Villarreal 1-0 Liverpool: Five things we learned

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Villarreal defeated Liverpool 1-0 in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final with second-half substitute Adrian Lopez scoring a vital goal for the Spanish side in the final minute of injury time.

Jurgen Klopp's men put in a very resilient performance but were unable to penetrate the Yellow Submarine's barricade and ended up leaving Spain without a priceless away goal.

Here are five things that we learned from what was a very intriguing affair at the Estadio El Madrigal.


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1. Daniel Sturridge must start in the second leg

The biggest talking point as soon as the team sheets were released was the absence of one Liverpool name, Sturridge, with the England striker having to make do with a seat on the bench in a big game once again.

Roberto Firmino was given the nod to operate in a 'false nine' role as it was clear that Klopp wanted to give his makeshift midfield added support and the plan actually worked rather well.

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Nevertheless, despite the obvious talents the Brazillian possesses, Liverpool lacked penetration going forward and at times, they were desperately crying out for the cutting edge which Sturridge brings to this side.

With a goal now the minimal requirement at Anfield, Klopp would be wise to reinstate his most prolific offensive option and give his side the extra boost to really challenge what is a very tough Villarreal defence.

2. Denis Suarez is a star in the making

Former Manchester City outcast Suarez has been enjoying his time in Spain this season and produced yet another stellar performance on Thursday night.

His tricky movement and ball control really gave Liverpool issues throughout the 90 minutes, with the young Spaniard really making a strong case for a move to an elite club in the summer - Barcelona are supposedly very interested.

Real Madrid CF v Villarreal CF - La Liga

The decisive moment of the match was orchestrated by the talented youngster, who plucked a floated ball out of the air, drove towards Simon Mignolet's goal and smartly passed to an unmarked Lopez to tap in.

It was composure of the highest calibre to perform quality of this level in the dying embers of a match and the maturity shown this season by Suarez highlights that he is a real star in the making.

3. Bruno Soriano should be on the radar of Premier League club's

The upcoming transfer window will no doubt be spent by a whole host of top sides in England searching desperately for a central midfielder to help improve their side.

The usual names will be tossed around the rumour mill throughout the summer months, but Villareal's Bruno is someone who is rarely mentioned among the lists of players we see regularly linked with Premier League sides.

Villarreal CF v Sparta Prague - UEFA Europa League Quarter Final: First Leg

2015/16 has been a very good season for the Spaniard with his passing, positioning and command of the midfield area all hugely attractive characteristics, one's that make him ideally suited to the English game.

Klopp's side struggled to match the class set in the match by Bruno, with his technical ability outshining that of Liverpool's midfield as he stroked the ball around the pitch almost effortlessly. He's slipped under the radar a bit, but the Villarreal man would be a very astute piece of business.

4. Lucas Leiva impresses in midfield

While not displaying the same level of ability as Bruno, Lucas' rugged and gritty performance was just what Liverpool required in a hostile Spanish atmosphere.

With Jordan Henderson and Emre Can confined to the sidelines, Lucas took it upon himself to assert the necessary authority in midfield to help his side get a crucial foothold in the game and above all, protect a makeshift centre-back pairing of Dejan Lovren and Kolo Toure.

Liverpool v Everton - Premier League

Tough tackles, simple passing, and sensible positioning all featured in what was an impressive performance, one which underlined his leadership qualities.

Sadly, his work was slightly undone by a late sucker-punch but he and Joe Allen can both leave Spain with their heads held high. Klopp will no doubt be happy with his two midfielders and it showed that the squad options available to the German are fairly adequate.

5. Villarreal strikers show glimpses of the threat they possess

Before the match, a lot of talk focused on the striking partnership of Roberto Soldado and Cedric Bakambu, with the duo really elevating Villarreal this season, the latter has also found the back of the net nine times in the Europa League this season.

Both were not at their formidable best against Liverpool but there were glimpses of how dangerous they can be. Soldado often dropped deeper to support the midfield and showed an impressive array of passing, while also producing a stunning curling effort which went just wide.

Sparta Prague v Villarreal CF - UEFA Europa League Quarter Final: Second Leg

Bakambu was the main threat, stretching the Reds' back line with his pace and came very close to his tenth goal in Europe on two separate occasions, one effort striking the frame of the goal.

In the end, substitute Lopez was the one to get the all-important goal but the two starting strikers displayed the threat they possess to Liverpool's chances of making the final. They will be a handful again in the second leg, one which Klopp will have to try and successfully contain.

However, after the previous tie against Borussia Dortmund, which culminated in a dramatic 4-3 victory at Anfield, Liverpool will know that this tie is far from over.

Do you think Liverpool will reach the Europa League final? Have YOUR say in the comment box below!

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Steven Gerrard
Emre Can
Europa League
Daniel Sturridge
Jordan Henderson
Philippe Coutinho

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