Liverpool defender Virgil van Djik has admitted his side must not take their foot off the gas for their “hostile” semi-final second-leg against Villarreal
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Virgil van Djik has warned Villarreal that Liverpool will not be going into the second-leg ‘defending’ their lead as they look to protect a two-goal first-leg advantage.
Jurgen Klopp’s side ran out 2-0 winners at Anfield on Wednesday night to put themselves one step closer to booking their place in the Champions League final next month. After a goalless first-half, the Reds took the lead through Pervis Estupinan’s 53rd-minute own-goal before Sadio Mane doubled their advantage just moments later.
It was a terrific display from Klopp’s side, who dominated from start to finish and limited the visitors to very few opportunities. In fact, Villarreal posted just one shot on goal and failed to register an effort on target.
Liverpool are set to travel to Newcastle United in the early Saturday kick-off before facing Villarreal in the second leg in Spain on Tuesday, where they will be confident of booking a place in next month’s final. The Reds could still win the quadruple, having already lifted the Carabao Cup, and are set to take on Chelsea in the FA Cup final at Wembley on 14 May.
Speaking after the game, Van Djik reiterated that the Reds must not take their foot of the gas when they make the trip to Villarreal next week. The ‘Yellow Submarine’ has lost just twice in 17 La Liga games at home.
“We are not going there to defend and defend the lead,” said the Netherlands international. “We know we have to be very mature there as well, we know it’s going to be tough, probably a little hostile atmosphere, but it’s something we should enjoy as well.
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“You don’t get to the final the easy way, it’s never the case, especially at this stage of the Champions League. You play against fantastic teams. So, it will be tough there but we have to be confident, work hard for the full 95 minutes and hopefully we can get the job done.”
The two goals at Anfield means Liverpool now have 185 on the season, just three short of equalling the club’s record for a single campaign. And Van Dijk heaped praise on the forward players within the squad, including the likes of Diogo Jota and Divock Origi, who came off the bench in the second half against their Spanish opponents.
“They are so important for us at the moment. I don’t want to be facing any of our strikers, to be fair,” he added. “Diogo from the bench, Luis, Mo, Sadio, it’s incredible, Divock the last game. We are in a good moment, everyone is pushing each other and we’ll try to keep that going, and the amount of work they put in is incredible as well.”