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Villarreal's Unai Emery sees a real 'improvement' at Liverpool, names one player as a 'major factor' for it

Villarreal boss Unai Emery sees one player at Liverpool as a ‘major factor’ in their recent improvement. The Reds host his side tonight.

Liverpool host Villarreal tonight in a UEFA Champions League semi-final and there’s no getting around the fact that the Reds are major favourites. It’s a shock that they’re up against Villarreal, in fact, as Unai Emery’s side had to beat both Juventus and Bayern Munich on their way.

They’ve managed it, though, and set up this tie with Liverpool. Can they make it a hattrick of giant killings? It feels unlikely, of course, but Emery has his opponents well scouted.

The Spaniard sees where Liverpool have improved, believing Jurgen Klopp has his team working the ball better than ever. One particular player is a ‘major factor’ in that.

“Liverpool are known for running and recovering the ball in high areas but now they also have options to make combination passing moves, with Thiago [Alcantara] and [Sadio] Mané playing much more inside,” said Emery, per Sky Sports.

“Signing Luis Diaz is a major factor for this improvement.”

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We’d go along with that. Thiago’s incredible form has played a huge part in Liverpool progressing and keeping the ball so well, of course. Diaz’s arrival has only improved things, though, particularly in allowing Mané to play more centrally.

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In fact, we can’t quite get over just how good Mané has been in that False 9 role. He’s doing absolutely everything Liverpool want from him, be it playmaking or scoring goals. Honestly, he could yet rival Mohamed Salah as Player of the Year.

Diaz’s seamless integration allowed for that move. No one expected the Colombian to break into Liverpool’s first-team this season but it was clear after about six weeks that he was a perfect fit. He’s capable of delivering the style of player they want on that left flank, giving Mané a license to play centrally.

As Emery points out, it all adds a new dimension to Klopp’s Liverpool side. And it’s a dimension that could see them control their Champions League semi-final.

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