Jurgen Klopp has signed an extension to his Liverpool contract that will keep him with the Reds until 2026.

Klopp's previous deal was due to expire at the end of the 2023-24 season, and the German appeared to suggest on the occasion that he intended to step away from the game for a break at the end of that contract.

However, nearing the end of a season in which Liverpool may still win an unprecedented quadruple, Klopp has decided to extend his stay on Merseyside, adding an extra two years to his deal.

The Reds have already secured the EFL Cup this season, while they will face Chelsea in the FA Cup final, have a 2-0 advantage in their Champions League semi-final against Villarreal and sit just a point behind leaders Manchester City in the race for the Premier League title with five games remaining.

Klopp's two assistant managers, Pepijn Lijnders and Peter Krawietz, have also inked new deals.

 After the announcement on Thursday, Klopp told the club's official media channels: "There are so many words I could use to describe how I am feeling about this news... delighted, humbled, blessed, privileged and excited would be a start.

"There is just so much to love about this place. I knew that before I came here, I got to know it even better after I arrived, and now I know it more than ever before.

"Like any healthy relationship, it always has to be a two-way street; you have to be right for each other. The feeling we were absolutely right for each other is what brought me here in the first place and it's why I’ve extended previously.

"This one is different because of the length of time we have been together. I had to ask myself the question: Is it right for Liverpool that I stay longer?

"Along with my two assistant managers, Pep Lijnders and Pete Krawietz, we came to the conclusion it was a 'Yes!'

"There is a freshness about us as a club still and this energises me. For as long as I have been here, our owners have been unbelievably committed and energetic about this club and it is clear that right now this applies to our future as much as I’ve ever known."

Klopp has taken charge of 373 Liverpool games in all competitions, with a win percentage of 61 (229 wins, 84 draws and 60 losses). 

Since he arrived at Anfield in October 2015, Klopp has won the Champions League, the Premier League, the Super Cup, the Club World Cup and the EFL Cup.

"We are a club that is constantly moving in the right direction," Klopp added. "We have a clear idea of what we want; we have a clear idea of how we try to achieve it. That's always a great position to start from.

"When the owners brought the possibility to renew to me, I asked myself the question I've mused over publicly. Do I have the energy and vibe to give of myself again what this amazing place requires from the person in the manager’s office?

"I didn't need too long to answer in truth. The answer was very simple... I'm in love with here and I feel fine!"

Jurgen Klopp has signed an extension to his Liverpool contract that will keep him with the Reds until 2026.

Klopp's previous deal was due to expire at the end of the 2023-24 season, and the German appeared to suggest on occasion that he intended to step away from the game for a break at the end of that contract.

However, nearing the end of a season in which Liverpool may still win an unprecedented quadruple, Klopp has decided to extend his stay on Merseyside, adding an extra two years to his deal.

The Reds have already secured the EFL Cup this season, while they will face Chelsea in the FA Cup final, have a 2-0 advantage in their Champions League semi-final against Villarreal and sit just a point behind leaders Manchester City in the race for the Premier League title with five games remaining.

Klopp's two assistant managers, Pepijn Lijnders and Peter Krawietz, have also inked new deals.

Virgil van Dijk admitted he would not want to face Liverpool's lethal strikers after Villarreal failed to contain the ruthless Reds.

Sadio Mane became the third Liverpool player to score 20 goals this season as Jurgen Klopp's side won the Champions League semi-final first leg at Anfield 2-0 on Wednesday.

Mohamed Salah and Diogo Jota have also reached that amount in the 2021-22 campaign, while Luis Diaz has been a revelation since his arrival from Porto in January.

Divock Origi has also played his part this season, once again coming off the bench to score against Everton in a 2-0 Merseyside derby win last Sunday that keeps the pressure on leaders Manchester City in the Premier League title race.

Van Dijk is relieved he is able to watch the Reds' rampant forward line create havoc rather than having to try and keep them at bay.

The centre-back told the club's official website: "They are so important for us at the moment. I don't want to be facing any of our strikers, to be fair.

"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."

