Liverpool swerve Europa League holders and remain favourites

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Liverpool have been rewarded for their astonishing comeback win over previous tournament favourites Borussia Dortmund, by avoiding holders Sevilla in the last four.

Jurgen Klopp’s Anfield heroes will still travel to Spain though, to face Villarreal in the first of their semi-final encounters.

In the other tie, 2008/09 champions Shakhtar Donetsk take on a Sevilla side chasing an unprecedented hat-trick of Europa League successes for the second time in the last decade.

Carrying such a pedigree in the competition means Liverpool could yet have to defeat Unai Emery’s side, even if they hurdle their tricky-looking La Liga counterparts.

The outright betting has only moved fractionally after Friday morning’s draw, with Liverpool, the only undefeated side in European competition this season, remaining very narrow 7/4 favourites over Sevilla at 17/10.

Villarreal have lengthened by a fraction to 15/4 and outsiders Shahktar move out a point to 6/1 after plucking the holders of the hat.

Like Sevilla, Liverpool also have the added advantage of the second leg to come at home.

As witnessed in that barnstorming comeback against Klopp’s former club Dortmund, the Anfield crowd are bound to play a part in their side’s chances of progression.

Although the five-time European champions have never faced Villarreal in Uefa competition, the Reds will up against a very tough opponent, especially on their own patch.

Lying fourth in La Liga, Marcelino Garcia Toral’s side have been a force to reckon with at their Estadio El Madrigal home.

Both Madrid giants have been beaten in the league, while champions Barcelona were held to a 2-2 draw, but their record in Europa League competition this season is even more ominous.

In five matches at the Madrigal, the Yellow Submarine have won all five and not even conceded a goal.

A weak group aside, far more illustrious opponents in the shape of Napoli and Bayer Leverkusen also suffered the same fate in the knockout rounds.

If Klopp is to keep the European dream going, then a carbon copy of their performance in Dortmund will probably be required.

Liverpool are the 2/1 outsiders to forge a lead in the tie, while the draw is 21/10 and their Spanish hosts are 7/5 favourites for the first-leg clash.

This will be the Anfield club’s fourth semi-final against Spanish opponents and a two-from-three strike rate isn’t that bad, although the last match-up against Atletico Madrid in this competition five years ago saw them knocked out on away goals.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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