Venue – Villa Park, Birmingham
Referee – Craig Pawson
Date & Time – Friday, January 8th @ 19:45
Current Odds – Aston Villa 23/10, Draw 14/5, Liverpool 21/20
The last place Jürgen Klopp’s Redmen will want to visit in their current jaded state is Villa Park. Liverpool were demolished 7-2 there back in October in the Premier League. It was a freak result where The Reds had what many of us would now consider a full-strength team out – complete with Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez in central defence. Alisson and Sadio Mane were the only first-team starters who were missing that day.
Klopp will be fielding a completely different starting eleven on Friday on account of this being an FA Cup fixture. Yet, the German boss knows another defeat – especially another heavy defeat – could have serious repercussions for this squad over the coming weeks. It’s not going to be easy and it probably won’t be pretty from a Liverpool point of view. Let’s hope I’m wrong with my score prediction.
Aston Villa Form
Aston Villa were unlucky to lose at Old Trafford in their last fixture. Before that, they had gone five games undefeated, winning three of those matches.
Villa are currently 8th in the Premier League with two games in hand on Liverpool. Dean Smith has done a fantastic job at Villa Park and they are widely considered to be the most-improved top-flight team of the season.
Liverpool have not won in three games and managed just two victories in their last seven in all competitions.
Jürgen Klopp’s men are also struggling to hit the target with just one goal in their last three matches.
With the injuries and intense schedule to deal with, it’s unclear if Liverpool can come out of this season with any silverware. Progression in the FA Cup won’t be high on Klopp’s list of priorities though.
Aston Villa Team News
Ross Barkley is doubtful for this game while Trézéguet and Wesley are both out through injury.
Dean Smith may opt to rest Jack Grealish, Ollie Watkins, John McGinn, Tyrone Mings and others. This means potential starts for Conor Hourihane, Keinan Davis, Marvelous Nakamba and Ahmed El Mohamady.
Aston Villa will stick with their 4-3-3 formation for this one.
Liverpool Team News
Liverpool are without Diogo Jota, Kostas Tsimikas, Joël Matip, Naby Keïta, Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez.
Thankfully, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Thiago Alcântara are both back fit and available for selection.
Caoimhin Kelleher will probably get the nod to start in goals for the FA Cup fixtures.
Neco Williams is likely to come in at right-back instead of Trent Alexander-Arnold while I think Jürgen Klopp will have to play James Milner at left-back to save Andy Robertson’s legs.
Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams may be used as the centre-back pairing to give Fabinho a break too.
In midfield, Thiago might start as he continues his road back to 100% fitness and gets up to match speed. Expect Curtis Jones and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to also play, forming the trio in the centre of the pitch.
The front three will probably consist of Xherdan Shaqiri, Takumi Minamino and Divock Origi.
Aston Villa XI (4-3-3) – Heaton; Guilbert, El Mohamady, Hause, Taylor; Ramsey, Nakamba, Hourihane; Traoré, Davis, El Ghazi
Liverpool XI (4-3-3) – Kelleher; Williams N, Phillips, Williams R, Milner; Thiago, Jones, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Shaqiri, Minamino, Origi
WHEN THEY LAST MET
Do we really have to talk about it? Liverpool were treated to an early-Halloween horror show when they played at Villa Park in the Premier League in October. The hosts destroyed Jürgen Klopp’s men, winning 7-2 on the night.
Ollie Watkins scored a first-half hat-trick for The Villans while John McGinn, Ross Barkley and Jack Grealish (x2) scored the others. Mohamed Salah bagged a brace for Liverpool on a rare night to forget in Klopp’s reign.
Last season, Aston Villa beat a very young Liverpool side 5-0 in the League Cup while The Reds’ first-team squad was in Doha for the FIFA Club World Cup tournament.
The last time the teams met in the FA Cup was the 2015 semi-final at Wembley. Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool lost 2-1 on the day. Philippe Coutinho put The Reds in front but goals from Christian Benteke and Fabian Delph saw Villa progress to the final where they lost 4-0 to Arsenal.
ASTON VILLA 2 – 0 LIVERPOOL
There’s no doubt Jurgen Klopp will have his sights firmly sight on winning either a 20th Premier League title or 7th Champions League. The FA Cup will be used to heavily rotate the playing squad. That’s why I believe Aston Villa – a team who I would consider to have a great chance of winning the cup outright – will beat Liverpool on Friday night.