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The tactics we expect Villarreal to use against Liverpool

Unai Emery has laid down a blueprint of what to expect in the Champions League semi-final

Real Madrid v Villarreal CF - La Liga Photo by Burak Akbulut/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Go ahead and start chanting to yourself, now, the mantra ‘two banks of four’.

Over and over and over again until it’s all you can think about, repeat that phrase because you are going to see it again and again and again, clearly defined in yellow on your tv screen as you watch the Champions league semi-final between Villarreal and Liverpool FC.

If Gerard Moreno is unable to start those two banks of four might have a floating midfielder behind a single striker, or it may be a true 442, but just like we saw against Arsenal and Manchester United last season, just like we saw against Juventus and Bayern Munich this season, when Unai Emery is facing a team with larger resources than him everything is built off a platform of eight men in yellow holding their ground in two banks of four.

For any Liverpool fans reading this, do not mistake my meaning. You won’t be watching your side face a yellow version of Burnley here. This Villarreal side has tremendous quality and they will attack and be dangerous. I think one of the interesting tactical points of this matchup is the fact that Liverpool’s fullbacks both push up extraordinarily high, and we will ask questions of that structural deficiency at some point in these first 90 minutes. Dani Parejo releases people into space as well as anyone in football, and Bayern Munich saw first hand in the case of Samuel Chukwueze what can happen when he does so. So Villarreal wants to score and will push their opposition on counter attacks to score, but not at the expense of defensive structure.

Having watched the first leg of the other UEFA Champions League semi-final yesterday, I was mortified watching Real Madrid’s CB pairing play. With Casemiro missing and the backline therefore missing their all time great shield, the CBs continued to push up and play risks as if he was still there and it resulted in chance after chance after chance for Manchester City.

Villarreal would never. Raul Albiol won’t set the world alight with his pace, but he successfully contained both Robert Lewandowski and Dusan Vlahovic for the vast majority of two legs apiece by positioning himself correctly over and over and over again. Pau Torres is much the same. In fact, this Villarreal team is so positionally disciplined that they have one of the very best records in Europe in set piece defense (one of the many areas of offense that Liverpool traditionally do well in).

Liverpool are rightfully favorites in this one, but in order to break down Villarreal they are going to have to expose themselves to risk on the counter-attack and Unai Emery’s men will not shy away from those chances. Villarreal have the smaller margin for error, but, according to most folks we weren’t supposed to be here in the first place so we have nothing to lose.