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Giant-killers Villarreal can’t rely on surprise factor anymore, Emery says

bayern munich vs villarreal cf
Villarreal have been a surprise package in this season's competition, having beaten European giants Juve and Bayern in the knockout stages to reach their first Champions League semi-final in 16 years

Villarreal won’t have the luxury of being taken lightly by Liverpool in their Champions League semi-final, first leg this week and will need to execute a perfect game to eliminate the former winners, manager Unai Emery said on Tuesday.

After knocking-out Juventus in the last 16 and beating Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals, the 50-year-old coach believes his team no longer have the element of surprise in their bid to reach their first Champions League final.

“The surprise factor decreases after you do what we did,” Emery told a news conference at Anfield as he prepares his side for Wednesday’s match.

“Against Juve there were certain moments when their reaction didn’t come through. Against Bayern, from behind, we were able to find our best version and use that background to overcome them. And that is no longer present. Whoever reaches the semi-finals are here because they have deserved it.”

The Spaniard conceded that Liverpool, who have won the Champions League six times, would rightfully count themselves as favourites for the tie, but that his side were hungry for more success having won the Europa League last season.

“They are wise and now they know who we are. They know that the tie is going to be difficult and they will be prepared, no doubt about it,” Emery said.

“But it is inevitable for them to feel as the favourites, as it is normal, their potential is massive. But we have greater motivation and enthusiasm.”

The former Arsenal coach said he was up to date on Liverpool’s playing style which helped them win the League Cup in February and left them on course for an unprecedented quadruple of trophies.

“They are known for running and recovering the ball in high areas but now they also have options to make combination passing moves, with Thiago (Alcantara) and (Sadio) Mane playing much more inside… Signing Luis Diaz (in January) is a major factor for this improvement,” Emery added.

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