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Villarreal vs. Liverpool: Match Preview, Team News, and Ways to Watch

Liverpool travel to Spain to take on La Liga side Villarreal in the first leg of the Europa League semi-final.

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Liverpool travel to Spain to do battle with Villarreal in the first leg of the Europa League semi-final on Thursday. While Liverpool's Premier League campaign has been lackluster, they're in the midst of an unbeaten Europa League run. In the twelve games they played so far, Liverpool have five wins and seven draws. That's no small feat considering the two rounds were against Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund. With top four out of reach, Jürgen Klopp and his team will be putting all their energy into winning these two games and reaching the final.

The last time Liverpool reached a European semi-final was in 2009-2010 when they lost a heartbreaker on away goals to Atletico Madrid in the Europa League, meaning that Jürgen Klopp has already brought Liverpool farther in Europe than they've been since Rafa Benitez's departure.

Villarreal, meanwhile, have never made it past the Europa League semi-final. They've reached this same peak twice, but lost both times, and this team will be eager to be the first to make it into a European final. To make it this far, Villarreal steamrolled past Sparta Prague with a 6-3 aggregate in the quarterfinals. In La Liga, they are battling to keep their top four position, holding a three point lead over Celta Vigo. A European semi-final will always be given high priority, however, so expect manager Marcelino Garcia to field his strongest available team. Garcia will not have Leo Baptistao at his disposal due to injury, while defenders Jaume Costa and Mateo Musacchio are both doubtful for this match.

Liverpool have a lot to do in this game because they will be down several key, first team players, including Jordan Henderson, Emre Can, Divock Origi, and Mamadou Sakho. Despite this, Klopp still managed to rest both of Lucas Leiva and Nathaniel Clyne in their game against Newcastle at the weekend, both of whom should start on Thursday.

For Liverpool:

Clyne, Lovren, Lucas, Moreno
Allen, Milner
Lallana, Firmino, Coutinho

The big question is who will play in defense in the place of Mamadou Sakho, who is ineligible for selection pending UEFA's doping investigation. Kolo Toure has affirmed his willingness to take the reins, but the 35 year old already played ninety minutes against Newcastle on Saturday. Lucas, on the other hand, was rested for most of the game, so there seems a good chance we'll get to see him partnering with Dejan Lovren at center-back. Expect Klopp to set up very offensively up front with Lallana, FIrmino, and Coutinho all lining up behind Daniel Sturridge.

Jordan Rossiter is still not ready to come back into the team, but Christian Benteke has travelled and is likely to be in the matchday squad. Jon Flanagan remains ineligible to play in the Europa League.

Kickoff is in the late Europa League slot for this one, at 8:05PM BST/3:05PM EST, with radio coverage from LFCTV GO online for subscribers across the globe. Televised options are BT Sport Europe in the UK and Fox Sports 1 in the US. Elsewhere, it will also be showing on BeIN Sports Australia in Australia, TSN in Canada, TEN Action in India, Supersport 3 Africa in Kenya, and Astro Supersport3 in Malaysia. You can find other listings at LiveSoccerTV.

We'll be keeping you updated with all the buildup to the game, including team news as it's released, our live matchday thread and post-match recaps from The Liverpool Offside team. If you want to join in with the matchday discussion, sign up for an SB Nation account to have your say on the game as it happens.

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