Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp called for bravery from his players if they are to overcome Villarreal to reach the Europa League final and maintain their hopes of Champions League football next season.
Klopp’s men produced a sensational second-half comeback from 3-1 down to beat his old side Borussia Dortmund 4-3 at Anfield to reach the last four.
However, the German warned against complacency as, despite their lack of European pedigree compared to the English giants, Villarreal are enjoying a great season.
They sit fourth in La Liga behind perennial powerhouses Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.
“We have to play brave football,” Klopp told UEFA.com.
“We are now in the semi-finals. We got there because we deserved it, and now we have to show we are strong enough to go through.
“They are having a wonderful season, they are a wonderful club in a small city.
“It is clear there are a lot of smart people behind their success.”
Klopp will be without a number of players crucial to Liverpool’s upturn in fortunes over recent weeks.
French defender Mamadou Sakho didn’t travel to Spain on Wednesday as he awaits the result of a UEFA investigation into an alleged failed doping test.
Emre Can, Divock Origi and captain Jordan Henderson are also sidelined by injury.
The build-up to the game has been overshadowed by the ruling that the 96 Liverpool fans that died at the Hillsborough tragedy 27 years ago were unlawfully killed in the biggest inquest in English legal history.
Villarreal have announced they will mark the decision with a tribute to the victims before the game.
However, once the action gets underway, the Yellow Submarine are intent on causing an upset to reach their first ever Cup final.
“Maybe Liverpool could be considered favourites because of their history as a club,” said Villarreal coach Marcelino.
“But we don’t consider ourselves in any way inferior to them and we think we can beat a team as legendary as Liverpool.”
It is 10 years since Villarreal came excruciatingly close to reaching the Champions League final against English opposition as Jens Lehmann saved Juan Roman Riquelme’s last-minute penalty to send Arsenal to the final 1-0 on aggregate.
However, Marcelino believes having almost sealed their place in next season’s Champions League already through La Liga, his players have no pressure on them to reach the final.
“The context is similar (to 10 years ago), but we are convinced that we can eliminate Liverpool,” he added.
“It is a privilege to play this semi-final. There was much more pressure in the previous ties and now we have a great chance to make history in this club.”
– Good memories –
Sevilla continue their quest to win a third consecutive Europa League in the other semi-final when they travel to face Shakhtar Donetsk in the first leg in Ukraine.
The match will be played in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv as Shakhtar have defied their exile from war-torn Donetsk to reach the last four.
“We fully respect them and we know the difficulties they will pose,” said Sevilla midfielder Vicente Iborra.
“They are an experienced team with a mixture of Ukrainians and Brazilians, they are quick and have the quality to surprise us.”
Sevilla have good memories of facing Shakhtar as an amazing stoppage-time equaliser from goalkeeper Andres Palop sent their last-16 tie into extra time before the Spaniards went on to win the competition in 2007.
“Hopefully, the luck that helped Sevilla in 2007 will be on our side this time,” said Shakhtar boss Mircea Lucescu.
Europa League semi-final, first leg fixtures on Thursday (1905 GMT)
At Lviv, Ukraine
Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR) v Sevilla (ESP)
At Vila-real, Spain
Villarreal (ESP) v Liverpool (ENG)
– Agence France-Presse