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Villarreal v Liverpool Europa League: 'No room for tourists' insists Klopp as Reds shoot for glory


Big moment: Despite the favourites tag Jurgen Klopp says his side will give Villareal maximum respect in tonight’s first leg

Big moment: Despite the favourites tag Jurgen Klopp says his side will give Villareal maximum respect in tonight’s first leg

Big moment: Despite the favourites tag Jurgen Klopp says his side will give Villareal maximum respect in tonight’s first leg

Villarreal, as Jürgen Klopp identifies, is small town Spain.

Here, old men lounge in quiet bars taking their time with glasses of brandy.

The streets are empty for most of the day. Hartlepool's population is almost twice as big.

This is not Augsburg, where Klopp was met by large crowds absorbed by his first return to Germany since becoming Liverpool's manager.

This Europa League semi certainly does not contain the madness of a tie with Manchester United, or Borussia Dortmund, Klopp's former club, either.

Liverpool are a couple good results away from a final.

And yet, the build-up has been totally opposite to the previous rounds. With many visiting supporters spending Wednesday night in busier places like Valencia and Benidorm, a sense of importance has not arrived in Villarreal yet.

That the interpreter forgot his bearings and started translating in English when it was meant to be in Spanish reflected the length of Klopp's answer to the suggestion that Liverpool are favourites to win the competition from here.

Outcomes have not always met expectation under him so far when Liverpool have appeared to be in control of their destiny. He went to great lengths to stress that he trusts players to recognise the tone required in less frenzied surroundings this time and seal progression.

"It is important for me to understand my players are here in the semi because they have always been ready for the moment and never thought about the next round," he said.

"So it is important to show them the respect they deserve. We have shown we can concentrate on the game. We are not about thinking about Basel and the final."

There is a sense, nevertheless, that Klopp realises he is close to arriving at a big moment.

Another question was asked about the current Europa League campaign - where Liverpool have set a record for being 12 games unbeaten - being vital experience in relation to development over coming seasons.

He had already made a point of highlighting there were "no tourists" in his squad, confirming that Christian Benteke is available after a knee injury.

"Experience is nothing to talk about. It's not to buy or collect, it's just something you build, you get and use," he said. "But if you use it in the wrong way then it's bullshit - then you don't need it. The Europa League is our best route to a trophy. We must focus on that.

"It is the best news that Christian is back. He has not had too many sessions but we watched him in training - although now is not the moment to think if he is in the best shape.

"After injury that is not too easy, but he is in really good shape that is for sure.

"For us it is perfect that he is back and we have only players here in Villarreal who are only ready for being part tomorrow, there are no tourists. If we need him, we can use him. That's good."

While the semi-final first leg should be the most important game of the season, matters at the club have been overshadowed by the groundbreaking Hillsborough inquest verdicts.

Klopp paid tribute to the fortitude of the victims' families in their quest for justice. "What I could see it was a very, very big moment for all the families. I'm really pleased for them, I am really happy for them," he said.

"They finally got the justice they wanted. I'm really happy. Twenty-seven years is an unbelievable long time but it shows all of us if you're ready if you fight for the truth, and patient enough to wait for the moment, then it can happen.

"I'm really pleased for all the fans, it was a great moment."

Belfast Telegraph