Aston Villa vs Liverpool
Venue: Villa Park
TV: Sky Sports Main Event
Aston Villa hosts the champions, Liverpool, as both sides look to continue their unbeaten Premier League campaigns.
Aston Villa faces their most challenging match so far this campaign as they face the reigning champions, Liverpool. This fixture last season saw the Reds turn out 2-1 victors, although the scoreline didn’t reflect the way the tie went. Villa held desperately to a 1-0 lead, before the soon to be champions put two past them in the dying minutes to secure a season-defining victory. Villa will be hoping that with their newly-added talent and boosted squad morale; they will be able to topple the unstoppable Merseyside giants.
Dean Smith’s men head into the tie in fantastic form. The Midlands side has won both of their Premier League ties without conceding a goal, the only side in the league to have achieved this. A convincing 3-0 rout of relegation candidates Fulham sees Villa occupy 4th place in the league despite playing one game fewer than those around them. The Villa faithful will be expecting a great effort from their side this weekend, even if their winning streak does come to an end.
There is however reason to suggest that Villa may cause an upset, as many underestimate how well the B6 side has transformed since this fixture last season. Villa, whilst making headlines off the pitch, have quietly gone about a sensible and logical defensive transition, and currently boast some of the best defensive numbers in the league. The ‘coming of age’ of youngsters Ezri Konsa and Douglas Luiz has been instrumental in Villa’s defensive turnaround, and they can be expected to give Liverpool’s world-class front line a tough challenge this weekend.
Whilst Smith’s men have performed well in recent weeks; the headlines will focus on Villa’s aggressive transfer strategy thus far this window. The most recent addition, Ross Barkley on a season loan, joins record signing Ollie Watkins and a plethora of other big-name additions at Villa Park this summer. Whilst nobody can fault the ambition of the higher-ups at Villa, one must wonder what consequences may occur to the Claret and Blue side should their big-money signings backfire. It appears we may get a fair judgement of Villa’s capabilities this weekend.
As for Liverpool, the Reds have been as dominant as ever. Jurgen Klopp’s men have picked up nine points from a possible nine so far, and have shown no signs of slowing down from their exceptional performances we saw last season. Convincing victories against Leeds, Chelsea and Arsenal have put Liverpool in the upper ends of the Premier League, second only to Leicester City. Having faced three tough opponents thus far, it would be reasonable to expect Liverpool to ease off this weekend, facing a seemingly easier opponent. This will not be the case, as Klopp has demonstrated time and time again, the expectation he holds in his players for them to play at the highest level.
As for rotation of players, this could be evident, as Klopp may look to bleed in some of his new stars. This season may see the integration of Liverpool’s new additions, such as Diogo Jota, to replace their ageing front line. The Reds have always played by the policy of buying small and selling large, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Liverpool cash in on one of Salah, Firmino or Mane whilst they are still valuable, due to their age. It can be argued that an away fixture like Villa presents a perfect mix of difficulty and security for Klopp to be tempted to start the Portuguese wide man as he gets himself settled into his new side, following his move from Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Ross Barkley may feature but isn’t likely to start due to match fitness. Smith may hand Bertrand Traore his first Premier League start.
Klopp will be without marquee signing Thiago Alcantara and Sadio Mane after the pair tested positive for COVID-19.
Predicted Starting XIs
Aston Villa: Martinez, Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett, Luiz, McGinn, Hourihane, Grealish, Watkins, Traore.
Liverpool: Allison, Roberston, Van Dijk, Gomez, Alexander-Arnold, Wijnaldum, Keita, Henderson, Salah, Firmino, Jota.
Score Prediction: Aston Villa 1-3 Liverpool
Despite their best opening to a season since 1999, Villa’s strengthened side isn’t good enough to topple the champions. The reds are in fine form and will continue their unbeaten run this weekend.