Liverpool will be hoping to continue their push for a top four finish when they welcome Aston Villa to Anfield on Saturday.
Gameweek 31 of the 2020/21 Premier League season is underway and on Saturday, the reigning champions will be in action. Liverpool will be aiming to return to winning ways when they play hosts to Aston Villa at Anfield.
For Liverpool, 2020/21 is a campaign that has gone pear-shaped quite terribly. While they seemed to be in contention for the title yet again, the Reds have gone tumbling down the table since the turn of the year and are now vying for a place in the top four. Their campaign in the UEFA Champions League is also delicately poised after their 3-1 loss to Real Madrid earlier this week.
Aston Villa, on the other hand, have put the nightmares of last season behind them. No longer are the Villans battling to retain their Premier League status. Instead, Dean Smith & co. are set to finish the campaign in the top half of the standings and are currently placed 9th, with 44 points on the board.
The reverse fixture, played at Villa Park back in October, was perhaps the most bizarre match of the season that saw Aston Villa trounce Liverpool 7-2 in an unbelievable result. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Jurgen Klopp does not have any fresh injury concerns hampering his preparations ahead of the visit of Aston Villa. However, on Saturday, the Liverpool manager will continue to be bereft of the services of as many as half-a-dozen first-team players.
These include long-term absentees Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Joel Matip and captain Jordan Henderson, in addition to Caoimhin Kelleher and Divock Origi. However, keeping in mind that Liverpool still have a chance to turn things around against Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League, a couple of shuffles could be in order.
No alterations are likely in the backline, however, where Nathaniel Phillips and Ozan Kabak should continue as the central defensive partnership despite a wobbly display earlier in the week. Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold disappointed in Europe as well, and the two full-backs will need to step up against Aston Villa, while Alisson Becker could be a busy man in goal.
Up ahead in midfield, Thiago Alcantara is almost guaranteed to return to the starting lineup after he was inexplicably dropped in favour of Naby Keita. Fabinho is an automatic pick at the base of the midfield, but Curtis Jones could return in place of Georginio Wijnaldum, who was sub-par last time out.
Finally, in attack, Diogo Jota could end up making way for Roberto Firmino, who was so influential against Arsenal last weekend. Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane ought to retain their spots out wide, although both of them need to step up, with Jota breathing down their necks for a regular berth.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Phillips, Kabak, Robertson; Thiago, Fabinho, Jones; Salah, Firmino, Mane
Like his counterpart in the Liverpool dugout, Dean Smith is not being bogged down by any new issues in his squad. Ahead of the trip to Anfield on Saturday, the Aston Villa manager will only have to make do without a couple of first-team players.
The major absentee for the visitors is Jack Grealish, who continues to be sidelined with a shin injury that has kept him out for quite some time now. Apart from the Aston Villa captain, Wesley will also be missing the trip to Liverpool, as the Brazilian striker continues his recovery trail.
The absence of Grealish means Trezeguet ought to start on the left wing, with Bertrand Traore a certainty on the right flank. Ollie Watkins will once again lead the line for Aston Villa, with January signing Morgan Sanson playing off of him, meaning Ross Barkley will be an option off the bench.
In the midfield double pivot, John McGinn and Douglas Luiz will form a solid tandem, with the duo being primarily tasked with keeping things tight in the middle of the park, although McGinn will also charge forward to create overloads when the chances present themselves.
Defence is Aston Villa’s strong suit, with Ezri Konsa and Tyrone Mings forming a solid partnership at the heart of the backline, while Matty Cash and Matt Targett are the two full-backs. Emiliano Martinez will be stationed between the sticks, with the Argentine being one of the standout performers of the season for the Villans.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett; Luiz, McGinn; Traore, Sanson, Trezeguet; Watkins
1. Aston Villa Asian Handicap + 1.5 @ 1.600
1. Ollie Watkins to score anytime @ 3.10
- Liverpool have won their last two home Premier League meetings with Aston Villa, last winning more consecutively between 2003/04 and 2006/07 (four in a row). However, after their 7-2 win earlier in the campaign, Aston Villa are looking to complete a Premier League double over Liverpool for the first time since the inaugural season in 1992-93 under Ron Atkinson.
- Liverpool are without a win in eight Premier League home matches, losing the last six. The Reds have only endured one longer top-flight home run without a victory: 10 matches in 1951/52. Only four teams have ever lost seven consecutive home games in a Premier League season; all four went on to finish bottom of the league
- Aston Villa have kept eight clean sheets away from home in the Premier League this season, the most in the division and a joint club record.
- Liverpool are currently on a run of 11 hours and 48 minutes without a league goal from open play at Anfield.
- Aston Villa have won seven of their 15 away Premier League matches this season. They only won eight on the road in their previous three Premier League campaigns combined.
Player to Watch
In what has been a season full of struggles for Liverpool, it is the inconsistencies of the attacking players that has hurt them the most. While Mohamed Salah has still be among the goals fairly regularly, it is Sadio Mane who has been a shadow of his best self in the ongoing campaign.
However, as Liverpool’s campaign threatens to peter out once again, Mane is the player who simply has to step up, especially with Diogo Jota waiting in the wings and raring to become a regular. The Senegalese winger does have a fabulous record against Aston Villa, with eight goals in seven outings and he now has to extend that record to help Liverpool to their first home win of 2021.
Liverpool 2-1 Aston Villa
It was not too long ago that Anfield was a fortress for Liverpool, one that could not be breached by even the most formidable of teams in Europe. However, that has all changed in 2021, with the Reds shockingly losing each of their last six at home. Having said that, Liverpool should be good enough to win this game, with the absence of Jack Grealish being a telling factor. With that in mind, a 2-1 Liverpool win is what we are going for.