite Villarreal's well-organised defensive set-up, a high-scoring game could well be in the offing. During his managerial career, Villarreal boss Emery has faced Liverpool five times (once with Sevilla and four times with Arsenal), with those matches producing 26 goals (5.2 per game on average), and both teams netting in each.

Liverpool will be the clear favourites to do the majority of that goalscoring. Of the 12 sides to have reached the semi-finals of the European Cup/Champions League on at least five occasions, only Benfica (seven wins from eight) and Milan (10/12) have a higher ratio of progressing to the final than Liverpool (82%), who have managed to reach the final on nine of their previous 11 semi-final appearances.

Although Liverpool possess serious depth in attack with Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz playing significant roles, Mohamed Salah is still the obvious candidate to be their talisman.

Only in 2017-18 (10) has Salah scored more Champions League goals in a single campaign than the eight he has scored this season, moving his tally for the club onto 33. The Egyptian is just three behind both Didier Drogba (Chelsea) and Sergio Aguero (Man City) for the most goals netted in the competition for an English side (both 36).

Yet Emery's track record in Europe should have Liverpool fans nervous that he could be the man to dash their quadruple dreams.

The only European meeting between Emery and Liverpool was the 2016 Europa League final, in which Emery's Sevilla side beat Klopp's Reds 3-1. On top of that, since the start of the 2009-10 season, the year of the inaugural UEFA Europa League campaign, Emery has progressed from 84 per cent of his Europa League/Champions League knockout ties (31/37).

That is second-best ratio of any manager to have taken charge of at least 10 ties, after only Zinedine Zidane (14/16 – 88%).

Virgil van Dijk insists Liverpool will not listen to suggestions they are favourites against Villarreal when the two sides meet in the Champions League semi-finals.

Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool defeated Benfica while Villarreal rallied past Bayern Munich to reach the final four and set up just the third meeting between the two teams in European competition.

The Reds will boast home advantage in the first leg on Wednesday, Villarreal having not managed victory in any of their past eight away games in England in all competitions since August 2005.

That last triumph on English soil was over fellow Merseysiders Everton, who Liverpool defeated 2-0 on Sunday to keep their Premier League title and quadruple hopes alive.

While Klopp's team have impressed on all fronts this season, winning the EFL Cup and reaching the FA Cup final as well, Van Dijk warned that Unai Emery's side will pose a threat.

"No, these are press debates that we prefer not to listen to," he told Spanish outlet EFE when asked if Liverpool were favourites. 

"We don't listen if they tell us that we're favourites or not. We will play on Wednesday as we try to play every game, that is, going out to try to win and, if we can, reach the final. 

"Villarreal are a great team, with great fans and a great coach. We really want these two games to start now.

"It will be very difficult because Villarreal is a very difficult team. Obviously, I have seen the games against Bayern Munich and they are a fantastic team defensively.

"The players work hard, have a lot of experience and, above all, play like a collective. In this round only the best remain. There is no easy rival in a semi-final.

"We are aware of the difficulty of these games and these rivals. The return there in Spain is going to be very hard and we expect it to be very intense."

Gerard Moreno has registered four assists in the Champions League this term, with only three players managing more. Indeed, since 2003-04, this is the joint-most by a Spanish player in their debut campaign in the competition, along with Gabi (2013-14) and Isaac Cuenca (2011-12).

Meanwhile, only Karim Benzema (15) has created more secondary chances – the pass played before the ball that sets up a shot or goal – than Dani Parejo (14), highlighting his influence in building Villarreal's attacks, and Van Dijk pinpointed the dangerous pair.

"[Their] central defenders are incredible. Raul Albiol and Pau Torres. They are very experienced and fantastic," the Netherlands international added. 

"Then in the centre of the pitch they have the calm and the touch of Parejo and up top Gerard Moreno [if he is fit] is very fast and can surprise you. 