Liverpool will travel to Estadio de la Ceramica for the second leg next Tuesday with one foot in the final as they attempt to win an unprecedented quadruple.

Van Dijk says there is no chance the Reds will sit back on their advantage.

"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.

"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."

Jurgen Klopp insisted Liverpool still have it all to do in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final against Villarreal, despite the first leg ending in a convincing 2-0 win.

The Reds carved out their advantage during a two-minute second-half spell that saw Pervis Estupinan put through his own net and Sadio Mane get on the scoresheet.

The visitors managed just a single shot across the 90 minutes, one which failed even to test Alisson in the Reds' goal.

However, Klopp is taking nothing for granted ahead of the return leg in Spain next week, saying at a media conference after the game: "The full work is [left] to do. Nothing happened yet. 

"You play a game and it's 2-0 at half-time, you have to be completely on alert, you have to be 100 per cent in the right mood, you have the play the second half like you played the first. 

"There's nothing to defend, if you do that you give all the advantages you might have had away immediately. 

"We know we go there and it will be a tricky atmosphere for us, different to tonight. 

"Those players, you saw it tonight, they fight for the coach with all they have. What I like was that everybody could see that we fight with all we have and it's always the same. 

"If they beat us with a result that brings them to the final then they deserve it and, if not, then we deserve it. That's how the competition is."

Liverpool had taken 12 shots without scoring in an opening period that saw Villarreal frustrate - a theme of their march to this stage of the competition. 

But Klopp did not ask his team to change things up during the half-time break, instead asking for more of the same from his players.

He added: "We spoke at half-time, I thought we looked really fresh in the first half and had good legs. 

"It's intense for us to play the way we play but it's intense for the opponent to defend us in that way as well.

"It was the challenge, how it is for all human beings, when you try and you fail and try and fail [not to] think, 'Come on, it's not my day!' 

"We really had to stay positive and try and fail, try and fail, and keep trying. And that's what we did."

Liverpool left back Andrew Robertson said he and his team-mates are "enjoying" their hectic schedule as they earned a 2-0 first leg lead in their Champions League semi-final against Villarreal.

An own goal and a Sadio Mane strike, both early in the second half, was enough for Jurgen Klopp's men to secure a decent cushion ahead of next Tuesday's second leg in Spain.

Villarreal frustrated Liverpool at Anfield in the first half, but were unable to stop them from winning their ninth Champions League match of the season, the most games the Reds have ever won in a single campaign in European competition (excluding qualifiers).

Speaking to BT Sport after the win, captain Jordan Henderson praised the visitors, and said staying "positive" was key for Liverpool.

"Yeah, very organised team," Henderson said about Unai Emery's side. "We knew they'd make it difficult, but it was important that we just kept going, stay positive and we had the confidence that if we did that, kept moving the ball quickly, we'd eventually break them down, and we did that with two good goals."

It was Henderson's cross that deflected in off Pervis Estupinan to finally break the deadlock, and when told it had deflected, the England international jokingly replied: "Did it? I thought it went straight in!

"Yeah a little bit lucky, but it was good play, good build up... But, you need a little bit of luck against teams with a low block. We got that with the first and thankfully we got another one."

Liverpool had 19 shots to Villarreal's one on a dominant night for the Reds. The Yellow Submarine's one shot, which missed the target, is the joint-fewest by any side in a Champions League semi-final according to Opta since this data has been available (2003-04), along with Inter v Barcelona in 2009-10.

Robertson was also asked by BT Sport about the game, and he was keen to point out that the players are enjoying themselves, with an unprecedented quadruple of the Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup and EFL Cup still possible.

"We had quite a few chances in the first half, just trying to break them down and keep doing what we were doing," the Scotland captain said. "The first goal always kind of does that [gives you a boost], we then had a bit of momentum. The noise in here was incredible after the first goal and that kind of took us to the second one.

"We'd have liked to add maybe one more, it wasn't meant to be but a clean sheet and two goals? We can't argue with that.

"You have to [work hard], it's the semi-final of the Champions League. If you can't run about for 90 minutes in this kind of game then when will you?

