It has been fifteen long weeks since Barclays Premier League football has graced the wonderful Villa Park pitch but today it returns in front of a bumper crowd who will be bouncing from the first minute to the last. Having won at The Emirates and controversially tasted defeat at Stamford Bridge earlier in the week, the optimism at the club is the highest it has been for a number of years – and with good reason too.
A young, emerging and vibrant team has taken to the new season like a duck to water and the players look as though they could challenge any team, home or away, for the full 90 minutes, cause for concern if you were Brendan Rogers. Counter-attacking that is reminiscent of the O’Neill days and a positive goal difference despite trips to Arsenal and Chelsea have seen Villa silence many critics and be tipped by some to be the dark horses this season.
So, on to the game today against a Liverpool side who are looking to challenge for the top four again after failing to reach the top six in any of the last four seasons. Expectancy at Liverpool is always high, with fans bemoaning the fact that they have never won the Premier League, and this normally brings them to their catchphrase: “This year will be our year!”
Without Luis Suarez, many fans are relying on Daniel Sturridge to get the goals to fire the Reds up the table but should the forward become injured then Liverpool could struggle until the diminutive Uruguayan returns; that’s if he does, of course!
This team has started the season with a bang! Benteke is doing what he does best and I suppose the most promising sign this season is that the defence looks a lot more solid than last season; for a start, they conceded 6 fewer than last season at Chelsea.
With Ciaran Clark going off injured on Wednesday night with a nasty gash to the head, it was a chance for summer signing Jores Okore to impress the watching management and try and make that centre back spot his own. Pace, power, dominance and a good ability to read the game were all attributes of Okore’s commented on after the game and I fully expect him to retain his place this weekend. Yacouba Sylla will be pressing Karim El Ahmadi hard for that third centre midfield spot but, with Lambert declaring his admiration for the Moroccan midfielder during the week, he is expected to keep his place for the third straight game.
The Opposition – Liverpool
Liverpool started the campaign with a hard-fought 1-0 home win over Stoke City in a game which was ultimately a battle of the keepers, with Mignolet coming out of it as the hero. A last gasp penalty save from Jonathan Walters secured the three points for Brendan Rodgers’ side and ensured that they started the season in winning style.
Many Liverpool fans will be eagerly awaiting September 2nd, as long as it means that Luis Suarez is still at the club. However, if he is to go then surely fans and club officials alike would want it to happen soon so they can reinvest the money in new players they feel could fill the Uruguayan’s shoes.
Kick Off: 5:30pm
Venue: Villa Park
Tickets: Extremely limited availability: seats only available in upper Doug Ellis in block P8. (When this article was published)
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Last Season: Aston Villa 1-2 Liverpool