Liverpool (H) Preview ft The Anfield Wrap

This time around – in Week 11 of fixtures – Aston Villa play host to a seemingly unstoppable force from Merseyside, Liverpool FC.

The red half of Liverpool city haven’t lost a league game since their 2-1 away loss to Manchester City in January last season; quite frankly a remarkable defeat. Tottenham were the latest team to face the wrath of the Reds as Jurgen Klopp’s side edged the game 2-1.

Villa on the other hand come into the game off the back of a 3-0 loss to reigning champions Man City. Not that it did our spirits any harm, after all,  even a sniff at goal could be considered a successful afternoon at the Etihad and we held our own for the first half at least.

Back-to-back wins prior to the City game has given fans an air of confidence, coupled with a routine League Cup victory against rivals-but-not-really-rivals Wolves, the atmosphere at Villa Park is one of optimism.

Much of Liverpool’s team will remain unchanged I suspect with the interchangeable midfield three likely being rotated as well as the absence of Joel Matip which will come as a relief to Dean Smith.

After an impressive outing against Wolves, I feel Douglas Luiz will retain his spot ahead of Conor Hourihane who also staked a claim with a solid performance on Wednesday night. Hit what looked like a hamstring injury, Keinan Davis looks likely to be absent despite many calls for the academy product to get the nod over Wesley who has struggled in his last two appearances.

Jack Grealish’s absence has thrown a small – but destructive – spanner into the works with tactics, formation and game plan likely needing an update.

Should Villa do what most think is unachievable and take all three points, Dean Smith’s side could finish the weekend with 14 points and in 7th place. Liverpool can maintain their five-point lead at the top of the table as a bare minimum.

My prediction: Villa 1-3 Liverpool

 

Form

Liverpool have won 9 of their 10 Premier League fixtures this season while drawing the other, winning their last three games consecutively.

The Reds have scored the joint-third most goals in the league with 23 whilst also holding the best joint-best defensive record in terms of goals conceded with 8.

Since promotion from the Championship, Villa have won only 3 of their first 10 matches with 2 draws and 5 losses.

We have scored the 6th most goals in the league alongside Arsenal but have also conceded the 4th most.

Interestingly, recent tables show that if every game would have finished at half-time, Villa would be inside the top-4. If we are to make the most of our fast starts, we must be savvy to keep hold of our advantage.

 

Head to Head

This fixture dates to the 19th century when Queen Victoria was still alive. Villa took maximum points from the very first meeting in September 1894 while winning the return leg 5-0 only a month later.

 Villa took the spoils early on winning 4 of the first 6 meetings between the sides, but since then both sides have had intermittent extended periods of success against each other.

In more recent years, Liverpool have won 5 of the last 10 fixtures of this game with Villa winning 2 somehow.

Overall, here are the number of wins for each team:

Aston Villa – 57

Draw – 40

Liverpool – 94

 

‘The Opposition View’ with Neil Atkinson (@Knox_Harrington) of The Anfield Wrap

How do you feel the seasons going? Hard to want more from the squad?

We couldn’t ask for any more in terms of results and not really in terms of performance. There is a thing that the final results in our games has often been quite close, but we’ve often created more chances than you would expect the front three to put away. We’ve also played Tottenham, Manchester United and Leicester City all once and we have played Chelsea and Arsenal twice. You expect those games to be close, but we have the results there as well. In all those games we had long stretches of dominance but also had to be solid on the back foot for ten or fifteen minutes minimum as well. We aren’t Manchester City but right now we have more points than them.

Do you seriously think its Liverpool’s title this year? Any danger of a repeat of last year?

There is every chance of a repeat of last season – City could win every game from now until the end of the campaign; they are that good and that capable of blowing sides away. That’s what did for us last season. We only lost one game in the whole campaign – to Manchester City – and got the third highest points haul anyone ever has. We held our end of the bargain in the most intense but simultaneously dullest title run-in this country has ever seen. Both sides just won every week from when the clocks changed, from before Easter. That isn’t meant to happen. But we got a Champions League which those players deserved, and we get to have another go. I fancy us to finish the job this year, but we are up against a side that has averaged 99 points across two seasons. There is no respite for us whatsoever; no free hits. If we win it we will have earned it. City will see to that.

What’s the difference between last season and this year?

Currently pretty much nothing which is a good thing. We started last season a little unsure of what we were capable of, but we end it knowing exactly what we are capable of. We won 17 consecutive league games and while doing that won a Champions League while beating Barcelona 4-0 at home to get to the final. Our players know one another so well now and we just need to keep motoring. This Liverpool side has been spending six months where every game is a cup final. At some point that could burn a side out but that hasn’t happened yet.

Is it fair to say you’ve had some lucky escapes (e.g. Sheff Utd?)

Yes and no – we get lucky with the keeper’s error against Sheffield United, but sides get lucky in games all the time; in that game Sheffield United were lucky the normally dead-eyed Sadio Mane misses a one on one and an practically open goal from six yards. But we rode our luck. We battered Leicester and they equalised with their second shot of the game, but we kept on until the end and got what we deserved. Harry Kane’s goal last weekend was a deflection, followed by a rebound. Spurs couldn’t ride their luck and we deservedly got the points. If you look at individual moments in games, you can say “well that’s a bit jammy” but as a whole Liverpool have deserved what they have got going from game to game.

What aspects of your game can Villa exploit and apart from the obvious where will you give us a hard time?

I think direct running at Liverpool can bear fruit and in Jack Grealish (if fit) and John McGinn Villa have the players to do that. We will leave space behind the full backs to exploit and any yellow cards sees Fabinho out of the City game. The other thing I think a side needs to start thinking about is occupying Virgil van Dijk with a one on one battle. Because van Dijk is so dominant sides are reluctant to attack him but I think occupying him so we can’t read the game and fight fires would be no bad thing. More than anything I simply think sides need to engage Liverpool. Sitting deep and hoping for the best isn’t a way home. Engaging us, getting in our faces is a more likely route to points and I think Villa showed against City first half they are capable of that. I’m expecting a real game.

Likely lineup?

Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Henderson; Salah, Mane, Firmino.

Prediction?

1-3 Liverpool win. I reckon the game will be 1-1 but Liverpool will find a way last twenty. Aston Villa to get the results they need to stay up. The Premier League needs more sides with the pedigree of Aston Villa.

 

By JACK CUDWORTH

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