"Our intensity's been really high the last couple of games, we've had a real hectic schedule and we're enjoying it. I think you seen that today.

"There's still a lot of work to do in this tie, but we're happy with our work tonight."

Also asked about not getting frustrated by a stubborn Villarreal defence, Robertson added: "That was the message from Hendo at half-time, just saying we were playing well first half, probably some of the best we've played and we didn't get a goal for it, but we kept going, kept trying to be patient and luckily with a big deflection (smiling at Henderson), we managed to get the breakthrough."

After 45 minutes of this Champions League semi-final first leg, the travelling Villarreal fans had every reason to believe they might be witnessing another miracle.

Their team had made it to half-time in the cauldron of Anfield having kept the score at 0-0, and they had also - at times - made a quadruple-chasing Liverpool look short of ideas.

As such, thoughts will no doubt have turned to the recent shock wins over Juventus and Bayern Munich, and the possibility of taking another major scalp back to Castellon.

Unfortunately, any supporter in yellow thinking along those lines had not accounted for the fact that, even among Europe's elite clubs, there are levels.

And, although Manchester City might have a strong case to be ranked alongside them, Liverpool are otherwise alone at the summit. 

It did not look much like that during an opening period that ended with the hosts having taken 12 shots, the most in a Champions League semi-final first half without scoring since such data was first collected in 2003-04.

That owed much to Villarreal's sheer refusal to offer up quality chances, with the midfield and defence working beautifully in tandem to deny all space.

The dark arts were also being deployed impressively, goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli taking as much time as he could over goal kicks, while cheap fouls were bought from frustrated opponents.

However, as he proved during Sunday's Merseyside derby win over Everton, Jurgen Klopp is never better than when given a half-time puzzle to solve.

And it looked from the very first whistle of the second period that the German had repeated the trick once again.

Suddenly, there was an extra zip to Liverpool's play, and their visitors' previously solid shape was beginning to look porous as players were dragged out against their will.

Admittedly, there was an element of fortune to the Reds' opener, Pervis Estupinan's attempted block looping over a stranded Rulli and into the back of the net.

But it had been earned through a rapid left-to-right passing exchange that opened space for Jordan Henderson to cross - the sort of move that had been missing in the first half.

From there, Liverpool smelled blood, and just two minutes later had put together another slick pattern to leave a rattled Villarreal two down. 

It was a whirlwind attacking flurry that so few teams can produce, one that will have given Klopp confidence that a third Champions League final appearance with this club awaits.

As impressive as their route to this stage of the tournament has been, Villarreal never trailed either Juventus or Bayern by more than a single goal at any stage of those ties.

And it is hard to imagine how they might close that deficit in Spain next week without opening up too much against such deadly opponents. 

Stranger things have happened, of course, but the likelihood is that a meeting with a Liverpool team eyeing the history books will prove to be a step too far for Villarreal. 

Liverpool are in the driving seat of their Champions League semi-final against Villarreal after a 2-0 win at Anfield on Wednesday.

A game that was never likely to match the excitement of Tuesday's seven-goal thriller between Manchester City and Real Madrid finally came to life in the second half as an own goal from Pervis Estupinan and a Sadio Mane strike sealed a strong first-leg advantage for the Reds.

Unai Emery's side defended resolutely for much of the game, managing to get to half-time goalless, but they were ultimately undone by some typically fast attacking from Jurgen Klopp's team in the second half.

This was Liverpool's 12th European Cup or Champions League semi-final, with no English side playing in the final four more often (level with Manchester United), and was also the first time the Reds have played in the semi-finals of the EFL Cup, FA Cup and European Cup in the same campaign, and it was that experience of the big occasion that ultimately shone through.

It was a tentative start from the home side, though Mane will have expected to do better with a header when found by a neat cross from Mohamed Salah early on with the Senegalese forward directing his effort wide.

Thiago Alcantara came as close as anyone to breaking the deadlock in the first half with a shot from almost 30 yards that crashed against the left-hand post, but the visitors did a good job of frustrating the Premier League side in the opening 45 minutes.

