Saturday, August 24, 2013

Match Preview: Aston Villa vs Liverpool

Aston Villa take in their first home game of the new Premier League season, with Liverpool the visitors to Villa Park.

Villa may have come unstuck at Chelsea on Wednesday night, but manager Paul Lambert felt big decisions went against his side at Stamford Bridge and is pleased with how their campaign has started.

Lambert's men opened with an impressive 3-1 victory over Arsenal on the opening day, suggesting they should have enough to steer clear of the relegation struggles which haunted them in 2012/13.

They have also been buoyed by the summer commitment of Christian Benteke to a new contract, and the powerful Belgian forward has burst out of the blocks by netting three times in his two outings so far.

Liverpool will be hoping that someone within their ranks steps up to the scoring plate in the continued absence of Luis Suarez through suspension, with Daniel Sturridge seemingly the most likely candidate.

The England international struck the Reds' winner as they edged out Stoke City 1-0 at Anfield in their first fixture of the new campaign.

Brendan Rodgers is eager to see his side force their way back into top-four contention this term, and he will know that any side harbouring UEFA Champions League aspirations will need to collect points consistently on their travels - and Liverpool have emerged victorious in nine of their last 15 visits to Villa Park, losing just once.

Aston Villa should have defender Ciaran Clark available on Saturday.

Clark was forced off in the first half of the 2-1 loss at Chelsea on Wednesday with a head injury but is expected to be fit for the Reds' visit to Villa Park, while midfielder Chris Herd could be in contention for a first appearance this term following his calf problem.

Defender Nathan Baker (ankle) remains a doubt and winger Charles N'Zogbia (Achilles) definitely misses out.

Liverpool striker Luis Suarez remains the only notable absentee in Rodgers' plans.

The controversial forward is now halfway through the 10-match ban he received last season after sitting out the Reds' season opener against Stoke.

Fellow Uruguayan Sebastian Coates, a defender, is likely to miss most of the season with a knee injury sustained on international duty last week. Striker Luis Alberto was an unused substitute in that game and is still to make his debut, while new signing Aly Cissokho could also be in contention.

Match Prediction

Aston Villa must be over the moon. I know they were beaten by Chelsea after winning against Arsenal, but with Liverpool coming up it could have been a nightmare start to the season. Whatever happens here, I didn't think they'd have this many points. I've said it before but the best signing they could've made, they have: Christian Benteke. The fact that he has started so well makes you wonder if someone is going to come in with silly money for him, but he will score 15 to 20 goals - and that is the one thing that could get Villa into mid-table.

Liverpool's main striker, Luis Suarez, is of course another topic of conversation. If Liverpool's best 11 are on their game, they can take on anyone, but go beyond that and onto the bench then they have youngsters and I am not sure they have any game-changers to turn to. If Brendan Rodgers can keep them all fit, they will do well. I like the look of Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge, and I think they are in for a better season.


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