It is extremely difficult to find any positives in the early form shown by these two sides. Investing heavily in the summer, Liverpool have been nothing short of poor, with new signings failing to make an impact thus far. Scraping past League Two minnows, Carlisle United, in the Capital One Cup on penalties has only added to the pressure Brendan Rodgers is facing, and failure to secure the points this weekend could well be the final nail in the coffin of the Northern Irishman. Having reinvested the bulk of the £40 million obtained through the sales of Christian Benteke and Fabian Delph, Tim Sherwood would have hoped for a better start to the campaign. Four points and only one win from their opening six wasn’t the start Sherwood had in mind, and the former Tottenham man will surely fear a Liverpool backlash. In short, this game is do or die for Brendan Rodgers, but also a game Tim Sherwood will not want to lose.
Brendan Rodgers’ task has not been made easier by the loss of influential captain, Jordan Henderson, who has been side-lined after suffering a fractured foot in a training ground incident. His absence on the field has left the team lacking direction, with Rodgers struggling to replace the man who had only stepped into the shoes of club legend, Steven Gerrard, this summer. Liverpool paid £32 million to pluck forward Christian Benteke from this weekend’s opponents, but the Belgian striker is unlikely to feature against his old side having left the field at half-time in last weekend’s disappointing home draw with Norwich City. Replacement, Danny Ings, has found the net in his last two outings, and will be expected to lead the line once more.
New signings, Idrissa Gueye and Adama Traore are major doubts with hamstring and calf injuries respectively, and Gabby Agbonlahor remains unavailable for selection. Jores Okore spent much of last season on the side line, but has looked strong since returning to the squad. He will miss the next month with a knee injury, with Tim Sherwood opting to adopt a cautious approach in bringing the defender back into the side after being absent for so long last year.
Head to Head
Incredibly, this will be the 190th competitive meeting between the sides, and unsurprisingly it is Liverpool that have dominated the history of this fixture. The Anfield side have amassed 92 victories, with the Villa tasting success on no less than 57 occasions, with the remaining fixtures finishing equal. Despite this, recent meetings have swung the way of the visitors, with Villa having won 2 of the last 4, only tasting defeat in a 2-0 defeat at Villa Park last season.
Liverpool: Daniel Sturridge
The return of Daniel Sturridge has seen a collective sigh of relief exhaled by Liverpool fans across the globe. The former Chelsea man had a fantastic season alongside Luis Suarez a couple of seasons ago, and fans will be eager to see the forward exhibit the form he showed when Liverpool came agonisingly close to the title. Sturridge has struggled with numerous injuries for some time, and will be desperate to put together a run of games to re-establish his form. On his day the striker is unplayable, and with a European Championship round the corner, Sturridge will be keen to find the net in order to force his way back into Roy Hodgson’s plans. With Rooney and Kane firm favourites to start in France, Sturridge has a lot to prove, and Liverpool fans will be hoping this incentive will see him firing the goals once more.
Aston Villa: Micah Richards
Another man aiming for a glorious return to the England set up, Micah Richards is vital to Aston Villa’s success this weekend. The Manchester City academy graduate spent time in Italy with Fiorentina last year in an attempt to rediscover himself, and Tim Sherwood saw enough in the defender to bring him back to the English game. Richards plays with his heart on his sleeve, and is the type of character any manager would love to have in his squad. Richards brings passion and desire to the field, and has the potential to be a real asset to Sherwood’s team. Villa’s back four is sure to face the full fury of Liverpool’s attacking might, but a performance from Richards may be enough to frustrate the already agitated Kop, and leave Brendan Rodgers out of a job.
This game is extremely difficult to predict. There can be no doubt about it, Liverpool must win, but Aston Villa are in no position to be throwing points away. Rodgers may be on the brink, but Sherwood is by no means safe, and a continuation of their stuttering start will bring fresh scrutiny on the Villa boss. Liverpool will set up to control the game, and will look to dominate possession from the outset, hoping this will lead to chances to win the game. Sherwood’s side are disciplined and difficult to break down, and Villa have the pace and power to punish Liverpool’s shaky defence. Expect the game to go down to the wire, but I think Liverpool will just do enough to keep Brendan Rodgers in a job for at least another week.
Liverpool 2-1 Aston Villa