"We already know a lot about [Arnaut] Danjuma from his time at Bournemouth. It's going to be a very complicated match-up, but this is the Champions League semi-final. We knew it wasn't going to be easy."

Along with the talent on the pitch, Klopp will also face off against Emery, who has progressed from 84 per cent of his Europa League and Champions League knockout ties (31/37) since the start of the 2009-10 season.

Only former Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane (14/16 – 88 per cent) boasts a better win rate in that period among managers to take charge of at least 10 games, and Klopp will be looking to make amends after Emery’s Sevilla beat Klopp’s Liverpool 3-1 in the 2016 Europa League final.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp labelled Villarreal counterpart Unai Emery "king of the cup competitions" after the Reds set up a Champions League semi-final tie with the Spanish side.

Klopp's team played out a thrilling 3-3 draw at home to Benfica to seal a 6-4 aggregate victory in their quarter-final tie on Wednesday, reaching the competition's final four for a joint-record 12th time amongst English clubs (level with Manchester United).

They will meet Villarreal in next round after Emery's men sealed an incredible 2-1 aggregate victory over Bayern Munich one day earlier, setting up their first Champions League semi-final appearance since the 2005-06 season after Samuel Chukwueze's late equaliser in Bavaria.

Speaking to DAZN in Germany after watching his much-changed side progress at Anfield, Klopp was wary of the threat posed by Villarreal in the next round, calling Emery the "king" of the cups and noting they deserved their spot in the last four after eliminating two top-class opponents.

"I think Villarreal definitely deserved to go through both rounds," he said. "Whoever kicks out Bayern and Juventus [a 4-1 aggregate win in the last-16] deserves to be in the semi-finals. 

"I know that Unai Emery is a bit of the king of cup competitions. It's incredible what he pulls off.

"They'll have a clear plan. And by the time we meet, we'll have one too."

Emery has earned a reputation as a cup specialist throughout his career, winning four Europa League titles with Sevilla (three) and Villarreal (one), as well as lifting seven trophies during his time with Paris Saint-Germain.

The former Arsenal boss will compete in the Champions League semi-finals for the first time later this month, advancing to this stage in his seventh season in the competition. 

Klopp, meanwhile, has reached the final four for the fourth time in his career, three of which have come with the Reds (the other with Borussia Dortmund). Only Sir Alex Ferguson has reached this stage more times (seven) as the manager of an English club.

Meanwhile, Liverpool's two meetings with Villarreal will take place either side of a Premier League trip to Newcastle on April 30, and Klopp made clear his frustration at having to face an early kick-off on Tyneside between the two legs. 

"I've just spoken to BT Sport [who will televise the Newcastle game] and pointed out to them again that this is a c**p kick-off time," Klopp added.

"We want to play all the games that are coming up, no problem at all. But it doesn't have to be that they let us play 12:30 on Saturdays and then see how it goes, for no reason. I will never understand that."

The 54-year-old did, however, acknowledge that Liverpool's congested fixture list was the result of an exceptional season to date, and was something to be embraced.

"It's the best end-of-season run you can have," he added. "Because we only play so many times because we get so far in the different competitions."

Liverpool remain in the hunt for a historic quadruple after overcoming Benfica, and face Premier League title rivals Manchester City for a place in the FA Cup final on Saturday.

Villarreal head coach Unai Emery hit back at criticism from Bayern Munich chief executive Oliver Kahn about the way the Spanish side played after they knocked the Bundesliga leaders out of the Champions League quarter-finals.

Taking a 1-0 advantage into the second leg on Tuesday at the Allianz Arena, the Yellow Submarine defended resolutely and scored a late goal to secure a 1-1 draw on the night, going through to the semi-finals 2-1 on aggregate. 

Robert Lewandowski had levelled the tie early in the second half via Thomas Muller's assist, but Samuel Chukwueze put Villarreal through with his goal in the 88th minute.

Speaking after Bayern's elimination, Kahn said: "There are few less pleasant teams to play against [than Villarreal]."

