Venue – Villa Park, Birmingham
Referee – Jonathan Moss
Date & Time – Saturday, November 2nd @ 15:00
Current Odds – Aston Villa 8/1, Draw 4/1, Liverpool 33/100
Newly-promoted Aston Villa will be a very tough proposition for Liverpool at Villa Park this weekend. As Liverpool fans, we’re growing so used to winning in the league now we’re in danger of forgetting the grind and effort that has to go into it.
Both players and the manager give every last ounce they have, week in week out, to take us three points closer to our 19th league title. Saturday’s game in Birmingham will be no different. Take nothing for granted.
Aston Villa Form
Dean Smith’s side has already faced three of the Premier League’s ‘big six’ teams so they can be relatively content with being 15th in the table after a difficult opening few months to the season.
Villa have only lost one of their opening five home games in the league so far. That was a 2-1 defeat to Bournemouth on the second weekend of the campaign.
They’ve learned a lot since then and even had Manchester City worried with a 0-0 scoreline at half-time last Saturday.
Liverpool have played 15 games in all competitions this season. They’ve failed to win in only three of those games.
Defeat at Napoli in the Champions League, a 0-0 draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford and last Wednesday night’s incredible 5-5 draw with Arsenal in the League Cup (which Liverpool won on penalties) are the only flies in the ointment of 2019/20 so far.
Last Sunday saw The Reds completely dominate Spurs at Anfield after going behind to an opportunistic early header from Harry Kane. Liverpool showed they can bounce back, again.
At the risk of sounding like Brendan Rodgers, there is no lack of character in this squad. They’ll need it at Villa Park this weekend, too.
Aston Villa Team News
Jack Grealish is Villa’s only concern as he looks to recover from a calf injury. Villa’s number 10 has had a good season so far and, along with John McGinn, is probably Dean Smith’s most important player. I think he’ll make it back in time for Saturday’s game.
In recent weeks, Smith has been setting his side up in a 4-3-2-1 formation which, when out of possession, reverts back to a more conservative 4-1-4-1 shape.
Tom Heaton has been pretty solid in goals for Villa while Tyrone Mings and Bjorn Engels seem to have a good partnership at the heart of the defence.
The brilliantly-named Marvelous Nakamba is the midfield anchor with John McGinn and either Conor Hourihane or Douglas Luiz beside him. I think Hourihane will get the nod for this game.
The two attacking midfielders to link with the lone striker, Wesley, or Mahmoud Trezeguet and Jack Grealish.
Liverpool Team News
Nathaniel Clyne, Joel Matip and Xherdan Shaqiri are all out of Saturday’s fixture. Clyne won’t be back until February due to the ACL injury he suffered in pre-season. Matip reportedly won’t be available again for 5-6 weeks while Shaqiri’s ongoing calf issue continues to prevent him from getting any game-time.
Jurgen Klopp rested the bulk of his first-choice starting lineup for the Carabao Cup clash with Arsenal on Wednesday night.
Dejan Lovren is expected to keep his place in central defence alongside Virgil van Dijk in Matip’s absence.
Fabinho – one yellow card away from suspension – should be left out of this game to protect him for the Manchester City fixture the following weekend.
Gini Wijnaldum, therefore, will probably start in the ‘6’ role for Liverpool with Jordan Henderson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain making up the rest of the midfield triumvirate.
The front three should be at full strength – Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané.
Aston Villa XI (4-3-2-1) – Heaton; Guilbert, Engels, Mings, Targett; McGinn, Nakamba, Hourihane; Trezeguet, Grealish; Wesley
Liverpool XI (4-3-3) – Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, Van Dijk, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Henderson, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Salah, Firmino, Mané
WHEN THEY LAST MET
February 2016 was the last time Liverpool travelled to Villa Park. The Reds won 6-0 on that day, just months before Villa were relegated to the Championship. Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Roberto Firmino and Divock Origi are the only four players from the squad on that day who are still at LFC.
Aston Villa 0 – 2 Liverpool
This Liverpool team has learned to dig deep in the last few years under Jurgen Klopp. The so-called Mentality Monsters have lived up to the name on several occasions when the task before them has appeared too large.
Aston Villa may be newly-promoted but Dean Smith has his team structured and very well organised so far in the Premier League. Klopp’s men will know that this Villa Park fixture presents another difficult obstacle on the course to a potential Premier League title victory. They will overcome this one, too.