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Four key battles as Liverpool look to overcome first-leg deficit against Villarreal

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Liverpool failed to sink the Yellow Submarine at their first attempt in Spain, surely there is a Beatles joke to be made out of that, and now the Reds have a substantial amount of work to do at Anfield if they are to reach the Europa League final.

Adrian Lopez's injury time winner in the El Madrigal has tilted the tie in favour of Villarreal and the Spanish side, who are renowned for their pragmatic excellence this season, will be keen to protect their slender 1-0 aggregate advantage.

Here are four key battles which could help decide a match which is very delicately poised and will no doubt, be an enthralling game.

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1. Nathaniel Clyne vs Denis Suarez

The battle down Liverpool's right-hand side could be crucial if they are to achieve victory over Villarreal. Clyne will be vital in establishing both an attacking threat from the right and helping to keep things steady defensively.

His main pragmatic task will be shackling Suarez, the talented 22-year-old who had a huge creative influence in the previous leg and displayed copious amounts of technical ability.

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The Spaniard likes to drift inside to dictate proceedings and Clyne will have to be wary of his movement, making sure that one of Villarreal's most prominent offensive threats is nullified to the best of his ability

2. Daniel Sturridge vs Victor Ruiz

One of Jurgen Klopp's most controversial team choices in Spain was leaving Sturridge on the bench. In the absence of Divock Origi, the Englishman was expected to be the focal point of the attack but lost out to Roberto Firmino who operated as a false nine.

With a goal the minimum requirement at Anfield, Sturridge will surely be included from the start and it will be Ruiz's task to marshall the mercurial striker.

Swansea City v Liverpool - Premier League

The Spaniard has been an imposing force at the back for Villarreal all season and he will feel confident in his ability to stifle his opponent, limiting his chances to grab a vital goal.

3. James Milner vs Bruno Soriano

The midfield battle will be vital in this game and the team who comes out on top in this department will have a distinct advantage in progressing to the final.

Milner and Bruno will be the two engine rooms in the middle of the park, looking to produce a combative display while also attempting to add creativity and to dictate the tempo of the match.

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The Spanish midfielder showed off his technical brilliance in the previous leg while the Englishman has been a force to be reckoned with in 2016, particularly with his set piece deliveries and assist record.

4. Cedric Bakambu vs Dejan Lovren

25-year-old Bakambu has arguably been Villarreal's standout performer this season, scoring 22 goals in all competitions with nine of these coming in the Europa League - the second most in the entire competition.

Lovren has improved since the arrival of Klopp and the responsibility of nullifying the Yellow Submarine's most potent offensive threat will no doubt fall at the Croatian's feet.

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The Liverpool man is not blessed with tremendous pace unlike Bakambu and it will be an interesting battle to see who can gain the upper hand. The winner in this duel could have a huge impact on the final result and Lovren will be hoping that he can lead the Reds to a clean sheet.

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Topics:
Steven Gerrard
Football
James Milner
Europa League
Liverpool
Daniel Sturridge
Philippe Coutinho

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