In response at a news conference following the game, Emery said: "Well, we do need to respect opinions, but they are totally unfair. The match is played in two games: 90 minutes [in Villarreal], where we were better than them, where we got a difference in the scoreboard, and today we played a match in which we haven't lost.

"The talk is that they wanted to be more aggressive in the pressure, and in fact, Lewandowski committed two aggressive tackles and the referee didn't send him off, which I understand because he shouldn't, and then they claimed a second card for Juan Foyth. But it was a clean game, well played."

The former Paris Saint-Germain and Arsenal manager also addressed accusations of time-wasting against his team.

"Logically, we played for time, but also in Villarreal we played like this," he added. "Like with the goalkeeper, if they do not want to come and pressure, we gain our time. It is not that we do not want to play, we want them to come and pressure us. Today they did it, that is why it cost us more. [In the first leg], they didn't [pressure us].

"So what I want to say is that each team has tactics, but respect, I will never lose it. If someone disrespects [me], it is not that I will respect him, but I will omit him.

"[Kahn] said that they had bad luck and that we surprised them... well, one needs to be a man."

Villarreal captain Dani Parejo also did not hold back when speaking about Bayern head coach Julian Nagelsmann.

"When the draw took place and Villarreal was their opponent, I believe that their coach... well, I do not know him, but I think he showed a little bit of disrespect, not to Villarreal, but to football," Parejo told Movistar+.

"And our club in this case, when he said that he wanted to decide the tie in the first leg. I trust that this was a lack of respect to us.

"In the end, when you spit in the wind, sometimes it returns straight to you."

Villarreal coach Unai Emery told his side to savour their achievement, after they progressed past Bayern Munich to the Champions League semi-finals with a 1-1 draw on Tuesday.

Coming into the second leg in Munich up 1-0 on aggregate, the Yellow Submarine continued to absorb pressure.

Robert Lewandowski levelled the tie at 1-1, seven minutes into the second half via Thomas Muller's assist, but Samuel Chukwueze put Villarreal through with his goal in the 88th minute.

According to Emery, savouring that achievement must not come as a result of Villarreal's status in comparison to European football's elite, but because of the work it took to get there.

"Let's enjoy the semi-finals, knowing we are here not because of how nice we are, or to let others say we are a nice and small town, but because we've worked for it," Emery told Marca post-match.

"We are professionals, but we also have feelings and today we have played a huge game and for this, a lot had to do with all the good we did in the first leg.

"It was essential to play a perfect game defensively, because against opponents of this level it is the only way to progress. We knew that we were going to have five moments throughout the match and we took advantage of one, thanks to the fact we have approached the tie with humility."

The Europa League holders approached Bayern in the same manner that saw them through Juventus in the last-16, keeping shape and playing in transition, while trying to restrict Bayern to low quality opportunities.

It worked again in the second leg, with Bayern particularly managing a cumulative xG of 1.06 despite 15 shots in the second half, compared to Villarreal's 0.64 from only two attempts.

It mattered little to Raul Albiol, who had to mark Lewandowski, saying extra time might have been a bridge too far.

"It's been a long 90 minutes and we didn't want extra time because it would have been too much suffering against an opponent with strikers of a very high level, who have forced us to be very focused, although they have scored a goal off a half-chance," Albiol told Movistar+ post-match.

"It is a success for a town, a club, a board, a team and all of Spanish football. It has been very nice and it has shown, as we did last year in the Europa League, that we compete very well. Work and passion are fundamental."

The Champions League quarter-final second legs are here, and the competition's two most recent winners must overcome first-leg deficits to reach the final four on Tuesday.

Defending champions Chelsea were downed by a stunning Karim Benzema hat-trick at home to Real Madrid, who are bidding to be crowned European champions for a 14th time.

Bayern Munich, meanwhile, suffered a shock reverse at Unai Emery's Villarreal, who will surely require a remarkable defensive performance to keep the free-scoring Bundesliga leaders at bay in Bavaria.

