Aston Villa vs. Liverpool
| Saturday, November 2nd |
Premier League | Villa Park
3:00PM BST / 11:00AM EST
It’s been nearly four years since Liverpool last traveled to Villa Park. Aston Villa were beaten 6-0 that day by Jürgen Klopp’s newly-invigorated side. It was February 2016 and the Villans went on to be relegated.
Here’s Liverpool’s bench for that game: Ward, Caulker, Flanagan, Stewart, Ibe, Benteke, Origi. Guess who came on in the second half and scored? You know it was the legend Divock Origi.
Liverpool make the trip to Birmingham again on Saturday with every intention of maintaining their dominant lead at the top of the Premier League. Klopp has at his command a preferred XI that is fresh. The league cup victory over Arsenal included high levels of youthful exuberance and all of this season’s consistent starters got a rest from action.
Villa are back into the top flight with a whimper. After ten games, Dean’s Smith’s squad have only won three, reigning victorious over bottom-of-the-table mates Everton, Norwich City, and Brighton and Hove Albion. They have also managed to score in every one of their matches but three.
Brazilian striker Wesley has been a solid performer for Villa this season and is expected to be the main man up top for Smith on Saturday. Captain Jack Grealish is another key man for the Claret and Blues but his availability for selection is up in the air due to a calf injury that may or may not be fully mended.
Projected Liverpool Lineup (4-3-3)
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, Van Dijk, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Henderson; Mané, Firmino, Salah
Jürgen Klopp nearly has a fully fit squad heading to Villa Park. Joël Matip remains in recovery and Xherdan Shaqiri isn’t available but the manager has more than enough world class talent to pick from to disassemble Villa and bring home three points.
I’d expect Dejan Lovren to partner Virgil Van Dijk in defense. Joe Gomez played the full, glorious match against Arsenal on Wednesday and probably makes the bench.
Given the manager awarded Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita so much time midweek, you would think they would make way for Gini Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson to team up with Fabinho in the midfield as ever. But Fabinho is one yellow card away from a one-match suspension. If the Brazilian were to be carded this weekend he would miss the match against Manchester City at Anfield next Sunday. That’s sounds like more than enough or a reason to keep him out of the action against Villa.
Fabinho’s absence could create an opening for one of James Milner, Ox, or Keita if he’s fit, to get into the XI. Adam Lallana, maybe.
The front three of Sadio Mané, Roberto Firmino, and Mohamed Salah are expected to man their respective stations at the business end of Liverpool’s assault.
On paper, Liverpool should walk away with all three points against Aston Villa with little fuss. But Villa Park will be behind their team on Saturday, buoyed by better performances of late. It will likely be another tough match, a battle where Liverpool will need all their little tricks and mentality monster mojo to get the win and remain undefeated in the league.
What the Managers Said
Jürgen Klopp: “A very good team. Their start was a bit unlucky, I would say. They performed pretty much from the beginning but didn’t get results. Now they have results and now, through the quality that they have, they have confidence as well.”
Dean Smith: “Liverpool is going to be a really tough test for us. I’ve got so much admiration for Jurgen Klopp and what he’s done at Liverpool and Dortmund before that and it’ll be a right test with the players they’ve got.”
Referee: Jonathan Moss
Assistant referees: Daniel Cook, Eddie Smart
Fourth official: Darren England
VAR: Martin Atkinson
Assistant VAR: Peter Kirkup
Kickoff is set for 3:00PM BST/11:00AM EST tomorrow, and television listings for the match can be found on LiveSoccerTV.
In the meantime, and as always, we’ll be keeping you updated with all the buildup to the game, including team news as it’s released, our live matchday thread, and post-match recaps from The Liverpool Offside staff. If you want to join the discussion, sign up for an SB Nation account to have your say on the action as it happens.