An electric beginning to the second half from Klopp's side finally saw them take the lead in the 53rd minute, with Jordan Henderson's cross from the right taking a fortunate deflection off the foot of Estupinan and flying past Rulli at his near post.

Another arrived just two minutes later as a good passing move ended with Salah sliding a ball through to Mane, who prodded under the goalkeeper to make it 2-0 to the Reds.

The Yellow Submarine avoided further damage but have it all to do when the two meet again in the second leg at the El Madrigal next Tuesday.

What does it mean? Liverpool show patience to break through, again

Liverpool finally overcame a determined Everton in the Merseyside derby on Sunday, it was said to be perfect preparation for Villarreal, who were always going to come to Anfield to frustrate in the first leg.

That proved to be the case as, like with the Toffees, Villarreal kept Liverpool at bay in the first half, running down the clock, blocking all attacks and keeping their net unbothered.

However, the relentless Reds again managed to force a couple of second half goals, having had 19 shots in all, facing just one solitary effort from the visitors.

Thiago once again shines in the middle

The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich midfielder has been purring in Liverpool's midfield in recent games, and he was on form again here as he helped to dissect a stubborn opposition.

Thiago completed 99 of 103 passes (96.1 per cent), enjoying a fantastic pass completion percentage in the opposition's half of 94.1 from 68 attempts. He also made more interceptions than anyone (five) and gained possession 10 times in all.

More English misery for Yellow Submarine

Emery's men put up a brave fight but eventually succumbed to a strong and determined Liverpool team, and it maintained a poor record for Villarreal in England.

Since a 2-1 victory on Merseyside against Everton in August 2005, Villarreal have not managed to win any of their last nine away games in England in all competitions (drawn three, lost six), having also tasted defeat at Manchester United in the group stages earlier this season.

What’s next?

Liverpool travel to Newcastle United on Saturday as they resume their title chase in the Premier League, while Villarreal are away to Deportivo Alaves on the same day.

The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich midfielder has been purring in Liverpool's midfield in recent games, and he was on form again here as he helped to dissect a stubborn opposition.

Jurgen Klopp has made three changes to his starting line-up for Liverpool's Champions League semi-final first leg against Villarreal.

With his side having claimed a 2-0 Merseyside derby victory over Everton last time out, the German has looked to freshen things up in defence, midfield and attack.

As has become customary during two-game weeks this season, Ibrahima Konate comes into the centre of defence to replace Joel Matip.

In the centre of the park, the captain Jordan Henderson takes the place of Naby Keita.

And up top, January signing Luis Diaz joins Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, with Diogo Jota dropping to the bench.

Roberto Firmino is not among the substitutes as he recovers from injury, while Curtis Jones and Kostas Tsimikas are both out with illness.

Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Robertson, Fabinho, Thiago, Henderson, Salah, Mane, Diaz.

The Premier League has rearranged games involving Manchester City and Liverpool to set the final schedule for what promises to be an exciting title race.

Pep Guardiola's side are one point ahead of Jurgen Klopp's Reds at the top of the table with five league games remaining for both.

City's trip to face Wolves at Molineux, which was originally supposed to be played on the weekend of their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Liverpool, will take place on Wednesday, May 11.

Meanwhile, with Liverpool's involvement in the FA Cup final against Chelsea on Saturday, May 14, their away game at Southampton has now been set for Tuesday, May 17.

That means Jurgen Klopp's men will have to play two games in the final week of the campaign, with the last matchday scheduled for Sunday, May 22.

Reigning champions City still have to play Leeds United (a), Newcastle United (h), Wolves (a), West Ham (a) and Aston Villa (h).

Meanwhile, Liverpool's remaining games are against Newcastle (a), Tottenham (h), Aston Villa (a), Southampton (a) and Wolves (h).

WIth both teams also involved in the Champions League semi-finals, it promises to be an intense end to the season, especially for Liverpool, who can still win what would be an unprecedented quadruple.

Liverpool welcome Villarreal to Anfield on Wednesday and are heavy favourites in their Champions League semi-final tie.

