Liverpool entertain Aston Villa at Anfield this evening hoping to record their first win against the Villans in four seasons.
Brendan Rodgers’ miscalculation backfired last season as the Reds started with an ultra-offensive side that had to battle back from two goals down to snatch a late draw. He later admitted that his approach in that game was “too aggressive” and the Reds boss has already signalled his intent not to take Villa lightly again ahead of this encounter.
The Reds have made a solid start to their season. After they suffered an early defeat against Manchester City, they responded strongly against Tottenham. In-form Raheem Sterling starred again against the Lilywhites but it was new boy Alberto Moreno who stole the show. The young full-back’s unflappable confidence paid off when he scored a superb solo goal to wrap up Liverpool’s comprehensive win.
Villa striker Christian Benteke may not be available to play another integral role in upsetting Liverpool in their own backyard, but the Villans will still be confident of leaving Anfield with something.
They were among the favourites for relegation at the start of the season but they have defied the odds to sit third on the table after three games. This start has been their joint-best to a Premier League campaign as they are unbeaten with two wins sandwiching a 0-0 draw against Newcastle.
That good run has seen form players in their squad receiving recognition in different quarters. Andreas Weimann was among the five nominees for the Player of the Month award while Fabian Delph got his first call for England duty. Delph grabbed his chance when he started for the Three Lions in the 0-2 victory against Switzerland in the Euro 2016 qualifiers.
Liverpool team news
- Daniel Sturridge has been ruled out for up to three weeks with a thigh injury he picked up while training with England.
- Emre Can is also ruled out after picking an ankle injury on international duty.
- Glen Johnson, Jon Flanagan and Martin Skrtel are all sidelined, but Adam Lallana is available again after his injury absence.
Aston Villa team news
- Loan signing Tom Cleverley will compete for places with Ashley Westwood and newly-capped England international Delph in the middle of the park.
- Gabriel Agbonlahor recently signed a new four year contract with the Villans.
- Ron Vlaar (calf) is likely to be fit for the game but Jores Okore will be ready to step in should Vlaar not make it.
Brendan Rodgers usually prefers to work with a 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 diamond formation depending on the circumstances. The first option seems to suit this game very well as Mario Balotelli could make his Anfield debut as a centre forward in the absence of Sturridge.
Since Aston Villa are likely to have a compact, deep defensive unit, Coutinho would be ideal to start as the central attacking midfielder where he would influence the game with his ability to unlock defences with key passes in confined areas.
The Reds mainly attack through the middle so Aston Villa are likely to start with a 4-5-1 formation with a compact back-four set to contain that threat. The five-man midfield block will be able to deal with Liverpool’s full-backs, while also remaining solid with three central midfielders.
The new partnership of Dejan Lovren and Mamadou Sakho seems like Liverpool’s achilles heel in defence, so Villa will need to get the ball to Agbonlahor as much as possible to test that pairing.
Aston Villa may have had a good start to the season but the Reds should have enough quality to take all three points.
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