ASTON VILLA VS LIVERPOOL: PREVIEW
The Premier League is all set to resume following the World Cup break. Liverpool travel to Villa Park on Boxing Day for a tough test against Unai Emery’s Aston Villa outfit, with the Reds aiming to make up lost ground. Here’s the match preview.
Defeat to City on Thursday night hurt, but it’s time for Jürgen Klopp and his side to pick themselves up and go again. That League Cup loss means the club has one less competition to focus on for the rest of the season.
For the next few weeks, the attention will solely be on the Premier League and the seven point gap to fourth place. It is imperative the Reds restart the league campaign on the right note as they have already left themselves with a lot to do.
They must take the positives from Thursday night’s defeat (they did after all go to to toe with City despite a raft of big names not being available) and move forward. Van Dijk, Konaté, Alexander-Arnold, Firmino, Jota and Diaz were all absent.
The likes of Fabinho, Henderson and Keita meanwhile were restricted to substitute appearances. The manager can at least call upon a stronger team for the trip to Villa but will hope his side cut out the poor defending they showcased at the Etihad.
The first and last of City’s goals were from crosses into the box, and it was quite evident just how vulnerable the Reds looked aerially in the absence of Van Dijk. Gomez was too easily beaten by Haaland for the first and was generally underwhelming.
A few big names returning to the lineup and more clinical finishing up top (hi Darwin) should see Jürgen Klopp’s men hopefully get the required result on Boxing Day. It certainly won’t be handed on a silver platter, with Villa Park usually a tough ground.
Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard was relieved of his duties as Villa boss in late October after a string of bad results. Former Sevilla, Arsenal and Villarreal head coach Unai Emery was announced as his replacement a few weeks later and the Spaniard has already gotten to work imprinting his ideas on the squad.
The Villains have won both league games under Emery, with the ‘new manager bounce’ taking full effect. Both victories were impressive as well, with Manchester United convincingly beaten 3-1 at Villa Park, before an equally impressive come from behind 2-1 win at Brighton.
They did get knocked out of the League Cup at Old Trafford however, despite twice taking the lead in the tie. They currently sit 12th in the Premier League table and Emery will be working tirelessly to improve the side and climb up the table.
Games against sides coached by Emery are never easy. The Reds have recent experience of that having come up against his Villarreal side in the semi final of the Champions League last season. Estadio de la Ceramica was rocking for the second leg and Klopp’s men had to really dig deep to get over the line.
We can expect a similar atmosphere and effort on Boxing Day. It will be up to the Reds to stand up in the face of that pressure and deliver the goods. Ex-Liverpool striker Danny Ings has scored 4 goals in 5 appearances since Steven Gerrard left the club.
This after going 7 games without a goal under the Scouser. The Englishman has returned from the break looking sharp as well, bagging a brace against Brighton and Hove Albion in a friendly a fortnight ago. He will be the main threat.
The most recent meeting was back in May, with goals by Matip and Mané ensuring a comeback victory. Perhaps the most memorable trip to Villa Park in recent memory was the late late show in the title winning season when Sadio Mané once again proved to be the match winner.
There was the freak 7-2 defeat two years ago but that was pretty much an outlier. Since that thrashing, Liverpool have won all four meetings against Villa. A fifth successive win will be just what the doctor ordered.
Alisson and Van Dijk are expected to return to the side after being left out of League Cup duty. Alexander-Arnold is also expected to be fit after a bout of illness. Konaté remains unavailable however (he returns to Merseyside on Monday), whilst Milner is ruled out with a hamstring injury.
Firmino misses out again with a calf injury whereas Curtis Jones is closing in on a return to training. This game comes too early for him though. The trio of Arthur Melo, Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz are long term absentees.
For Villa, goalkeeper Emi Martinez is unavailable as he continues to soak up the celebrations with the Argentine national team. Backup keeper Robin Olsen should be fit to deputise if he passes a late fitness check.
Ex-Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho is back in training after recovering from a thigh injury but youngster Jacob Ramsey is out with a hamstring injury.
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