Liverpool vs. Villarreal Odds & Picks: How to Bet Wednesday’s Champions League Showdown
Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images. Pictured: Liverpool star Mohamed Salah.
- Liverpool welcomes La Liga outfit Villarreal to Anfield on Wednesday for the opening leg of their Champions League semifinal tie.
- The Reds, who are whopping -350 moneyline favorites, face an upstart Spanish side that has already taken down European giants Juventus and Bayern Munich.
- Anthony Dabbundo breaks down the game below and explains why he's backing the Yellow Submarine to get a result.
Liverpool vs. Villarreal Odds
|Over/Under||2.5 (-160 / +115)|
|Day | Time||Wednesday | 3 p.m. ET|
|How To Watch||CBS | Paramount+ | fuboTV|
|Odds updated via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute soccer odds here.|
The second meeting in the Champions League semifinal round features a true matchup of European minnow facing a global giant as Villarreal travels to Anfield to battle Liverpool on Wednesday for the first of two legs.
Villarreal has already taken out two past continental powers — Juventus and Bayern Munich — in the Round of 16 and quarterfinal to get to this point.
Liverpool and Manchester City, who are overwhelming favorites to reach the final, are widely seen as the two best teams in club soccer right now.
Villarreal sits at +450 odds to make the title match after the two-legged aggregate playoff, but the heavy underdog was +160 and +560 in the last two rounds to advance. That said, the Yellow Submarine is no stranger to a European stunner after beating Arsenal and Manchester United to win the Europa League last season.
Liverpool still has a chance to be the first team in English history to land the quadruple, which is winning all four major trophies available in a season. The Reds have won the EFL Cup and find themselves in the FA Cup final. They’ve reached this part of the UCL competition semis and have just a one-point deficit in the chase for the Premier League crown.
The pressure is all on Liverpool to create the chances and get separation at home against a Villarreal side that has had a ton of success defending deep, while also effectively counterattacking in behind against so-called bigger European sides.
Mighty Liverpool Dominate Across Pitch
Liverpool overcame a sluggish first half at home against Everton on Sunday to beat their local rivals in a 2-0 victory, keeping itself in the EPL title race. In some ways, the Reds should be happy they drew Villarreal instead of Bayern after the upset, but the visitor can cause some problems with its low defensive block and counterattacking approach.
Liverpool has outrun defensive regression seemingly forever at this point, but the defense hasn’t been nearly as sturdy in the Champions League. Inter Milan wasn’t really able to exploit its high defensive line, but Benfica found plenty of success against the starters and backups. The Portuguese side managed four goals in two legs, even creating 1.4 xG in the first leg against the Reds’ defensive starters.
Liverpool has conceded just 22 league goals from 31 expected goals this season, per fbref.com, and other models have it even more fortunate on the defensive side. You’d expect the Reds to over-perform a bit because of Alisson’s shot-stopping ability, but that only explains about 40% of the over-performance for the club. The rest comes down to teams just not shooting well when in on their goal.
Liverpool has been incredibly dominant when Thiago, Jordan Henderson and Fabinho are all in the lineup, as they’re expected to be in this opening leg. It’s the club’s best counter-pressing midfield and best ball-progression group. So, Villarreal is sure to be under intense pressure in various stretches.
Can Villarreal Keep Cinderella Run Going?
Villarreal’s two-legged masterclass performance against Bayern was impressive not only because it advanced, but in the manner in which it did. On home soil, the Yellow Submarine actually won the xG battle, created more high-quality chances and prevented the Bavarians from breaking them open despite the underdogs holding just 38% possession of the ball.
They defended considerably deeper in the second leg and did concede 25 shots, but only one was a big scoring chance. Bayern tallied a lot of non-dangerous shots that totaled just 1.5 xG overall. With an average quality of 0.06 per shot, the Bavarians failed to break down the stingy Yellow Submarine defense. The question is whether or not it can replicate that performance against a better Liverpool attack and counter-press.
Villarreal’s ability to play through pressure with its ball playing centerbacks has defined its run through the Champions League. They haven’t made the passing mistakes that lead to high turnovers and catch their defense out without numbers behind the ball. If Liverpool is able to force high turnovers and attack in transition, the host will win this match and maybe even in comfortable fashion.
The statistical profile of the Villarreal defense in La Liga also backs up its style of play. While they rank just seventh in shots allowed, the Yellow Submarine is third in NPxG per 90 conceded, third best at playing successfully through opponent pressure and third at denying box entries into their own area.
Given Liverpool’s ball progression machine, it will be a difficult challenge, but there’s reason to believe the high risk, high reward approach of Liverpool’s high defensive line will create chances for breakout star Arnaut Danjuma to run the channel. Danjuma has the pace to exploit in behind and has produced all year both domestically and in Europe.
BJ Cunningham’s UCL Projections
Betting Analysis & Pick
When the market opened , Liverpool was lined around -400 odds and that’s the exact number Bayern Munich closed at home a few weeks ago. Villarreal has been constantly disrespected until now, but it seems oddsmakers are finally showing some respect to the Yellow Submarine’s semifinal run.
There’s a small amount of value left in the number for me, as I project Villarreal as a 1.3-goal underdog and you can find the club getting +1.5 at even money. However, I prefer to play the Yellow Submarine in the first half due to fatigue concerns for it on the road at Anfield and the improved Liverpool depth.
We’ve seen the Reds really take control of games against Inter Milan and Benfica by going to their improved bench and attacking substitutes. Villarreal can hold out, defend and slow the game to a crawl in the first half and that’s why I’m going to put more of my wager on them to cover the first-half spread.
Pick: Villarreal — First Half +0.5 (+110) | Villarreal +1.5 (+100)