Teams in the Premier League dread the fixture congestion of December, but it seems that the congestion has started already. Less than 72 hours after their respective League Cup victories on Wednesday night, Liverpool and Aston Villa will face up in the league on Saturday evening. The two teams will head into this Premier League fixture knowing that they will also meet again in December (subject to scheduling flexibility by the EFL) as per the League Cup Quarter Final draw that was conducted earlier on Thursday.
Aston Villa are currently 15th in the table but are in good recent form. Villa have won four matches out of the last six (D1 L1) in all competitions, scoring 14 goals and conceding 9. While Dean Smith’s team lost their last league game 3-0 at Manchester City last weekend, they have troubled Premier League’s top sides this season. They beat Everton before making Arsenal toil hard to earn a 3-2 win at the Emirates. Despite Smith changing the bulk of the starting XI, Villans ran out 2-1 victors over Wolves in their League Cup game on Wednesday night.
Liverpool also come into this game after a victory in the League Cup, beating Arsenal on penalties (5-4), after the two teams had finished level at 5-5 in the first 90 minutes. They are also the only unbeaten side in the Premier League and themselves are in great form sitting at the top of the table with 28 points out of a possible 30. They beat Spurs 2-1 last Sunday and Leicester City with a similar score a few weeks ago. The only team that has taken points off Liverpool are Manchester United. These games against Leicester, Spurs, and Arsenal have shown that Klopp’s men have the doggedness to turn the tide even when they have fallen behind by a goal or two. Although Klopp will hope that the visit to Villa Park is much more comfortable, he can rest assured that his team can come from behind if required.
- The historic odds are stacked against the Villans as Aston Villa have won just four of their last 29 Premier league games against Liverpool (D8 L17), with three of those wins coming at Anfield. On the other hand, Liverpool have won 13 Premier League away games against Aston Villa, more than they’ve beaten any other side on the road in the competition.
- In fact, Liverpool have lost just one of their last 18 away league games against Aston Villa (W12 D5), winning the last five by an aggregate score of 13-1. Only against West Brom (8 games) and Norwich (6 games) have the Reds had longer away winning runs in the top-flight.
- Villa’s record against top of the table sides is also not great. Villa have won just four of their 38 Premier League games against sides starting the day at the top of the table (W4 D8 L260, most recently beating Chelsea 1-0 in March 2014. On the other hand, Liverpool have won their last 13 Premier League games against promoted sides. Only Chelsea (27), Manchester United (17), and Tottenham (16), have had longer such runs in the competition.
- Not only are Liverpool unbeaten in their last 27 Premier League games, their second longest unbeaten run in top-flight history (behind 31 games between May 1987 – March 1988), their defence steps up when away from home. The two Premier League clean sheets that the Reds have managed this season have both come away from home. In fact, Liverpool have not conceded more than twice in any of their last 33 away league games, since a 3-3 draw against Arsenal in December 2017.
- At 23 years and 148 days, KRC Genk named the youngest average starting XI age in a game in this season’s Champions League in their 0-0 draw against Napoli on matchday 2.
Wesley Moraes, Villa’s record signing, from Brugges is also the top scorer for the hosts. Aston Villa are 15th in the Premier League table by points but they are sixth in the table by goals scored as they have scored 15 goals in 10 games thus far. Five of those goals have been contributed by Wesley (4 scored, 1 assisted). He scored a goal each against Everton and Arsenal before scoring a brace and assisting one goal against Norwich a few weeks back. An xG90 of 0.52 and an xA90 of 0.06 are not elite level but they do indicate a possibility of Wesley contributing a goal every other game. And he has been quiet for a time (2 games) long enough for Dean Smith to believe that he will score against Liverpool.
While Sadio Mane was goal-less against Tottenham last weekend, his contribution in two most recent Premier League appearances has been in the form of winning decisive penalties for Liverpool. That obviously is not the extent of his contribution as he is in good goalscoring form this season, having scored 5 and assisted one in the Premier League. His xG90 of 0.43 and xA90 of 0.19 indicate a good chance of him contributing a couple of goals every 3 games. If Jurgen Klopp hopes that Liverpool play with more authority at Villa Park, Sadio Mane needs to be in top form.
Dean Smith rang in 9 changes in the team that started the League Cup match against Wolves in the midweek, compared to the side that had started last weekend’s league game at Manchester City. Keinan Davis picked up a hamstring injury during that game against Wolves and will sit out the game against Liverpool. Aston Villa will also hope that captain Jack Grealish is able to make it back to the squad after sustaining a calf injury at the Etihaad last weekend. The likely lineup for Villa – Heaton; Guilbert, Engels, Mings, Targett; McGinn, Nakamba, Hourihane; Ghazi, Wesley, Grealish.
Jurgen Klopp also changed his entire starting XI for the game against Arsenal in the league cup on Wednesday night and he too tasted victory. But the German has a bunch of injury problems on his hands. Nathaniel Clyne remains out with a long-term knee injury, while Joel Matip can expect to be back after the November international break. Shaqiri (Calf injury) is also yet to return to the squad. Naby Keita also picked up a muscle injury against Arsenal and will not be available for the trip to Villa Park. The likely lineup for Liverpool could be – Alisson; Trent, Lovren, van Dijk, Robertson; Hendersson, Fabinho, Wijnaldum; Mane, Firmino, Salah.
While Aston Villa are in a great goal-scoring form, they are besotted by defensive issues, having conceded one more goal than the 15 they have scored. This profligacy in defence will likely cost them on Saturday as it will be enough for the ruthless Liverpool to exploit. We can expect an easier win for Liverpool on Saturday, compared to their last couple of league games.
Aston Villa 1 – 3 Liverpool