Aston Villa face a difficult trip to Anfield to face Liverpool on Saturday as we look to keep our hopes of European qualification alive.
It was a memorable occasion the last time these two sides met in the Premier League, with Villa securing a stunning 7-2 win at Villa Park.
Naturally, Dean Smith will be hoping his side can recreate the performance from that night, while the reigning champions will be looking to bounce back after defeat in Europe in midweek.
Having secured a much-needed morale boost last time out with a win over Fulham after a poor run of form, Villa will undoubtedly go into this showdown with a bit more confidence, and it’s hoped that we’ll produce a performance that gives us an opportunity to return home with all three points.
The Merseyside giants sit just two places and five points above us in the standings with Villa having played one less game, and so it’s an important outing as we try to climb the table and put ourselves in a position to qualify for Europe.
It’s been a problematic year for the Reds, as they’ve lost their last six home league games and have failed to score in six of their last seven at Anfield. It’s a good time for Villa to visit Merseyside, but time will tell if they can get a result.
Kelleher, Van Dijk, Gomez, Matip, Henderson and Origi are all expected to miss out for the hosts, with Jurgen Klopp having to cope with long-term absentees due to injury.
As for Villa, there is uncertainty over the status of captain Jack Grealish as while he had been tipped to return against Fulham, he wasn’t even named in the matchday squad after suffering a setback.
In turn, he’s questionable for this one while Wesley will be missing too and there are doubts over Kortney Hause’s involvement.
In terms of changes, Smith will no doubt go with his preferred backline but there are decisions to be made in midfield and attack. Trezeguet scored a brace off the bench last week to turn the game around and so he could come in for Anwar El Ghazi, while Keinan Davis staked his claim for a bigger role too.
However, given the opposition, it’s arguably more likely that Smith goes with the system he knows well and so a 4-2-3-1 could be deployed again instead of a possible 4-4-2, with John McGinn in a more advanced role while Marvelous Nakamba could be in contention to offer more defensive solidity in midfield ahead of Morgan Sanson.
PREDICTED LIVERPOOL XI (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Phillips, Kabak, Robertson; C. Jones, Fabinho, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane.
PREDICTED XI (4-2-3-1): Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett; Douglas Luiz, Sanson; Traore, McGinn, Trezeguet; Watkins.
Keeping Liverpool’s front three quiet will naturally be a crucial factor and so our defence, which has impressed all season, must keep things tight and not allow Salah and Mane in particular to get in behind.
As seen against Real Madrid in midweek though, Liverpool do look vulnerable to the ball over the top themselves and so Ollie Watkins will no doubt be looking to exploit that weakness if he gets the right service with his pace and energy.
However, this game could come down to who controls the midfield battle and ultimately gains a foothold in the encounter. Villa’s balance of solidity, creativity and energy will hopefully see them overrun Liverpool in that department, and that will certainly give us a real chance of securing all three points.