Verdict: Away win
Best odds: 4/9
Aston Villa are set to welcome Liverpool to Villa Park on Tuesday evening, for what will be the 35th match of the Premier League campaign for the home side and the 36th for the Merseysiders. It should be a very interesting affair, with a couple of potentially emotional reunions set to happen.
As for Villa, this match naturally holds great personal significance for manager Steven Gerrard, a Liverpool legend, an iconic captain every supporter of the Merseyside club holds dear. It’ll also be an interesting affair for Philippe Coutinho, who spectacularly left Liverpool to join Barcelona in a €160m deal in January 2018 and failed to establish himself at the Camp Nou. He’s already played against Liverpool, but he won’t be too keen on being reminded how Barcelona ended up on the wrong side of one of the greatest Champions League comebacks in 2019. Finally, Villa striker Danny Ings spent three injury-ridden years at Liverpool. All three are, however, great professionals and they’ll certainly put history aside for 90 minutes.
This match isn’t too significant for Villa competitively. Their season is practically resolved at this point – they can’t be involved in a relegation scrap and they have no chance of playing in Europe next season either. With 43 points, they sit 11th in the Premier League table. That doesn’t mean that they won’t try to make it as difficult as possible for the visitors, though.
Villa’s last-six run begins with a 0-1 defeat at home against Arsenal. Then they lost 2-1 away to Wolverhampton Wanderers and 0-4 at home to Tottenham Hotspur, before drawing 0-0 away to Leicester City, beating Norwich City 2-0 at home, and Burnley 1-3 away.
Midfielder Jacob Ramsey is a big doubt for this clash. The 20-year-old midfielder, who has scored six Premier League goals this season, missed the Burnley clash with a groin problem. Centre-back Kourtney Hause (abdominal problems) and winger Leon Bailey (ankle) are also in a race against time to make the squad.
Former Everton man Lucas Digne will relish the opportunity to start alongside Ezri Konsa, Tyrone Mings and Matty Cash in the back line. Douglas Luiz and John McGinn will be in the middle of the park, while Emiliano Buendia joins Ollie Watkins and Ings in attack.
Last week was definitely one of mixed feelings for Liverpool. Having completed a double over Villarreal to book a place in the Champions League final, they went on to drop points in a 1-1 draw against Tottenham Hotspur, thus enabling defending champions Manchester City to increase their lead at the top of the table from one to three points. The title race is not over yet, but the Merseysiders simply cannot allow to drop points again. And even if they don’t, they have to hope City lose one of their final three games.
Therefore, unlike for Aston Villa, this match is of absolutely vital importance for Liverpool. After that, their attention will turn to Chelsea and the FA Cup final in a few days’ time, and the Champions League final on May 28th against Real Madrid should not be forgotten.
It should be said that Jurgen Klopp’s men have done extremely well recently, winning five of their last six matches in all competitions. They thrashed Manchester United 4-0 at home, they beat Everton in the Merseyside Derby at home by 2-0, they beat Villarreal in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal clash, they won 0-1 away to Newcastle, and completed the double over Villarreal with a 2-3 triumph in Spain, before drawing against Spurs.
Klopp has revealed that Roberto Firmino could be ready to play, and in that case there would be no absences in his squad at the moment.
Alisson Becker in goal is certain to start, as is Virgil van Dijk at the back. Ibrahima Konate could drop to the bench in favour of Joel Matip, and if Fabinho is rested, it would mean captain Jordan Henderson moving back to shield the back four.
Anything but a Liverpool win would be a surprise here, but maybe we shouldn’t expect too many goals.
Verdict: Away win
Best odds: 4/9
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