If Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool continue to rack up 1-1 draws with sides much worse than them, it will only be a matter of time before the manager is fired. While some may view the upcoming match against Aston Villa a great opportunity to right the ship, the Villains have actually played very well in Anfield in recent seasons. With the rumors of the team contacting both Carlo Ancelotti and Jurgen Klopp at some point in the past few days, Rodgers truly needs to win this match in order to strengthen his case to remain on the job. However, Rodgers will be without some key players since all three of Christian Benteke, Jordan Henderson and Dejan Lovren are all injured at least for this match.
Unlike last season, the problems that Liverpool has had in keeping clean sheets have had more to do with the defense in front of Simon Mignolet rather than his ineptitude in goal. He has often been left exposed by his defenders and that type of lackluster defending definitely doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in the Belgian ‘keeper.
Rodgers has hoped that a shift to a back three comprised of Emre Can, Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho would result in the same undefeated stretch the team had last season but that hasn’t been the case so far. While all three play relatively well together, the team as a whole has to improve its set piece defense or else it will cost them again.
With Rodgers’ propensity to for making sure the team doesn’t lose rather than trying to win, Nathaniel Clyne will still likely start despite the team needing more attackers on the field. However, having him in the side makes sense, left-back Jordan Amavi has been Villa’s best player in their last few games.
The boring but hard working pair of James Milner and Lucas Leiva will likely get another start this week. While Milner struggled in the last match against Norwich, it was Lucas’ pressure in the middle of the pitch that eventually led to Liverpool’s goal. Even if both are not usually regarded as creative players, just being able to control the tempo of the match will be a big step in the right direction for the team.
Alberto Moreno’s dynamism and speed are really needed on a team that has struggled to generate chances on a regular basis. Even if the team doesn’t score a goal off a Moreno cross, just having him put the opposing defense under immense pressure could eventually lead to a mistake that the other Liverpool attackers can take advantage of.
The stress of carrying Liverpool’s attack may be getting to Philippe Coutinho. He has not looked his best the past couple of weeks and opponents now know that he is the main creative hub of the Reds, if they lock him down, the team will really struggle to score. Even then, Coutinho will need to find a way to work his magic this weekend, the team really needs to score more than one goal in order to boost everyone’s confidence.
With Benteke out, Daniel Sturridge and Danny Ings are almost guaranteed to start against Villa. While they haven’t spent a lot of playing time together, the fact that the team immediately looked better after Ings came on against Norwich should lead to high expectations this weekend. The one thing they cannot afford is selfishness, if one of them has a better chance of scoring a goal, the other has to pass him the ball.