Bet Builder tips: Jota key to this 22/1 Liverpool v Villarreal punt

Our top footy tipster Shane O'Brien has had his say on the huge semi-final clash

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Settle in, it’s the semi-finals! Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, aiming for their third Champions League final in five seasons, host Villarreal, who are in the final four of this competition for the first time since 2006.

Liverpool are quite rightly favourites to win the first-leg on Wednesday night, and ultimately progress to the final in Paris, but they might not have everything their own way…

Wednesday 27th April: Liverpool v Villarreal
TV: BT Sport 2
Kick-off: 8pm

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Handicap Betting: Villarreal (+2)

Jurgen Klopp’s side have been in sensational form in 2022, dropping just four points in the league as they go in search of a historic quadruple. If they have had one fault in the first four months of the year, it has been in their Champions League home games. 

The Reds have won neither of their two home knockout games in Europe this season, drawing at against Benfica last time out after losing to Inter Milan in the round-of-16. Granted, both games came after securing vital two-goal leads in the tie, but it represents a recent trend that may cause some concern.

Liverpool have failed to win a home Champions League knockout game since their famous win over Barcelona in 2019, and face a Villarreal side that has clearly proven it is capable of punching above its weight. 

The Spanish side have knocked out Bayern Munich and Juventus in this year’s competition after defeating Manchester United and Arsenal in last season’s Europa League. They have not lost a knockout game this season and although that might come to an end on Wednesday, they might just ensure that they stay in the tie ahead of next week’s second leg. 

Over 10.5 corners 

Liverpool have enjoyed total domination in each of their last four home games, winning a combined total of 38 corners at a rate of almost 10 per game. Most recently, they won 13 corners and enjoyed a record 85% possession against Everton in one of the most one-sided Merseyside derbies in recent memory. 

They are unlikely to enjoy such dominance on Wednesday but do come against a defensively-minded Villarreal outfit. 

Unai Emery’s side have conceded 20 corners in their last three Champions League ties, while they have only recorded 40% possession or less in those three games. 

Liverpool could easily match their recent home average of 10 corners per game on Wednesday, while Villarreal might just win one or two of their own. 

Over 3.5 cards

Villarreal do not receive a whole lot of yellow cards, conceding just six in their four knockout games to date. Having said that, they have conceded two in each of their away games so far and are likely to at least match that figure against a Liverpool side that will dominate the game. It would not be surprising to see a Villarreal player forced to commit a last-ditch or cynical foul on Wednesday. 

Liverpool, on the other hand, have received 12 yellow cards in their last five games, albeit four of those games came against Manchester City, Manchester United, and Everton in games fraught with emotion.

 

They still tend to receive at least one yellow card in less emotionally charged games and even managed to collect three against Inter Milan in that 1-0 home defeat. 

The hosts are likely to pick up at least one yellow card in what will be a tense atmosphere at Anfield, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the two sides accumulate four cards or more on Wednesday night.

Diogo Jota anytime goalscorer

Diogo Jota has struggled somewhat since the international break, scoring just two goals in seven appearances. In his defence, three of those appearances were from the bench, but the fact remains that the Portuguese forward has failed to score in his last four.

Jota has been sensational this season, scoring an impressive 21 goals, with the vast majority of those goals opening the scoring.

However, he has managed just one goal in Europe this season and none in the knockout stages. 

He can put that record right on Wednesday by ending his four-game mini drought.

Liverpool v Villareal Bet Builder tips:

Villareal +2
Over 10.5 corners
Over 3.5 cards
Diogo Jota anytime goalscorer

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