Here, Stats Perform unpacks the pick of the data from Tuesday's crucial European ties. 

Real Madrid v Chelsea: Benzema brilliance puts hosts in driving seat

Benzema's Stamford Bridge hat-trick has put Los Blancos on the brink of a semi-final spot, and he will be looking to continue his incredible European campaign when Chelsea try to overcome a 3-1 deficit in Spain.

After hitting consecutive European trebles, Benzema's tally of 11 goals is a new record for the most strikes by a French player in a single edition of the competition, and matches his record across the last two editions combined (he scored six goals in 2020-21 and five in 2019-20).

The 34-year-old's understanding with Vinicius Junior caused Chelsea all sorts of problems in London, and the duo have now assisted each other a combined five times in the Champions League this term (Vinicius providing four assists, Benzema one), the most of any two team-mates in the competition.

Carlo Ancelotti will qualify for the semi-finals for a record eighth time if Madrid can maintain their advantage against his former employers, equalling Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho.

Chelsea, meanwhile, are making their first trip to the Santiago Bernabeu in European competition, and must become the first English side to win a Champions League game there by more than one goal to have any chance of progressing.

Goalkeeper Edouard Mendy's costly mistake at Stamford Bridge has left the Blues on the brink of an exit, with his dire pass to Benzema representing his first error leading directly to a goal in 20 appearances in the competition.

Chelsea may be encouraged by the fact they have not lost both legs of a Champions League tie since going down to Bayern Munich in 2019-20's last 16, and have won three and drawn two of their last six meetings with Los Blancos.

However, with Madrid progressing from nine of their previous 10 ties after winning an away first leg (the exception being a 5-3 aggregate loss to Ajax in 2019), Chelsea look unlikely to revive their title defence.

 

Bayern Munich v Villarreal: Emery eyes landmark success against Bavarian giants

Elsewhere, Bayern Munich are looking to avoid consecutive last-eight eliminations when they host Villarreal, with Arnaut Danjuma giving Unai Emery's men a precious 1-0 first-leg lead.

Danjuma has six Champions League goals this term, with only Robert Lewandowski (12), Benzema (11), and Mohamed Salah (eight) managing more, and could prove the visitors' best outlet on the counter-attack.

Indeed, Villarreal will certainly require a resolute defensive performance in Munich, having conceded 22 shots in their surprising home triumph.

However, Julian Nagelsmann's side were uncharacteristically wasteful in Spain, and their four shots on target last Wednesday marked the lowest such tally managed by a team to attempt over 20 shots in the competition this season.

 

Bayern unquestionably have what it takes to turn the contest around, however, and haven't gone consecutive Champions League games without scoring since a 5-0 aggregate loss to Real Madrid in 2013-14's semi-final tie.

Lewandowski will carry the burden of rescuing the Bavarian giants, having already scored two European hat-tricks in Munich this season (against Benfica and RB Salzburg). Only Cristiano Ronaldo (for Real Madrid in 2015-16) has ever managed three trebles in one Champions League campaign.

If the Yellow Submarine can pull off a remarkable success at the Allianz Arena, Emery will progress beyond the competition's quarter-finals for the first time in his career.

But the omens do not make for great reading for the Spaniard. The only previous time a side of his won an opening leg in the competition's knockout stages (Paris Saint-Germain's 4-0 win over Barcelona in 2017), they became the first team to be eliminated after winning a first leg by four goals, falling to an incredible 6-1 away loss. 

Pep Guardiola believes Arsenal will be missing their "most important player" on Saturday in the forced absence of head coach Mikel Arteta, who he believes has the Gunners in the best shape since even before Arsene Wenger retired.

Club great Wenger left Arsenal in 2018 after 22 years in charge, during which time he presided over some glorious times but then also saw the club fall behind the Premier League's leading lights towards the end.

