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Unai Emery explains why Liverpool challenge is greater than before with Villarreal’s Champions League advantage now removed

Unai Emery threw down the gauntlet ahead of Villarreal’s Champions League clash with Liverpool, though admitted his side’s key advantage has disappeared.

Villarreal have been this season’s surprise package in Europe’s top competition. The Spanish side currently sit seventh in LaLiga – nine points off fourth-placed Atletico Madrid.

However, their mediocre season domestically does not tell the full story of how their campaign has gone.

Indeed, Villarreal have dumped out both Juventus and Bayern Munich on route to the Champions League semi-finals.

Their reward is a two-legged tie with Liverpool, with the first leg taking place at Anfield on Wednesday night.

And speaking in his pre-match press conference, Emery insisted there’s no reason why his side’s journey must end at the hands of Liverpool.

“We’re playing the favourites but we want to be us and to play on the front foot,” said Emery (via France24).

“The journey does not have to end, we want to be in charge, to create chances.

“In normal conditions they are superior to us but we have our own ideas, individually and as a team, to allow us to compete.”

Villarreal advantage diminished – Emery

Jurgen Klopp suggested in his own press conference that Juventus and Bayern may have underestimated Villarreal in the previous rounds.

Klopp insisted Liverpool won’t fall into that trap, though Emery thinks any advantage they held in that regard has now diminished anyway.

“The surprise factor decreases,” added the former Arsenal boss.

“That was more important against Juventus and Bayern but it won’t be the case now. Liverpool know that we are here because we have been able to compete. For us, that means the challenge is greater.”

Despite holding confidence in his side, Emery is under no illusion as to the scale of task he faces, especially at Anfield.

On Emery’s two previous visits to Anfield when in charge at Arsenal, he was on the losing end each time, 5-1 and 3-1.

“They have a very clear identity at Anfield,” added Emery.

“It’s Liverpool, I think the best Liverpool that I have known, but I take that as motivation to play the perfect game and to beat Liverpool at their…

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