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On Sunday afternoon, Arnaut Danjuma sat on his couch to look at the Merseyside derby. Villarreal did not have a recreation on the weekend because of the Copa del Rey last, so it gave the Dutch winger an ideal alternative to look at Liverpool, the workforce he’ll face Wednesday of their Champions League semifinal, first leg.

To be clear, there was nothing Danjuma did not know already about Jurgen Klopp’s workforce: He is a type of gamers who’s a soccer fanatic in his free time as nicely. He simply loves the sport — loves enjoying it, watching it and speaking about it, however the principle motive he watches is to study. Find out about his opponents, study what different forwards do, study the right way to get higher and emulate different forwards. And, in doing so, the right way to get higher himself.

“I watch every part,” he tells ESPN. “I’m a fan to start out with and since I wish to turn out to be probably the greatest on the planet, watching a variety of soccer will enhance my expertise. Watching can train you a large number. I additionally do a variety of evaluation by myself video games. One hour on daily basis, I watch clips of myself in video games or coaching. I’ve a private striker coach, Antonio Rodriguez, working with me. We scrutinise every part collectively.

“In trendy soccer, it is not nearly your expertise. It is also about soccer intelligence and the quantity of labor you set in outdoors of the pitch. There’s a lot you’ll be able to study by simply watching your self again. After which, you additionally study rather a lot by watching your opponents.”

So on Sunday, his full focus was on Liverpool: how they performed, how they arrange, their patterns of play, their motion. There’s rather a lot to be impressed with in the case of Liverpool this season. Nevertheless, it is not the method that Danjuma or Villarreal are taking.

“One of the best ways of approaching this recreation is to method it in the identical as we did earlier than,” he stated. “We now have overwhelmed some European giants alongside the best way already, which is already an achievement and we’re all assured in our personal capacity. We should always hold doing what we have now been doing and imagine in our personal technique.”

The “Yellow Submarine” may have the identical mindset they’d in opposition to Juventus and Bayern Munich within the two earlier rounds. In each ties, they shocked everybody, not simply by getting by means of however by the best way they did it. Their journey to date on this competitors has been distinctive. They completed second in a gaggle with Manchester United, Younger Boys and Atalanta, charging their approach to the semifinals with large victories away at Atalanta to qualify for the last-16, in Turin in opposition to Juventus to guide their place within the quarterfinals, and at house in opposition to Bayern to defy all the chances over the 2 legs, eliminating the Bundesliga champions 2-1 on mixture.

“Possibly the remainder of the world did not count on us to get this far, however we have now all the time been assured,” Danjuma stated. “Our path to the semis was not simple, which makes it even higher, however you do not beat the groups we have now overwhelmed by coincidence, which is an effective signal for us earlier than going through Liverpool — one other big and probably the greatest golf equipment on the planet.”

“We confirmed in opposition to Juve and Bayern that it is not luck. We now have a technique — a mode of play. Juve and Bayern are two completely totally different groups. Juventus are probably the greatest defensive groups on the planet, whereas Bayern have a number of the finest forwards on the planet and play very attacking soccer. For us to have the ability to beat them confirmed our high quality and technique. With Liverpool, we all know what we are going to face.”

All weekend, Emery and his gamers labored on their tactical plan for the primary leg at Anfield on Wednesday. As soon as once more, they have been meticulous of their preparations: by means of video evaluation and reps on the coaching pitch, they have been getting ready what to do with the ball and with out the ball, in addition to the right way to attempt to pinpoint the weaknesses in Liverpool’s defence.

“Emery is particular: he is one of many fundamental the explanation why I got here to Villarreal,” Danjuma stated. “It is such a privilege to work underneath him as a coach. He’s so open with the gamers and I’m studying a lot from him. It’s actually pleasing to work with him. He is without doubt one of the finest. He’s totally different.”

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One among Emery’s largest achievements with Villarreal to date this season is the flexibility he has instilled in his gamers, which has given them confidence in opposition to any opponent.

“One among our fundamental strengths is to have the ability to execute what the supervisor desires in an virtually good method and play differently relying on the opponent,” Danjuma stated. “[Emery] is such an elite tactical coach to have. If you happen to execute his recreation plan, you’ve a fantastic likelihood of profitable no matter who the opponent is. We now have a lot in our locker. We will sit again and play on the counter. We will play with the ball and create. We will do every part.”

Their subsequent problem is arguably their hardest but in on this competitors. Liverpool not solely boast Klopp on the touchline, however a lineup wealthy with expertise like Mohamed Salah, Thiago, Sadio Mane and Alisson, in addition to the environment of Anfield’s Kop and the membership’s plain pedigree in Europe as one in all simply 4 golf equipment to win Europe’s prime membership competitors greater than 5 occasions.

“The 2 issues that amaze me [about Liverpool] are the extreme excessive press — they do this so nicely — and the excessive defensive position. As a ahead, it’s so nice to have a excessive defensive position behind you as a result of it retains you excessive up the pitch.”

After which there’s the determine of Virgil Van Dijk. Danjuma performs with him for the Netherlands and is aware of him nicely.

“I wish to play in opposition to the very best to show myself and check myself in opposition to the very best. That is why I play this recreation. Clearly enjoying in opposition to Virg might be particular for me as a result of he’s my captain within the nationwide workforce. Defensively, I do not suppose it will get any higher than him, however I wish to rank myself in opposition to the very best. I feel I’ve proven to date in my profession that I may cause some injury. I’ve to maintain doing it and be constant, so I am wanting ahead to a recreation in opposition to somebody of his profile.”

Is it higher to play in opposition to a good friend and somebody nicely — and who is aware of you nicely — or not?

“It is a good query! I do not know. A striker vs. defender battle is sort of a recreation of chess. You must keep unpredictable.”

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There’s one other poignant notice for Danjuma as this week marks his first return to England as a participant, lower than a 12 months after leaving Bournemouth and the Championship for Villarreal.

“England represents nice recollections for me. It seems like a homecoming,” he stated. “I had two superb years there. It made me extra mature, I developed rather a lot and it took me to the place I’m proper now.

“For me, the Premier League will all the time be totally different than the remainder of the world. It’s the finest league, and also you wish to compete there. The environment within the stadiums are so particular too. It was a privilege to play there and all the time particular to return again.”

At 25, that is arguably the most important recreation of his profession. There might be many extra to return, too, whether or not as a Villarreal participant or suiting up some place else. After only one season at la Ceramica, he is attracting curiosity from the most important golf equipment in Europe. Paris Saint-Germain are large followers; Danjuma additionally impressed Manchester United when he performed them this season and was excellent. He is nonetheless valued extremely in England, in fact, and in Italy. If he comes up large in opposition to Liverpool, count on many extra golf equipment to take a seat up and take discover.

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