Unai Emery replaced Wenger but only lasted 18 months before eventually seeing fellow Basque coach Arteta succeed him, the former Arsenal captain leaving his role as Guardiola's assistant at City in order to take up the job.

Arteta's win percentage (55.1 per cent) may be no better than Emery's (55.1 per cent) but he recently celebrated his two-year anniversary in charge and the club appear on course for a largely positive season after an early wobble.

Saturday's visit of Premier League leaders City comes three days after Arteta tested positive for coronavirus, however.

Guardiola believes it could be a massive blow for the Gunners.

"I would say Mikel maybe is the most important player they have," the City boss told reporters. "I know his charisma, his ideas and especially the personality to do what he believes to do for the best, for the team or for the best for the club.

"So, no doubt about that. The most important thing we want is for him to stay well, that the symptoms are low as everything is under control and recovering after the protocols, and come back soon.

"And then the place that you love is on the touchline, in the training sessions, but I know exactly which Arsenal is going to play, with Mikel or without Mikel."

Arsenal are averaging exactly two goals per game this season, the best they have recorded since Wenger left, while their 1.6 expected goals (xG) is also a high over that period.

It was initially thought Arteta would attempt to implement a Guardiola-inspired possession-based system at the club, though their average passing figures have decreased from 523.7 each game in Emery's only full campaign to 476.3 this season, with Arsenal more willing to relinquish the ball and spring fast breaks.

While their 15 fast breaks may only rank as the eighth-highest in the Premier League this season, their frequency has more than doubled to 0.65 such occasions per game from 0.32 in each of the past two campaigns under Arteta, highlighting a shift in mentality.

Arsenal's record against City is dreadful as they have lost each of their past nine league meetings with them – including the 5-0 hammering suffered in August – making it the club's longest ever losing run against a single opponent.

Yet Arteta has overseen a five-match winning streak as well as a run of five successive home league victories, keeping a clean sheet in last four – not since 1999 have they won five in a row at home without conceding in the top flight.

As such, Arsenal are up to fourth with a four-point cushion over West Ham and Manchester United, leaving Guardiola under no illusion as to the level Arsenal are currently playing at.

Asked if Arsenal are at their best since Arteta took over, Guardiola replied: "Absolutely, but not just since Mikel took over as manager. I think it is the best Arsenal for the last four or five years.

"So, it's no secret they are now top four. The energy they are playing with the good ideas that Mikel has, and the end result is that this is an example that to sell something, you need time.

"I had the feeling, not just the club, or the team, it is obvious that he has changed the club. I'm pretty sure he felt for many things that when he started at Arsenal, maybe it wasn't good and he took it step by step.

"Maybe right now we are going to face one of the one or two best teams in the Premier League right now, in the best form with incredible young players that are dynamic.

"They are playing with the same back four which is stable and the physicality they have, the pace they have, the quality means there are more spaces. So it will be a real, real tough game.

"So, as I said, since I arrived here this is the best Arsenal I've ever seen, and it is already six seasons [since he moved to England]."

After their lucrative takeover, Newcastle United are set to make a transfer splash in January.

The Magpies are winless and second last in the Premier League table this season.

Newcastle remain without a manager, following Steve Bruce's dismissal a fortnight ago.

 

TOP STORY – MAGPIES IN FOR COUTINHO LOAN DEAL

Newcastle United look set to make a move for Barcelona's Philippe Coutinho in January, according to Spanish newspaper Sport.

Financially embattled LaLiga giants Barca are said to be keen to offload the former Liverpool forward, who arrived at Camp Nou from the Reds in 2018.

Barcelona are reportedly ready to accept a loan deal that includes a mandatory option to buy with Newcastle.

ROUND-UP

Barcelona are bullish about signing up Ousmane Dembele to a fresh three-year deal with the option for a further season, claims Mundo Deportivo. Dembele has been linked with LiverpoolManchester United and Juventus.

