Verdict: Home win
Best odds: 13/25
As the 2020-21 season slowly draws to its conclusion, Liverpool are set to welcome Aston Villa to Anfield on Saturday afternoon. It will be game 31 of the Premier League campaign for the home side, and 30 for the visitors.
After a brief upturn in fortunes for Jurgen Klopp’s team, things took another downturn in midweek, and that has been the main talking point among their supporters these days. They went to Madrid to face Real at the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium on Tuesday and lost 3-1, courtesy of a double from Vinicius Junior and a composed finish from Marco Asensio, with Mohamed Salah scoring what may yet prove to be a vital away goal for the Reds.
Be that as it may, Liverpool are still working hard to get their form back on track. They won three and lost three of their last six matches, losing at home to Everton by 0-2, beating Sheffield United at Bramall Lane by the same scoreline, losing to Chelsea and Fulham, both at home and both by 0-1, before they smashed Arsenal at the Emirates 0-3.
At the moment, they are in seventh place, with the race for the fourth promising to be exciting to the final matchday. Liverpool have 49 points to their name, the same as Tottenham Hotspur in sixth, two less than Chelsea in fifth, and three less than West Ham in fourth.
Liverpool are, of course, without Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip in the centre-back department, with the duo of Nathaniel Phillips and Ozan Kabak set to continue as the starting pair. Captain Jordan Henderson is also out, and the trio of Fabinho, Thiago Alcantara and Georginio Wijnaldum is likely to play in the middle of the park after the Naby Keita experiment failed in Madrid. Upfront, Roberto Firmino is expected to return to the starting XI, but Salah or Sadio Mane could be rested this time with the second leg against Real to come next week.
Striker Divock Origi is injured.
Having barely escaped relegation the last time around, Aston Villa have been an excellent team this term and aren’t without a shot at top four themselves, even though few see it as a realistic possibility. Dean Smith’s team are ninth right now, but with only five points less and a game in hand over Liverpool, and with Everton sitting in between on 47.
If Liverpool’s form seems patchy, it can be said that Villa’s is even more so – two wins, two draws and two defeats in the last six league matches. They beat Leeds United away by 0-1, lost 1-0 away to Sheffield United, drew 0-0 at home against Wolves and 1-1 away to Newcastle, lost to Spurs at home by 0-2, and beat Fulham at home by 3-1.
Trezeguet and Ollie Watkins have been on terrific form recently, both hitting the target against the Cottagers last week (Trezeguet twice), while Aleksandar Mitrovic scored the only goal for Scott Parker’s side.
Smith was hopeful that captain Jack Grealish would be fit for this match after missing the previous seven with a shin injury, but it seems the hope has been in vain and the attacking midfielder will miss out. Striker Wesley is likely to be left out as well, having seen only 38 minutes of action this term, and that for the Under-23 side a few days ago as he works on his fitness following a long-term knee injury.
Aston Villa will be going to Anfield boosted by the memory of their last clash with this opponent, when they absolutely demolished the Premier League champions at Villa Park by 7-2. Another thing possibly working in their favour is Liverpool’s first-leg defeat to Real Madrid and the size of the task which awaits the Reds against the 13-time European champions next week. Quite apart from all that, Liverpool didn’t win any of their home games since mid-December, as strange as that seems after winning 68 in a row.
But that run has to end some time, and exactly for the reasons listed, the home team will have a strong motive in this game. Knowing Liverpool, it’s likely to help them win this contest.
Verdict: Home win
Best odds: 13/25
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