Aston Villa v Liverpool - The Premier League Preview
Liverpool are now back in match action and will be looking for a far better performance than the one we witnessed during the 3-2 loss to Manchester City in midweek. That Carabao Cup tie was wholly insignificant, with Jurgen Klopp’s ambitions solely focused on a top four finish and a prosperous Champions League run, but a loss is always a tough moment for any squad.
This coming Boxing Day will represent the second consecutive day of mass cooking for me, whilst our reds travel to the midlands for an intriguing battle with Aston Villa. The ambitious club currently sit 12th in the Premier League, with a disappointing 18 points from 15 games played. Their final three games before the World Cup were a mixture of fortunes, as a 4-0 loss at Newcastle was followed by a 3-1 win at home to Manchester United, before they rounded off their first half of the season with a 2-1 away victory against Brighton.
Steven Gerrard saw his rather brief spell as Villa boss come to and end in late October, with Unai Emery taking over shortly afterwards. The visit of Liverpool will represent his third league game in charge, with a desire to continuing his winning start. Villa could jump as high as seventh (with a win), therefore we can expect a very resilient team built to frustrate the Reds.
On the home side’s availability front, Diego Carlos, Boubacar Kamara and Philippe Coutinho are all missing, with varying return dates. Emiliano Martínez will be back next week, after his World Cup win with Argentina allowed him extended leave. With a likely 4-4-1-1 system incorporated, Robin Olsen should start in goal with Lucas Digne, Matty Cash, Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konsa the likely defensive four in front.
The midfield will probably see Douglas Luiz retained, with Jacob Ramsey, John McGinn and perhaps Leander Dendoncker. Up front should see Danny Ings face off against his old club, with Emi Buendía playing just off him. Leon Bailey has an outside chance of starting this one, however a more robust midfield and sole striking system is more likely.
For Liverpool, there has to be a vast improvement from their last outing. Though their last two games ended in victory (3-1 at home to Saints & 2-1 away to Spurs), the league game prior (to those victories) saw a disastrous 2-1 home loss to Leeds. Though form is clearly in the games since, there’s still an uneasy feeling about this next group of games.
In terms of who can and will start, Alisson Becker should be back in goal, with Virgil van Dijk set to be recalled also. Joel Matip will be his partner at centre half. Both Trent Alexander Arnold and Andy Robertson will resume in their familiar fullback spots. Ibrahima Konate should be back team training next week, with an extended break due France’s run to the World Cup final.
In midfield Jurgen Klopp will be without James Milner, Curtis Jones & Arthur Melo through injury. Thiago Alcantara will start alongside Fabinho and the skipper, Jordan Henderson. Harvey Elliott & Naby Keita will be backing them up from the bench alongside Fabio Carvalho. Alex Oxlade Chamberlain could well be the starting left forward after his decent cameo there in the week. With Roberto Firmino, Luis Diaz & Diogo Jota are all injured and Fabio Carvalho underwhelming, it’s not a tantalizing choice. Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez will complete the three man attack.
This is must win territory for Liverpool, and Emery will know that his side will be put under some huge pressure from the off. With a deep and organised block employed, counter attacks (via Danny Ings) will be the home sides main threat.
The away team will be hoping that their experienced players can push them to a positive result, with Klopp pushing this rather limited group of players over the coming weeks. A good run can make all the difference in the reds inconsistent season and they will want to start quickly. I get the sense Darwin will be looking to make an impression here, therefore his performance could be the difference between the sides.
Player to watch – Darwin Nunez
Aston Villa 1 – 2 Liverpool