Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert has told the Daily Star that Liverpool will face a fight in their reported bid to bring Fabian Delph to Anfield.
Delph, 25, is out of contract in the summer, and is understood to have told management that he has no plans to renew, despite a fresh £50,000-per-week deal being on the table.
The midfielder has endured a rough few months after picking up a straight red in his fourth match back from a dislocated shoulder suffered in October, but that has done little to discourage interest in his signature.
The likes of Everton, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur are all preparing to make respective approaches, according to the Telegraph, with Reds boss Brendan Rodgers earmarking the England international as Steven Gerrard’s long-term replacement.
However, despite his contract situation, Lambert has stressed that Villa will not be looking to cash in on their star man this month, and are even holding out hope of a deal being reached.
"Can we keep him? Yes. With Fabian it will not be about money,” he said. “He's not a money-orientated guy. He just wants to play football.
"It would be a major boost if we can get him to stay. It would send out a great message. Him turning around and staying would be a massive statement.
"We're still talking to Fabian. Hopefully we can get something done. It would be great for us if we could do it.”
In a twist of fate, Delph returns from his three-match suspension for the weekend's visit of Liverpool, when Rodgers will get to see up close whether he has the credentials to replace club legend Gerrard.
"He has the confidence he can mix with that company,” Lambert added. "Having him back is a massive plus. If he keeps progressing and doing what he's doing he's in for a big career."