Under Jurgen Klopp, the Reds have become one of the world's best teams. They have reached two Champions League finals, winning their sixth title in the competition in 2019, and followed that up with a maiden Premier League crown a year later. This season, their eyes are fixed firmly on an unprecedented quadruple – the EFL Cup is already theirs, they will face Chelsea in an FA Cup showdown next month and their race in the league with Manchester City is set to go to the wire.

Standing in Liverpool's way of a final against Manchester City or Real Madrid are, however, Unai Emery's Villarreal. While the Yellow Submarine will be considered underdogs, the reigning Europa League champions will be no pushovers.

Liverpool were frustrated for just over an hour by their relegation-threatened local rivals Everton in the Merseyside derby on Sunday, until Andy Robertson headed home and Divock Origi settled matters late on. They should be anticipating a similar test on Wednesday.

Yet whereas Everton are devoid of confidence or quality, Villarreal have both in abundance. They have already overcome European heavyweights in the form of Juventus and Bayern Munich, and will have home advantage in the second leg. They averaged just 35 per cent of possession across the two legs against the Bundesliga giants.

The last time these semi-finalists met was in the last four of the 2015-16 Europa League, and the two legs of this tie will come just a day under six years after each match in that previous fixture. Back in 2016, matters were rather different for Liverpool, who progressed 3-1 on aggregate, but went on to lose in the final to a Sevilla side coached by Emery.

It is fitting, then, that as Liverpool bid for European glory once more, a team that stood in the way of their first continental final under Klopp will try to prevent the Reds reaching a fourth with the German at the helm.

A remarkable turnaround

A quick glance at the team that started in the second leg of that 2016 tie, which Liverpool won 3-0 at Anfield, tells you the transformation that the Reds have gone through under Klopp has been dramatic.

Simon Mignolet started in goal, behind a back four of Nathaniel Clyne, the now-retired Kolo Toure, Dejan Lovren and Alberto Moreno (who might have been facing his former club for Villarreal if not for a serious knee injury sustained last month). Roberto Firmino and James Milner started, but they are the only two of that 18-strong squad that remain at Liverpool, and neither can be considered regular starters anymore.

Liverpool were convincing winners – racking up an xG of 3.8, producing 25 shots with 12 of those on target.

The team that take to the field on Wednesday will almost certainly feature a world-class goalkeeper in Alisson, one of Europe's best defenders in Virgil van Dijk, a Champions League-winning midfielder in Thiago Alcantara, two exceptional full-backs and, of course, a devilishly potent attacking trident, whichever three of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Diogo Jota or Luis Diaz line up. Firmino is unavailable.

Salah has returned to goalscoring form in timely fashion, after a relative dry spell. Only in 2017-18 (10) has he scored more Champions League goals in a single campaign than the eight he has netted this season, moving his tally for the club to 33. He is now just three behind both Didier Drogba and Sergio Aguero for the most goals scored in the competition for an English side.

For Klopp to take that Liverpool team back in 2015-16 to two finals (they lost on penalties in the EFL Cup to Manchester City that year) was, looking back, an extraordinary achievement, especially considering he only took over in October.

Since then, they have gone from strength to strength. In the Premier League, Klopp has won 162 of his 253 games (64 per cent), with his team scoring a remarkable 544 goals, and the German has averaged 2.15 points per game. He is building a true dynasty.

Emery to have his say?

"Unai's a world-class coach and is doing an incredible job," said Klopp in his pre-match news conference on Tuesday. And he is right, Emery – perhaps unfairly maligned during his stints at Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain – has been brilliant for Villarreal.

He could well have left for cash-rich Newcastle United earlier this season but elected to stay put, and Villarreal are, at least in Europe, reaping the rewards. Their shoot-out success against Manchester United in last season's Europa League final represented Emery's fourth triumph in UEFA's second-tier tournament, and he also took Arsenal to the final in 2018-19, losing to Chelsea.

Villarreal are not flying quite as high in LaLiga, though surely that can be forgiven. They sit seventh, having won their last two games, and still have hope of qualifying for European competition through the league, too.

Emery has taken on Klopp five times as a coach, winning the first meeting – that Europa League final back in 2016.

