There is a big match in the race for European football at the weekend, as Liverpool host Aston Villa. With just two matches left for both teams, this will be viewed as a must win game. The Reds are chasing the Champions League places and are piling on the pressure on the teams currently occupying those spots. Meanwhile, Aston Villa are trying to force their way into any sort of European competition. They need to win their remaining matches to even stand a chance of being successful. It should be a good game for the neutral.
A few weeks ago, it looked like Liverpool would be faltering to a poor league finish, but seven successive victories have left them just one point below the top four. Although they are relying on others dropping points, it is an encouraging position to be in and they have given themselves a chance. Even if they miss out, they have found a new style of play and will take momentum into the 2023/24 season.
Unai Emery has been nominated for manager of the season. This shows how well he has done at Aston Villa. At the time of his appointment, there were fears about relegation. He has taken them to the brink of European qualification and it would be hugely unlucky if they were to miss out now. If they do miss out, there are plenty of positives to take into next season. Villa are an ambitious club and they now have a manager to compete in the upper echelons of the league.
Liverpool have won nine of their last ten Premier League meetings with Aston Villa.
Ollie Watkins has scored five times against Liverpool. This is more than he has managed against any other club.
It has been a good few weeks for Trent Alexander-Arnold. Jurgen Klopp has changed the set up of the team to allow the full-back to move into central positions when the Reds have the ball. It has helped with the balance of the team with the ball and in transition. They are harder to play through at pace. With the ball, they are keeping possession with more regularity and their matches have less chaos at the moment. It is still a system in the infancy of its development, but the signs are pleasing. For Alexander-Arnold, he continues to carry a threat with a goal and six assists in his last eight matches.
Aston Villa’s rise up the league table has been a team effort, but they wouldn’t have got there without the goals of Ollie Watkins. He looks a player reborn under Unai Emery and has found a level of consistency. Although the goals have dried up in recent weeks, he continues to carry a big threat and he will be the player most likely to cause Liverpool issues this weekend. There will be space on transition this weekend and Watkins has the intelligence to get beyond the home side’s defence. This season, he has contributed 14 goals and six assists. It is a very good season and he will be hoping that he can finish the campaign strongly. Watkins will be in the running for an England recall. A couple of goals before the season finishes will only strengthen his claims.
Roberto Firmino and Darwin Nunez are both doubts. Thiago Alcantara won’t be available for the rest of the season.
Calum Chambers is a doubt for this weekend. Philippe Coutinho is not going to feature again for the rest of the season.
It should be a great game, with both teams having plenty to play for. Liverpool have been in excellent form. It will be very difficult for the visitors to get anything from Anfield. It feels like it is a fortress again. A home win is the most likely result, but it could be the most difficult game that they have had in a while.
Liverpool 2-1 Aston Villa