Steven Gerrard returns to Anfield this Saturday, and is set to receive the rapturous applause of an entire Anfield stadium. His appointment to the Villa hot seat has been a success so far, with three wins and one narrow loss (to Manchester City), in his first four games. The fifth game brings him back to his beloved Liverpool, in what is surely the biggest moment in his short managerial career.
With a strong structure already in place, Gerrard appears to prefer system players at this early stage. The team that overcame Leicester last weekend should start once more, with Leon Bailey, Danny Ings and Trézéguet all out injured. With Ashley Young likely to start once more at left back, he could have a busy day trying to halt Mohamed Salah. The midfield will try to match up to Liverpool’s dominating three, and this is where Villa will need to be ultra aggressive in their work.
Liverpool arrive home after an impressive win at the historic San Siro, in midweek. Jordan Henderson and Thiago were rested for the Champions League dead rubber, but will be hoping to start if fully fit. The defence will see Virgil Van Dijk recalled, with Joël Matip likely to join him. Trent Alexander Arnold and Andy Robertson will resume full back duties, with Fabinho reinstated into the middle.
Divock Origi is enjoying some splendid form, yet the first choice trio of Salah, Sadio Mane and Diogo Jota will surely start. The reds are on a great run of form, and with Newcastle the more likely game for rotation (next Thursday), Klopp will be looking to go full strength here. This home game and next Sunday’s trip to White Hart Lane represent real tests, and the rotation within this next period will be key.
The two teams will be eager to start as the aggressor, but the gulf in quality will probably be too apparent. The Ashley Young and Tyrone Mings left side pairing will be targeted, and overwhelming pressure will be hard to withstand. With Villa likely to to spring counter attacks, Ollie Watkins will be offering their best threat up top. His pace and movement will be hard to maintain, but Liverpool are fully into their winter groove.
Momentum is key for both sides right now, and Gerrard will be keen to impress upon his return. The amount of goals Liverpool are scoring should be too telling, and how Virgil Van Dijk defends his half of the pitch, will see whether Villa can get anything from this game.
Player to watch – Virgil Van Dijk
Liverpool 3 – 1 Aston Villa