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Aston Villa head into Liverpool clash desperately in need of something to inspire hope

It's been nearly five games since Aston Villa have scored, the fans have had enough, and even a signing that's earned near universal praise hasn't done much to improve the mood. Now Villa will face a Liverpool side in need of a win almost as much as themselves.

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In recent years, facing Liverpool has been a fairly major occasion for Aston Villa. For whatever reason Villa tend to bring their best game against the Reds, and they've tended to be spirited affairs. But a lot's happening in the world of Aston Villa these days; Carles Gil's arrival from Valencia has given a slight glimmer of hope for an attack that's averaging only slightly more than a goal every other game. Rumors of other signings continue to swirl The pressure on Paul Lambert and Ready Lerner has come to such a head that a demonstration has been planned in the hope of affecting some manner of change-though exactly what form said change would take is unclear. Put together, it's all nearly enough to make the game seem like something of an afterthought.

Which, given the way things have been going of late, is almost a welcome change. Villa have been painful to watch ever since their unexpectedly hot start came to an end - with the final win of that promising four-game run coming at Anfield - and though it's reasonable to think they'll start scoring goals at a pace better than historically bad, they haven't really shown much evidence of this being the case. The addition of Gil certainly can't hurt, but it's not going to be a panacea and it's hard to see him clicking with his new teammates in time to make a difference against Liverpool.

Villa's futility in the attacking phase has rightfully overshadowed a massive improvement on the defensive side of things, but it must be said the team has done a fantastic job in that regard all season long. Only the sides that currently comprise the top four have allowed fewer goals, and if it weren't for consistently excellent defensive displays Villa would almost certainly be in the bottom three and in much deeper trouble than they currently are.

And against Liverpool, it's that defense that will give Villa hope of earning a result. The Reds' goal scoring struggles are several orders of magnitude less severe than the Claret and Blues', but they've clearly not adequately replaced the production of the departed Luis Suarez and haven't looked like much better than an upper-mid-table side all season long. There's still plenty of youth and potential in the team, but unlike years past a leaky Villa defense doesn't seem likely to usher them toward realizing said potential.

It's not thrilling, but that's the state of Villa this season; lean on the defense and hope that they can keep a clean sheet, pray that the attack can manage a goal - and it's almost certainly only going to be one goal - if they can't. It may very well be enough to keep the team safe come the end of the season, but it's pretty empty to watch considering this is a team with some legitimately talented attacking players that just can't seem to score to save their lives.

This gets said every week about this time, but Villa's attack isn't as bad as the numbers they've posted thus far. It's frankly beyond belief that any team's could be. But it's certainly not any good either, and watching them go four straight games without scoring against opposition ranging from awful to mediocre certainly hammers the point home. But they will actually score again, and when they do they're likely to get at least a point out of the deal, and a point against Liverpool is a pretty decent result all things considered. That's where we are, now, again, and it's starting to feel like forever.