Klopp claimed victory in two of the three Premier League encounters with the Spaniard's Arsenal, with those victories being 5-1 and 3-1 respectively. The other league match was drawn 1-1, while Liverpool also beat Arsenal on penalties in the 2019-20 EFL Cup after a wild 5-5 draw.

Emery can feel hard done by that he was not given more time at PSG. His win percentage of 76 was the best of any coach during the QSI era, putting him above the likes of Carlo Ancelotti (64) and Thomas Tuchel (75). He succeeded in 87 of his 114 matches in charge and claimed seven trophies. Only Laurent Blanc (11) has won more silverware at PSG since 2011, while Emery's team scored 2.7 goals per game, with just Tuchel managing to match that.

Yet Emery's ability to get a side competing way beyond their expected level is what he is renowned for. His run of three successive Europa League titles with Sevilla was extraordinary, and he seems to be in a similar position at Villarreal.

Having to rebuild his reputation slightly after his spell at Arsenal, Emery has won 51 of 104 matches in all competitions (49 per cent), with Villarreal scoring 188 goals and conceding 101, keeping 37 clean sheets.

Emery's win percentage has not been beaten by any other Villarreal coach to have taken charge of 100 matches, while in Gerard Moreno, who has directly contributed to 60 goals during Emery's tenure, the Spanish side have a brilliant striker to call on.

Liverpool have, in many ways, come full circle with this tie, but the Villarreal they will face on this occasion have improved just as much, in relative terms, as Klopp's team have. It is set to be a fascinating tussle.

Erik ten Hag appears as though he will have a huge say over his own Manchester United transfer targets.

The Dutchman has inked a three-year deal at Old Trafford, with the option for a further year.

Ten Hag will officially take over on July 1, with Ralf Rangnick remaining in interim charge.

A face familiar to the Premier League could now be headed to Old Trafford with Ten Hag from Ajax…


TOP STORY - TEN HAG TO BRING HALLER TO UNITED

Manchester United may make a move for Ajax striker Sebastien Haller in the off-season according to The Sun.

Haller currently plays under ten Hag, who will take over at United at the end of the campaign.

The Ivory Coast striker, who spent two years with West Ham United, has netted 33 goals in all competitions for Ajax this term.

 

ROUND-UP

- Barcelona are optimistic that they can land Bayern Munich forward Robert Lewandowski in the off-season, reports Sport. Lewandowski is contracted with Bayern until 2023.

- Liverpool have contacted 22-year-old Monaco midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni about a move to England, claims Foot Mercato.

- Nicolo Schira claims that Inter are not interested in signing Bosnian midfielder Miralem Pjanic, contrary to reports. Pjanic is currently on loan at Besiktas from Barcelona.

- David de Gea and Manchester United are ready to enter into talks on a contract extension reports 90min.

- Fabrizio Romano claims that Luka Modric will ink a new deal with Real Madrid running until 2023.

Referee Stuart Attwell was correct not to award Everton a penalty in Sunday's Merseyside derby at Anfield, according to former Premier League official Mark Clattenburg.

Relegation-threatened Everton wanted a spot-kick when Liverpool's Joel Matip challenged Anthony Gordon in the area early in the second half when the game was goalless.

The claims were waved away, though replays suggested there was contact between the pair.

After the match, Gordon told Sky Sports that Matip had stepped on his foot, while Frank Lampard suggested that had the incident occurred at the other end of the pitch, and an Everton player had challenged Mohamed Salah, a spot-kick would have been awarded.

Everton have reportedly contacted the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) over the incident, while it has been reported that the Football Association (FA) have asked Lampard to explain his comments.

Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher said on Sky Sports that it was a "stonewall penalty" but suggested that Gordon, who had been booked for simulation earlier in the match, had to be careful not to build a reputation of being a diver.

Though Clattenburg disagrees that it was a penalty, he did echo Carragher's sentiments. 

"It's difficult because Gordon got cautioned early in the match," Clattenburg told Stats Perform. "I've watched him over the last months and he does go to ground a little bit too easy.

