Liverpool’s Spanish midfield genius Xabi Alonso today said that Everton will have a really difficult job to get past Villareal in the Champions League qualifiers, and that he feels sorry for the blue side of the city.
Xabi reckons that Villareal are possibly one of the most difficult teams Everton could have been drawn against. He said: "I actually feel sorry for Everton in drawing Villarreal. It is going to be very difficult for them to go through now because they are a very strong Spanish team, with a lot of experience."
Villarreal finished third in last season’s Spanish League, with only the two giants of Barcelona and Real Madrid ahead of them. Xabi says Villarreal are upbeat in preparation for the match: "I know that Villarreal’s players are very confident that they will do great work in the Champions League this season. The best team will prevail in that tie, but from Everton’s point of view I think they need to take close care of Juan Roman Riquelme. If he is allowed to play with freedom, Villarreal will create many opportunities to score."
Alonso warned Everton of another couple of players they need to watch out for: "With players like Diego Forlan and Jose Mari in their side, you can’t afford to give them chances. Stopping Riquelme is going to be the key to success for Everton."
Liverpool need to beat the champions of Lithuania tonight to get through to their own third-round qualifier. Liverpool would play CSKA Sofia or KF Tirana if they got through.
Liverpool are already ahead 3-1 from the first leg, meaning that Kaunas have to score three times to knock Liverpool out. Alonso feels confident of a victory, although he’s still full of respect for their opponents: "I hope that Kaunas aren’t capable of scoring twice at Anfield but you must never take matters for granted in football. That’s why we have to be serious from the first kick, keep the ball and try to grab an early goal. If we manage to do that, we shouldn’t have too many problems."
He continued: "We are playing at home with a two-goal advantage, so I am totally confident that we’ll beat them – but we have to be prudent. From the start we must take the match seriously and take control of things and if we play to our potential, I’m confident we will win the second leg handsomely."