Jurgen Klopp praised Unai Emery as a “world-class coach” and vowed that Liverpool would not look down on their rivals in the UEFA Champions League semi-finals, Villarreal.
The Reds are in contention for an unbeaten quadruple and join the first leg on Wednesday with Villarreal at Anfield as strong contenders for next month’s final.
However, the Spanish club surprised Juventus in the last 16 and followed that up by knocking out the much-anticipated Bayern Munich side in the quarter-finals.
Villarreal’s home form improved late, after winning consecutive LaLiga games – against Getafe and Valencia – to seventh place.
Liverpool have improved from nine of their previous European Cup and Champions League semi-finals, but Klopp took nothing when he faced Emery’s Villarreal.
“We are here because we got the results we needed,” Klopp told a pre-match press conference on Tuesday.
“It’s important to be a part of the semi-final. It’s a very big game.
“We are facing a tough rival. They have been prepared for this tournament. The way they have organized it is really good.
“They probably got a little bit of a chance when Juve and Bayern looked down on them. That doesn’t happen to us, there is no chance of that. It ‘s probably that chance gone.
“They are a good football team that wants to make history. It will be the first time they have reached the finals, which is great for them. But for us, it is equally important.”
Emery led Sevilla to a 3-1 Europa League final victory over Klopp’s Liverpool in 2016 – one of 11 trophies he has won in his 18 years as coach.
He took over the management of Villarreal in July 2020 following a disappointing season at Arsenal and led the Yellow Submarine to the glory of the Europa League last season.
“I have a lot of respect for Unai and Villarreal,” added Klopp. “I’ve analyzed myself well, and wow. It’s commendable.
“Unai is a very focused manager who has prepared for all the different situations in the game. That’s what his team does. Different ways of pressing and reacting to different outcomes.
“It’s really amazing. Unai is a world-class coach and does an excellent job there. The good thing about analysis is that we don’t get caught up in those games.
“We have to make life difficult for them. That’s what we are trying to do with both legs.”
Liverpool beat Villarreal 3-1 in all their previous European matches, in the 2015-16 Europa League semi-finals, with both teams winning their home leg.
Villarreal have not won eight of England’s last eight matches, including a 2-1 Champions League defeat to Manchester United in September.
And Klopp will be looking to win the Estadio de la Ceramica in next week’s game as Liverpool aim to make it to the trophy this season.
“We have two games to play. We know that if we are going to Villarreal, it will be an emotional atmosphere,” Klopp said. “There are times when we will suffer tomorrow.
“I know that already and that is what we need to be prepared for. There is no need to panic, of course. We should use this advantage at home.
“Whatever result we get, we will fight it. It means everything to us to reach the Champions League final.”