| Monday, December 26th |
Premier League | Villa Park
5:30PM BST / 12:30PM EST
After a month and a half off from the LFC Men playing competitive matches, we are back for our second match in less than a week as the Reds return to Premier League play. Jürgen Klopp’s side will head to the Midlands to take on Aston Villa for the first time this season.
After Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard was canned as manager of Aston Villa in the fall, Unai Emery has come in to provide a boost to the club. Under the Spanish manager, Aston Villa won their two Premier League matches before the World Cup kicked off. Emery had the full month and a half to get the players not involved in the World Cup up to speed.
Emery will be without starting goalkeeper Emi Martinez as the Argentinian is still on break after winning the World Cup. Midfielder Jacob Ramsey will miss out due to a long term hamstring injury.
Projected Liverpool Lineup (4-3-3)
Becker; Alexander-Arnold, Matip ,van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Thiago, Henderson; Carvalho, Núñez, Salah
Liverpool are expected to have all of their World Cup players available except for Ibrahima Konaté, who will return to training next week. Alisson Becker was given an extra day off against Manchester City in the Carabao Cup, but is expected to be back in net against Aston Villa. Similarly, Virgil van Dijk is expected to return in central defense, likely to partner with Joel Matip. Trent Alexander-Arnold will be a late decision after dealing with an illness earlier in the week.
There are a plethora of injuries in midfield and attack, as has been the case for much of the season. James Milner picked up a hamstring issue against Manchester City that will keep him out for at least a week. Jordan Henderson and Fabinho got minutes in the second half of the match, and are likely to join Thiago in the starting midfield spots. Harvey Elliott could also be in contention.
Two of the three spots up top are pretty much nailed on with Mohamed Salah and Darwin Núñez. With Roberto Firmino, Luis Diaz, and Diogo Jota out, the third attacker is most likely to be Fabio Carvalho. The youngster scored Liverpool’s first goal against Manchester City, and has been impressive with his late runs into the box.
What the Managers Said
Jürgen Klopp: “I think what you can expect is that Unai stands for a specific kind of football and was really successful and did an incredible job at Villarreal, not only there but now recently there. What you saw in the first few games they played and the games we could see in this ‘pre-season’ now, it looks quite similar because it is a good way to play and it’s his way and it’s how he wants to organise a team.”
Totally Not A Vampir Unai Emery: “We have used this time to work, to be together. We travelled to Dubai and have worked on tactical issues, offensively and defensively. The results of the friendly matches we played wasn’t important, but I don’t like to lose. What’s important is now and how we can use everything we did in this period. On Monday, I will expect our best performance collectively and individually.”
Referee: Paul Tierney
Assistant referees: Constantine Hatzidakis, James Mainwaring
Fourth official: Dean Whitestone
VAR: Peter Bankes
Kickoff is set for 5:30PM GMT/12:30PM 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.