"And you don't prejudge things, you never prejudge things as a referee, however, it's in there as a doubt in your back of your mind that when a player goes down on the little contact, that you're probably not going to give him the benefit of the doubt.

"So he probably didn't get the benefit of the doubt on the second one after being cautioned earlier and a match for simulation.

"If he had a chance to stay on his feet, I think he could have had the chance and he took the option to go down and the contact's minimal. For me, I think the best decision was play on."

There have been 12 bookings for simulation in the Premier League this season and half of these have been given to Everton players, with three of those coming across their two meetings with Liverpool.

The Reds, meanwhile, have gone 46 Premier League matches without conceding a penalty. That is 22 more than the next-longest active run (Manchester City - 24).

Asked about Lampard's comments, Clattenburg said: "I think that's a perception of football fans. From a refereeing point of view, we just want to get the right decision.

"With the support of VAR, the problem that they have sometimes is if the referee does give the penalty, the VAR wouldn't overturn it, because he doesn't give the penalty. He doesn't overturn it and people think well, why? Where's the right decision?

"There's no right decision or wrong decision as to what the referee gave at that time and he believed that Gordon had tried to win his team a penalty. Lampard's going to be upset - he's a coach, it was a really tight game at that point 0-0 at the time, so he's going to be upset because Everton could have won the Merseyside derby, fighting for their lives at the bottom."

Unai Emery says Villarreal must try and "surf the wave of experience" they have gained when they do battle with the "best-ever Liverpool" for a place in the Champions League final.

Villarreal dumped out Serie A giants Juventus and Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich on a surprise run to the last four.

The Yellow Submarine travel to Anfield for the first leg on Wednesday plotting to tear up yet another script.

Villarreal beat Manchester United in the Europa League final last season and it would be an incredible story if they won Europe's premier club competition in Seville next month.

Emery rates Premier League title contenders Liverpool, who are eyeing an unprecedented quadruple, as the favourites to lift the trophy and knows his side are no longer a surprise package

The Villarreal head coach said at a pre-match news conference on Tuesday: "We face a bigger challenge than before. The surprise factor is no longer there. They are the number one favourites to win this competition.

"The team is a mirror of their coach, Jurgen Klopp, in terms of playing with joy, with enthusiasm. They are in the best moment.

"I remember my experiences against Liverpool [when he was Arsenal boss] at Anfield as challenging. I recognise the work done and the identity created by Klopp, which has since been further improved.

"I see that as an additional motivation for me, to try and beat the best-ever Liverpool. For that we will need to show our best version."

Emery says the LaLiga side must draw on the experience they have gained from their exploits in Europe.

He added: "We have been able to compete against big teams like Juve and Bayern, so they know it will be a tough game and will have to be 100 per cent and give it all at Anfield.

"Of course they will feel favourites as that is natural. It is an even higher difficulty than Juventus and Bayern Munich.

"We will try to surf the wave of experience we started accumulating last season."

Villarreal have not won in their previous eight matches in England, but their last victory came on Merseyside against Everton in August 2005.

Raul Albiol says reaching the Champions League final with Villarreal "would become a milestone in the history of football" as they prepare to take on Liverpool in the last four.

The Spanish club have already defied the odds by eliminating heavyweights Juventus and Bayern Munich en route to setting up a two-legged showdown with Liverpool.

Villarreal are up against English opponents for the fourth time out of their past five major European semi-final appearances.

That includes a 3-1 aggregate defeat to Liverpool at this stage of the 2015-16 Europa League, and they enter this latest encounter as underdogs despite their impressive run.

While aware of the size of the task that awaits his side, Villarreal skipper Albiol is eager to write his name in club folklore by keeping their European adventure alive.

"It would be a dream to play the Champions League final with Villarreal, a humble and hardworking team that has struggled to remain among the elite," he told UEFA's website.

"A club coming from a town with 50,000 inhabitants making it to the Champions League final would become a milestone in the history of football. 

"So, it would be something that not only Villarreal supporters would remember but many football lovers."

Albiol has won eight trophies at club level across an 18-year career, including the Europa League with Villarreal last season.

