Verdict: Total goals over 2.5
Best odds: 1/2
The newly promoted Aston Villa will welcome leaders of the pack Liverpool to Villa Park in Birmingham in the 11th round of the Premier League season. It should be an interesting contest, especially in the light of the fact that these teams have been drawn to face each other at the same venue in the quarterfinals of the Carabao Cup as well, with the date of that fixture yet to be decided.
This season has seen all three teams promoted from the Championship achieve quite decent results so far, considering. Admittedly, Norwich City are in the relegation zone, but they did beat defending champions Manchester City and they are only six points behind Manchester United in seventh place; the same difference as between Manchester City in second place and leaders Liverpool.
Villa have gained 11 points from the opening 10 rounds, and that tally has them sitting in 15th place, but with the league as tight as it is, it really doesn’t mean too much at the moment. A good result against Liverpool would certainly mean a lot for their confidence for the rest of the campaign, as well as ahead of the upcoming Carabao Cup clash. They don’t have anything to lose and they’re likely to give their best to make their supporters proud. They looked pretty well as they edged past Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Cup on Wednesday, but this game will be a different proposition altogether.
Having rested a few players in midweek, manager Dean Smith is likely to revert to his strongest lineup available on Saturday. Midfielder Jack Grealish, who had to come off last week in the defeat to Manchester City due to injury, should be ready to play. It’s the same with Henri Lansbury who suffered cramp against Wolves, but it doesn’t look good for Keinan Davis. Jose Peleteiro Jota remains out and may return to action next week.
The season Liverpool are having so far is quite remarkable. After the opening 10 rounds, they are the only team in the Premier League to remain undefeated, and only their arch-rivals Manchester United have so far succeeded in earning a point against them, the round before last at Old Trafford. It’s a strong indication of the magnitude of the task awaiting Aston Villa in this game. Naturally, with such results, Liverpool top the table with 28 points, six more than Manchester City in second place, as has already been pointed out.
Their games aren’t as rich in flair as those of City, hence the advantage in goal-difference Pep Guardiola’s team have over them, but the ability to grind out results, even when it seems hopeless, is a huge strength of the team put together by Jurgen Klopp. Their relentless high pressing, high defensive line, great team cohesion combined with the individual qualities of the front three and several players in other positions is arguably what sets them apart from most teams in Europe at the moment.
Klopp fielded a completely changed lineup in the incredible 5-5 Carabao Cup draw against Arsenal which his team went on to win on penalties, and like Smith, he will now bring back his usual starters. The only exception will be Joel Matip, with the centre-back facing a spell on the sidelines due to a knee problem. Dejan Lovren is likely to take his place alongside Virgil van Dijk in the heart of defence. The Dutchman himself had a small issue of his own, as did forward Mohamed Salah, but both should be ready to play on Saturday.
However, there is a certain dilemma the boss has to ponder. Midfielder Fabinho is one booking away from a suspension, and given that the next game Liverpool play domestically is against Manchester City, he has to decide whether to leave the Brazilian out against Villa or not.
Outside of the usual starting XI there are other absentees as well, both potential and confirmed. Winger Xherdan Shaqiri and fullback Nathaniel Clyne are out, while midfielder Naby Keita is a doubt after picking up a slight problem against Arsenal in midweek.
With Liverpool strongly determined to put an end to their 30-year title drought, they are, of course, the favorites to win this game, and they’ll be looking to settle the question of the winner as early as possible. Chances should come aplenty for the visitors and it is expected that their marksmen will be firing, though Villa themselves may succeed in exploiting the space behind Liverpool’s high line with pace and score.
Verdict: Total goals over 2.5
Best odds: 1/2
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