Liverpool welcome Aston Villa to Anfield on Saturday, January 18, 2014 (9:30 AM Pacific, 17:30 GMT) in a clash which is of prime importance for both sides, but for very different reasons. The Reds look like genuine contenders for a Champions League spot this season and perhaps even for the title; if they are going maintain pressure on the teams immediately above them in the league table, then the clash against Villa is one which Liverpool should be looking to take maximum points from.
Their hard-fought win over Stoke City last week displayed that Liverpool have a winning mentality this season and with their key players returning to full fitness, it would take a brave man to bet against them on Saturday night.
Villa on the other hand, have endured bit of a roller-coaster season so far and despite currently occupying 11th position, Paul Lambert’s men are not safe from being dragged back into the relegation battle. Three points at Anfield would certainly lift pressure off of Villa, but it will be a mammoth task against the rampant Reds.
Few will give them a chance on Saturday, but the Villains did pick up a convincing victory over Liverpool in the corresponding fixture last season, and after their encouraging display against Arsenal on Monday night, the Villains should be heading to Anfield with a sense of hope that they can come away with something from the game.
Daniel Sturridge looks set to start for the first time in over two months and the striker will be hoping to quickly re-establish his devastating partnership with Luis Suarez, which has been terrorizing Premier League defences this season. The return of Sturridge means that Philippe Coutinho could make way for the Englishman.
Mamadou Sakho could also make a return to the starting lineup and the Frenchman will probably partner Martin Skrtel at the heart of the defence with Kolo Toure dropping to the bench. As Daniel Agger, Luis Enrique and Jon Flanagan are still out with injuries, Aly Cissokho and Glen Johnson look set to retain their place in the full back positions.
Steven Gerrard, Lucas and Jordan Henderson will be marshalling the midfield, while Raheem Sterling looks set to be deployed on the wings.
Aston Villa will be without the likes of Libor Kozak, Charles N’Zogbia and Jores Okore, with the trio ruled out with long-term injuries. Nathan Baker suffered a mild concussion against Arsenal and could be missing as well.
Paul Lambert deployed a 3-5-2 formation against the Gunners last week, but should return to a more conventional 4-4-2 or a 4-5-1 against the Reds. Loan signings Grant Holt and Ryan Bertrand will be available for the clash but it remains to be seen whether the pair will be handed starts.
Christian Benteke was Liverpool’s tormentor last time around and he finally managed to score his first goal in over 4 months last week, which means that the Belgian will most likely start in attack on Saturday alongside Gabriel Agbonlahor. The duo will probably be supported by Andi Weimann and Leandro Bacuna from the wings, while Kieran Westwood and Fabian Delph look set to start in midfield.
Captain Ron Vlaar will start at the heart of the defence with Ciaran Clark, Matthew Lowton and Antonio Luna completing the back four.
Liverpool: Mignolet; Cissokho, Skrtel, Sakho, Johnson; Sterling, Henderson, Lucas, Gerrard, Sturridge; Suarez
Aston Villa: Guzan; Luna, Vlaar, Clark, Lowton; Weimann, Westwood, Delph, Bacuna, Agbonlahor; Benteke
Liverpool: L L W W W
Aston Villa: L D W L L
24/08/2013 Aston Villa 0 – 1 Liverpool
31/03/2013 Aston Villa 1 – 2 Liverpool
15/12/2012 Liverpool 1 – 3 Aston Villa
Liverpool vs Aston Villa Prediction
Liverpool have made Anfield a fortress this season and boast a brilliant record, having won 9 of their last 10 home matches. The Reds are also starting to hit top gear and will be heading into the game full of confidence.
Aston Villa, on the other hand, have been shaky and the threat of being embroiled in a relegation battle looms large over their shadow. Faced with the terrifying prospect of facing arguably the league’s most devastating striking duo, Villa will certainly have to do well to get anything out of the game.
Although Paul Lambert’s men are better on their travels than on home soil and have a very good record at Anfield in recent times, Liverpool are clear favourites to claim all three points on Saturday and should do it comfortably. Liverpool 3 – 1 Aston Villa.
Liverpool vs Aston Villa TV Info
The match will be televised on NBC and Mun2 (USA), and BBC One (UK).