That ensured a place in this term's Champions League, and Villarreal have lost just two of their 10 matches thus far.

Reflecting on the past year, Albiol – a member of Spain's 2010 World Cup-winning squad – said: "The Europa League's helped us have these experiences in the Champions League. 

"They are not at the same level, but last year we started to be a competitive team in Europe and to know how to play in tough knockout rounds.

"I think that now, by eliminating Juve and Bayern, we have shown that the team has personality, knows how to suffer; we have come through in difficult moments.

"Winning the club's first European title was historic, but if we suffer defeat to Liverpool, it could be historic too. 

"So, we have to do our best during these two matches to try to do it; we have to give everything to write another chapter in history.

"If Villarreal got into the Champions final, it would be something historic for a club, and a village, such as Villarreal."

Villarreal are winless in their past eight trips to England in European competition, most recently losing 2-1 to Manchester United in the group stage seventh months ago.

Belief is high in the Yellow Submarine's camp, however, having also won back-to-back domestic matches to climb up to seventh in LaLiga.

"It reflects that with effort, dedication and team spirit, you can achieve great things – and that money and great players are not the only way to win titles," Albiol said. 

"In the end, we are a great group of players with a good level, who want to grow and improve, who work hard and spend many hours getting ready for every match with the staff. 

"We are now at that point in which we can believe."

Jurgen Klopp hailed Unai Emery as a "world-class coach" and vowed Liverpool will not underestimate Champions League semi-final opponents Villarreal.

The Reds are still in contention for an unprecedented quadruple and enter Wednesday's first leg with Villarreal at Anfield as strong favourites to advance to next month's final.

However, the Spanish club stunned Juventus in the last 16 and followed that up by eliminating a much-fancied Bayern Munich side in the quarter-finals.

Villarreal's domestic form has improved of late, meanwhile, having won back-to-back LaLiga games – against Getafe and Valencia – to move into seventh place.

Liverpool have progressed from nine of their previous 11 European Cup and Champions League semi-finals, but Klopp is taking nothing for granted against Emery's Villarreal.

"We are here because we got the results we needed," Klopp said at Tuesday's pre-match news conference.

"It's special to be part of the semi-final. It's a massive game. So many coaches and players work their socks off to be close to a semi-final, so we have to cherish it but enjoy it.

"We face a difficult opponent. They are made for this competition. The way they set up is really good.

"They may have had a little advantage where Juve and Bayern maybe underestimated them. That never happens with us, no chance of that. That advantage may have gone.

"They are a good football team that wants to make history. It would be the first time they would make the final, which is massive for them. But for us, it's the same importance."

Emery guided Sevilla to a 3-1 Europa League final win over Klopp's Liverpool in 2016 – one of 11 trophies he has won across an 18-year coaching career.

He took charge of Villarreal in July 2020 following a disappointing stint at Arsenal and guided the Yellow Submarine to Europa League glory last season.

"I have a lot of respect for Unai and Villarreal," Klopp added. "I've analysed them properly, and wow. Impressive.

"Unai is a detailed-obsessed manager who prepared for all different situations in a game. That's what his team executes. Different ways to press and react on different results.

"It's really, really impressive. Unai is a world-class coach and doing an incredible job there. The good thing about the analysis is we're not involved in those games.

"We must make life as difficult for them as possible. That's what we try to do over these two legs."

Liverpool beat Villarreal 3-1 on aggregate in their only previous European encounter, in the 2015-16 Europa League semi-final, with both teams winning their home leg.

Villarreal have not won any of their last eight away games on English soil, a run that includes a 2-1 Champions League group-stage defeat to Manchester United in September.

And Klopp will be looking to take a victory to Estadio de la Ceramica for next week's reverse fixture as Liverpool aim to make it a clean sweep of trophies this season.

"We have two halves to play. We know when we to go Villarreal, it will be an emotional atmosphere," Klopp said. "There are moments where we will suffer tomorrow.

"I know that already and that's what we have to be ready for. There's no need to be nervous, that's how it is. This advantage at home we have to use.

"Whichever result we will get, we will fight with it. It means everything to us to reach the Champions League final."

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