Saturday 11th December
KO: 15:00 GMT
Aston Villa travel to Liverpool in what will be a momentous occasion for recently appointed manager, Steven Gerrard.
The former Reds captain played an astonishing 710 times, scoring 186 goals from midfield and he is the only player in the club’s history to appear in Liverpool’s top five for both appearances and goals scored. Not to mention the plethora of trophies won, most notably the Champions League in the 2004-2005 season as he helped lead the team back from 3-0 down to beat a strong A.C. Milan side in Istanbul.
Whilst it would be foolish to assume that Gerrard will not feel an emotional attachment on the day, his comments following the recent win against Leicester City signalled his focus and plan to try and get something from his return and to keep up the recent up-turn in Villa’s form.
Villa were impressive against The Foxes after a good start from Brendan Rodgers side and overcame a 1-0 deficit with a double of sorts from defender Ezri Konsa.
The second half performance in particular was full of energy and endeavour and consequently, Villa are fifth in the Premier League table based on second half performances.
Whilst many will call this a ‘free hit’ against an obviously world-class side, Villa will be confident following three wins and a solitary defeat in which they still impressed against Manchester City.
Liverpool come into the game in second place and only one point behind leaders Manchester City.
Jurgen Klopp’s men have impressed with their ever-energetic style and the depth in their squad has seen them ground out results in some of their closer games. This was emphasised at the weekend as they won on the road against Wolves with a 94th minute winner from Divock Origi.
This week saw them also become the first English side to win all six of their Champions League group games with a 2-1 win away to A.C. Milan.
Home and away form shows Liverpool (home) in fourth place with 4 wins and 3 draws from their 7 games at Anfield and subsequently 15 points. They have scored 18 and only conceded 5 times at home so far. Aston Villa (away) see themselves in 15th having picked up 6 points having won only two of seven on their travels. Their goal difference is -6 having scored 7 and conceded 13 however they will be boosted by winning their last away game 2-1 at Selhurst Park against Crystal Palace.
Last season saw Aston Villa produce one of the most incredible results in Premier League history as they defeated Livepool at home 7-2 courtesy of an Ollie Watkins hat trick, a brace for Jack Grealish and further goals from John McGinn and Ross Barkley.
The reverse fixture saw Liverpool win 2-1 as they came from behind following an Ollie Watkins goal just before half time with goals from Mohamed Salah and a last minute winner from Trent Alexander-Arnold.
In between the two league was an F.A. Cup tie that made the headlines for Villa having to play a youthful side due to a COVID outbreak within the first team.
A spirited performance saw Villa’s youngsters lose 4-1 despite social media and betting companies predicted double figures! The game will be remembered for Louie Barry racing through to score an equaliser against a side that contained several first team regulars.
Liverpool Team News
Diogo Jota will be likely to miss out with a muscular injury with Jurgen Klopp confirming he would only return to training yesterday.
Nat Phillips (fractured cheekbone), Adrian (calf), Curtis Jones (eye) and Harvey Elliott (ankle) will all be unavailable whilst Roberto Firmino continues to recover from a hamstring injury and will return within the next fortnight.
Possible starting line up:
Alisson, Robertson, Van Dijk, Matip, Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, Henderson, Thiago, Salah, Mane, Origi
Aston Villa Team News
Villa continue to be without Egyptian winger Trezeguet who continues his recovery from an ACL tear but in positive news, he scored as he played a part in an U23 fixtures against Birmingham City.
Bertrand Traore and Leon Bailey will both be absent with thigh injuries.
Steven Gerrard did reveal in his pre-match press conference that Danny Ings has been training and will be contesting a place over the busy period coming up.
Possible starting line up:
Martinez, Targett, Mings, Konsa, Cash, Nakamba, Douglas Luiz, McGinn, Ramsey, Buendia, Watkins
Liverpool have scored 44 goals this season, nine clear of the second most scored in Manchester City. 32 goals have come from open play, 8 from set pieces, 3 have been attributed to a counter attack and they also have scored a solitary penalty.
Defensively, they have conceded only 12 goals with 7 from open play, 3 from set pieces, and a single goal from both a counter attack and a penalty.
They are fairly balanced in attack but have a slight tendency to attack down the right hand side more often with 40% of attacks coming from the right, 32% from the left hand side and 28% from the middle of the park.
In regards to shots at goal, Liverpool have had 30% from outside the box with 59% inside the 18 yard box and 11% within the 6 yard box.
Liverpool have scored the majority of their goals towards the end of each half with 43% coming in the last 15 minutes of the first or second half.
In contrast, they have conceded 42% of their goals between the 61st and 75th minute.
Mo Salah is the top scorer with 13 goals and 9 assists from 15 Premier League games meaning he has contributed to 50% of the total goals scored by Liverpool.
One to watch:
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Mo Salah is today’s player to watch due all-round brilliance on the ball and his clear danger in front of goal.
A world-class player that would walk into any side in the world, even during quieter games he can create something from nothing and has an incredible record at Anfield.
In 224 competitive appearances, he has scored 145 for Liverpool with 56 assists.
He has been an ever-present this season playing every minute of the Premier League and the Villa defence will need to be switched on and concentrating throughout.
Last week’s last minute win over Wolves was clear evidence of how one moments lapse can be the catalyst for conceding as the Egyptian controlled a long ball and played in Divock Origi to score the only goal of the game.
Head to Head record:
Liverpool 98 wins, 40 Draws, Aston Villa 59 wins
Last five meetings:
10 Apr 2021 – Liverpool 2-1 Aston Villa (Premier League)
08 Jan 2021 – Aston Villa 1-4 Liverpool (F.A. Cup – Third Round)
04 Oct 2020 – Aston Villa 7-2 Liverpool (Premier League)
05 Jul 2020 – Liverpool 2-0 Aston Villa (Premier League)
17 Dec 2019 – Aston Villa 5-0 Liverpool (League Cup – Fifth Round)
AVILLAFAN MATCH PREDICTION
This will be a really difficult tie and it will be interesting to see how the system that Steven Gerrard employs will stand up to a fantastic Liverpool team who can beat anybody in the world on their day with style.
It will be a further learning opportunity for Gerrard and his backroom staff but I feel it could be a bit too much of an ask against a side that could conceivable win the Premier League and/or Champions League.
Liverpool 3-1 Aston Villa
Tip of the day
If you back the score prediction, the 3-1 win for Livepool is available at around 17/2 currently.
Liverpool win – 2/9
Draw – 11/2
Aston Villa win – 10/1
Ollie Watkins enjoyed playing Liverpool last season, scoring four times across the two games and you can get him to score first or last at 11/1.
Sadio Mane has scored more goals against Villa than any other team and you can get Watkins and Mane to both score anytime at 11/1.
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