Liverpool will want to continue the way they left off against Stoke, when they meet struggling Aston Villa at Anfield on Monday night.
This is a tie that Liverpool have generally done well in. We hammered them 5-0 in the corresponding fixture last season and drew 0-0 in a poor game at Villa Park.
The game at Anfield in March, saw Dirk Kuyt open the scoring on 8 minutes, following up after Alonso headed a Gerrard free-kick against the bar. Pepe Reina used his infamous quick thinking for the second goal, after a Villa free kick saw our box filled with opposition players – his quickly taken punt was latched onto by Riera who thundered the ball past Friedel. Riera then won a penalty when he was fouled by Reo-Coker and Gerrard sent Friedel the wrong way to score. 3-0 in the space of 38 minutes – Liverpool were on fire. Gerrard doubled his tally, 5 minutes into the second half, when Alonso rolled a free kick to him and he slotted home. Gerrard scored his second penalty on 65 minutes to complete his hat-trick. Brad Friedel was sent off after tripping Torres, and Stevie G fired home past replacement keeper Guzan. A thoughroughly well deserved thumping at a time when Liverpool were unstoppable (just ask Man Utd and Real Madrid).
The away game against Villa last year was most notable for Torres limping off in the first half. He missed the next game (Man Utd at home) but was not needed in the end.
The Reds haven’t lost in this tie for the last 16 games, winning 10 and drawing 6. We have won more Premier League points against Villa (63) than any other club. Liverpool have not lost at Anfield for 31 games and have not lost in any League game that Torres has scored.
Villa have not won away for 6 games and have only won twice in their last 14 league matches.
Head to head
Liverpool – 86
Aston Villa – 52
Draw – 38
Liverpool – 56
Aston Villa – 14
Draw – 17
Martin Skrtel and El Zhar are possibilities for the game as is Fabio Aurelio after Rafa said, “Aurelio was training yesterday. I was watching him and he did well. He is not training with the team, but he is working with the fitness coach and is very close. We will have to see if he has any other problems, but he is very close.”
Daniel Agger and Alberto Aquilani are not expected to be ready in time.
Villa have several players injured – Carew, Davies and Luke Young could return for this game, but Bouma and new boy Stewart Downing are definitely out.
A poor display against Spurs was followed up by a good performance at home to Stoke for the Reds, resulting in a comfortable 4-0 victory. Gerrard, Kuyt and Torres have all opened their account and will hope to add to it.
Villa lost on the opening day, 0-2 at home to Wigan. They then lost 0-1 in midweek against Rapid Vienna, in the Europa League qualifying round.
Liverpool – (from) Reina, Cavalieri, Ayala, Kelly, Johnson, Skrtel, Carragher, Insua, Dossena, Benayoun, Babel, Mascherano, Gerrard, Kuyt, Lucas, Torres, Voronin.
The midweek game against Stoke saw several players do well. Lucas had one of his best games in a red shirt, and should look to try and cement his position as Alonso’s replacement. Insua did well too, regularly going beyond Benayoun, as did Glen Johnson on the right. Although Stoke had a couple of chances, there was only ever going to be one winner.
Possible starting XI – Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Skrtel, Insua, Mascherano, Lucas, Kuyt, Benayoun, Gerrard, Torres.
Villa – (from) Friedel, Guzan, Young, Sidwell, Davies, Beye, Cuellar, Shorey, Gardner, Delph, Petrov, Reo-Coker, Young, Milner, Salifou, Aghbonlahor, Carew, Heskey, Delfounso, Harewood
Villa’s main threat is their pace and skill out wide, in Ashley Young and James Milner. If Carew plays, he is a good target in the middle, if not, expect Heskey or Harewood to do that job.
Possible starting XI – Firedel, Cuellar, Davies, Beye, Shorey, Young, Milner, Sidwell, Petrov, Heskey, Agbonlahor.
The match is on ESPN in the UK at 8 pm.
Liverpool 2 – 0 Aston Villa
Liverpool have clicked into gear and, given Villa’s awful away record, the Reds should draw out a comfortable victory. Martin O’Neill may also have one eye on Thursday’s second leg against Rapid Vienna. Torres and Gerrard should have too much for a potentially weakened defence and Villa have not scored in either game so far this season.
Given their poor form, our good record against them and the fact that our main two have both scored already, I can only see a home win.