Liverpool will be hoping to end the little hoodoo that Aston Villa seem to have over them at Anfield on Saturday evening, with the visitors leaving Merseyside with something to show for their efforts for the past three seasons, whilst Paul Lambert will be hoping for more of the same from his side.
To be played on Saturday 13th September 2014 at 17:30. Venue: Anfield, Liverpool.
Odds: Liverpool 3/10, Draw 5/1, Aston Villa 11/1
Last season: 2-2
Preview & injury news
This was one of three fixtures when Liverpool dropped points at Anfield last season, and the Reds will be hoping to gain points where they were lost last season by making it three wins from four games. An impressive 3-0 win at Tottenham Hotspur means they have made a solid start to the season but the international break has not been kind to them. Daniel Sturridge has been ruled out for two to three weeks with a thigh injury picked up in an England training session, whilst Jordan Henderson suffered an injury scare, but played 90 minutes in Switzerland for the Three Lions, and should be able to start here. Adam Lallana is also in line for his debut after recovering from a knee injury, but the Reds are likely to be without the defensive trio of Jon Flanagan, Glen Johnson and Martin Skrtel through injury.
The sides the Reds face will be a confident Aston Villa side who have picked up seven points from their first three games. For a side that isn't supposed to score many goals, they can afford to be pleased with their start. However, if they are to preserve their good record at Anfield, they're going to have to do it without the catalyst for their impressive last two outings away to the Reds in the form of Christian Benteke who continues his recovery from a long-term knee injury - and the visitors will be boosted by news that Ron Vlaar should be available after a calf problem.
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Both sides seem happy for their opponents to have the Lions' share of possession judging by their possession statistics, but they suggest in this particular game that Liverpool will look to control proceedings a little more than Villa - especially given they've made on average 131 more passes per game so far. Liverpool have been creating more chances whilst both sides have had busy times of it at the back - though Villa's defensive record so far is exemplary. The statistics point towards an intriguing encounter.
5 players to watch
Adam Lallana - The £25 million signing from Southampton has had a little while to wait for his debut after picking up a knee injury in pre-season. But with Daniel Sturridge sidelined, there will be room for Brendan Rodgers to accommodate the Englishman should he wish to do so. Fans are keen to see why they paid so much money for him, and Lallana will be eager to show why he's worth the price the Reds paid.
Fabian Delph - Delph played in both of England's internationals and looked lively, and Paul Lambert will be after a similar performance from his midfielder. It is going to be a key factor if Villa are to keep up their good record at Anfield of late.
Mario Balotelli - With Sturridge sidelined, there is more responsibility on Balotelli to deliver the goods for his side in front of goal. He put in a promising performance for the Reds in the win against Tottenham but did look a little rusty. He'll hope that now he has some game time behind him, he can kick on and be able to get his first goal in a Liverpool shirt on Saturday evening.
Tom Cleverley - After being something of a maligned figure at Manchester United, Cleverley will have a point to prove at Aston Villa. For a player on loan from Old Trafford, there won't be many better places to start to impress than at Anfield.
Steven Gerrard - Gerrard looked exposed playing in the deeper role by Villa in this fixture last season. Liverpool persisted with the experiment and he will line up in the same role on Saturday. Have Liverpool learnt their lessons when it comes to battling Paul Lambert's men in the middle of the park?
Last time they met
Liverpool 2-2 Aston Villa - Premier League, January 2014
Villa were looking to repeat their heroics of the season before and they almost managed it. They exploited how open Liverpool were and counter-attacked them with pace and power and took a deserved lead midway through the first half when Andreas Weimann tapped in from close range. 10 minutes later, Christian Benteke took advantage of a Simon Mignolet error to head home a Gabriel Agbonlahor cross. Villa were deservedly in charge but Daniel Sturridge struck for the home side just before half time when he latched on to a Jordan Henderson back heel. Lucas Leiva came on at half time to add more steel to the midfield, and the Reds equalised at the start of the second half when Luis Suarez was adjudged to have been brought down by Brad Guzan, after the Uruguayan latched on to a Gerrard long ball. The Liverpool skipper despatched the penalty, but the momentum went out of the home side's game when Lucas was substituted on the hour mark after picking up a knee injury.