- Barca are also considering a move to sign Tottenham midfielder Tanguy Ndombele on loan, reports Sport. Ndombele has made nine appearances this season.

- Brazilian club Palmeiras have entered the race to sign Manchester United's Edinson Cavani, claims the Daily Express. The Uruguayan signed a one-year contract extension in May.

- Former Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho wants to bring Spurs midfielder Harry Winks and Chelsea's Ruben Loftus-Cheek to Roma, reports Corriere dello Sport.

- Sky Sports reports ex-Roma head coach Paulo Fonseca is still interested in the vacant Newcastle managerial role. Fonseca nearly took over at Tottenham in the off-season. Magpies candidate Unai Emery announced he was staying with Villarreal on Wednesday.

- La Nazione says Tottenham are firmly in the race to sign Fiorentina star Dusan Vlahovic, who has also been linked with Manchester City, Inter, Arsenal, Atletico Madrid and Juve.

Unai Emery has confirmed he will remain at Villarreal despite significant interest from Newcastle United.

Emery was said to have been made the number one target of Newcastle's new owners following last month's takeover, which saw Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) take an 80 per cent share in the club, as they look to replace former head coach Steve Bruce.

Following Villarreal's Champions League win over Young Boys on Tuesday, Emery said he was aware of interest from Newcastle but had received no offer from the struggling Premier League club.

In a subsequent statement released on Wednesday, Emery praised the "transparency and loyalty" from Villarreal's ownership and the players amid the speculation as he revealed his decision to stay put.

Emery said: "Villarreal is my home and I'm 100 per cent committed. Honestly, I'm grateful for the interest of a great club, but still more grateful to be here.

"That's why I communicated to [owner] Fernando Roig my decision that I wanted to continue being a part of this project for the commitment and respect that I perceive from the club and my players, which is mutual and reciprocal.

"I want to thank the fans for the support they have always shown me.

"On Sunday, we have a really important game [against Getafe] and I hope that together we can achieve victory. We'll see you at the Estadio de la Ceramica."

With Emery having rebuffed their advances, former Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe is the favourite for the Newcastle job.

Still waiting for their first win of the season, the Magpies are six points adrift of safety in the Premier League and visit Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday.

Villarreal head coach Unai Emery confirmed Newcastle United's interest in bringing him back to the Premier League, but he is yet to receive an offer.

Newcastle have reportedly made former Arsenal boss Emery their number one target to succeed Steve Bruce following the club's takeover by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF).

Premier League outfit Newcastle, who have also been linked with former Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe, are understood to want Emery in place for Saturday's game against Brighton and Hove Albion.

Villarreal president Fernando Roig told Spanish broadcaster A Punt Media on Tuesday that Emery is "very happy" at the LaLiga side and Europa League champions, but conceded it would not be their decision should Newcastle pay his release clause.

Emery had said on Monday that he did not know anything about the potential move, however, added after Tuesday's 2-0 Champions League win over Young Boys that contact had been made.

"The truth is that they have shown an interest in me, but I have no further news," Emery said during his post-game news conference. "There is no offer. There have been no more steps.

"I am focused on Villarreal. It will have to be a contact between clubs. My idea is to be here on Sunday."

It has been reported Newcastle will pay the stipulated €6million release clause on Wednesday, although Emery would not be drawn on the speculation.

"Well, first I would talk to the president. I neither close the door nor open it to Newcastle," said Emery, who won three successive Europa League titles with Sevilla before leaving for Paris Saint-Germain in 2016.

"I have not said no, but I would discuss it with Villarreal. I am very grateful. I cannot say anything more. We have already talked about noise. The first one who is uncomfortable is me, but we have been focused on the game."

Emery led Villarreal to last season's Europa League crown, beating Manchester United in a marathon penalty shoot-out in the final, earning them qualification for this term's Champions League.

Villarreal are currently 13th in LaLiga, having managed one point from their past four league games, while they sit second in their Champions League group with seven points behind Manchester United on head-to-head.

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