30th March 2013
Important victories over Reading and QPR may have helped Villa climb out of the bottom three, but they cannot afford to relax just yet and have got to try and see off Liverpool as well. The Reds ended their good run of results by losing at St Mary’s, and there is every chance they will face another tricky game on the road.
After narrowly escaping the drop last term, Aston Villa were predicted another difficult season, especially as a number of regular starters left the club in the summer transfer window. New boss Paul Lambert took quite a gamble with his youthful side, but the Villans have battled bravely with everything thrown their way and they are now in a very good position to prove the doubters wrong and beat the drop. If Aston Villa do manage to survive this campaign, it will be mostly thanks to the attacking trio of Benteke, Weimann and Agbonlahor, which has been absolutely brilliant of late. Buoyed by the invaluable victories over Reading and QPR, Aston Villa now aim to make the most of their attacking qualities and take a leaf out of Southampton’s book in their attempt to record the third win on the bounce. Their back line is obviously going to have their work cut out for them against the likes of Sturridge, Suarez and Coutinho, which is exactly why the hosts will attempt to attack as much as possible. Nathan Baker, Darren Bent, Fabian Delph and Karim El Ahmadi are all back in contention, but Ciaran Clark and Brett Holman remain injury doubts.
Liverpool have had a fair share of ups and downs this season, and the last few weeks nicely sum up their entire campaign. It is during this period that the Reds produced several stunning displays to beat Swansea, Wigan and Tottenham, and thus revived their top 4 bid, only to by completely outclassed by relegation-threatened Southampton at St Mary’s last time out. Liverpool conceded three goals in that match, but could have let in few more as their opponents created a host of clear-cut chances on the day. That only proved that the Reds are still extremely vulnerable at the back and the only way for them to win at Villa Park is to outscore their opponents. After having a bad day at St Mary’s Brendan Rodgers’ attackers should look much better against Villa, although that is no guarantee the Reds will return to winning ways. The visitors should have Pepe Reina and Jamie Carragher back to the starting line-up, but Martin Kelly, Joe Allen and Fabio Borini remain long-term casualties.
Liverpool cannot be trusted to win at Villa Park after such a poor showing against Southampton, but they are expected to rediscover their scoring form against Villa’s leaky defence. The hosts, on the other hand, are scoring goals for fun of late, and everything suggests we will see goals galore in Birmingham.
Verdict: Both teams to score
Best Odds: 2/3