Villa Park has been invaded this week by Rugby fans, and Birmingham City fans too for that matter. But mostly rugby fans. So while I try and get my head around the sight of rugby posts in front of the Holte End I present to you this week's edition of Don't look back in anger. Enjoy!
This has mostly been written before Villa play Birmingham City on Tuesday night. So if you're wondering why I'm not saying anything about the game, it's because it hasn't happened yet. Even though it already has if you are reading right now. This is some Illuminati level stuff we're dealing with here folks.
The last time we met
For the third week running, we go back to last season's FA Cup run, a time when Villa's strikers could score, Villa's defenders could defend, and Villa's midfielders could midfield. Okay, not so much the last one, but you get the point, thing's kinda suck right now, and they didn't suck so much last time.
At Wembley Stadium, Aston Villa secured a historic victory, beating Liverpool 2-1 to advance to the FA Cup Final. It was a game that showed Villa's heart and determination, coming back from an early Philippe Coutinho goal to turn it around either side of half time. Christian Benteke scored with an excellent first time effort, whilst Jack Grealish dazzled the defence before playing in Fabian Delph, who scored the winner. Luck played a part as Mario Balotelli had a goal disallowed, and Kieran Richardson was an unlikely hero, heading off of the line to deny Steven Gerrard an equaliser. The highlights are below-
Even though the result didn't bring home the Cup, it provided a boost in morale for fans and players alike, and helped spur Villa on to wins against Everton and West Ham. So, it's not really an understatement to call it the biggest result of the season for Villa. Conversely, this result seemed to be the end of Liverpool's season. Out of the title race, Liverpool seemed to limp their way home at the end of the season, picking up just five points in the last six games, winning just one of those. My personal highlight was the 6-1 defeat on the last day of the season at Stoke City. A fitting way for Anfield legend Steven Gerrard to depart the club, though he did score Liverpool's lone goal that game.
A tale of two managers
When Villa beat Liverpool, Tim Sherwood was THE in-form manager. Hailed as a tactical genius, he was the man of the moment, the hero, the savior. Brendan Rodgers meanwhile was coming under fire from the Liverpool fans. Not just as a direct result of the FA Cup clash either. Check out this video from after the Liverpool vs Stoke game-
Not exactly music to Brendan's ears. But back to the present, and things aren't going quite so swimmingly for Tim either, with many fans starting to lose patience with his erratic substitutions and questionable tactical decisions. Which leaves us with two sides who both have under fire and under pressure managers. Makes for an interesting narrative!
Liverpool this season
The big difference for Liverpool this term is a certain £32.5 million striker. And I'm not going to sugar coat things, Saturday is going to suck for Aston Villa's centre backs. How many times did we see Christian Benteke absolutely destroy opposition defences? Ask Federico Fazio or Ashley Williams. In fact, I'm told that Chris Smalling still has nightmares about the big Belgian. The scary thing is, he can, and he will do the same to the Villa defence, and I'm not sure that Ciaran Clark, Micah Richards or Joleon Lescott can do anything about it. All of this is irrelevant if he doesn't play though, and he might not, thanks to a hamstring injury that he picked up against Norwich.
Benteke aside, Liverpool have been fairly average so far this season. New signing Firmino hasn't really done much, and James Milner has been James Milner. That is to say, solid but unspectacular, which is a bit like Liverpool this season. So really, Liverpool are the James Milner of the Premier League. Which would probably make Villa the Mario Balotelli of the division.
Liverpool play Carlisle United in the Capital One Cup tonight, and while they should win easily, it gives them one less day to prepare for the Villa game. But then again, they will likely rest a few first team players, which Villa did not against Birmingham City. So the day advantage is probably neutralised.
I know a lot of Liverpool fans, and they are mostly lovely people, but on the internet, there are LOADS of terrible terrible Liverpool fans. Seriously, they are the worst. Far more dislikeable than any Liverpool players. But this week I'm going to play nice, and not throw any abuse at them. Partly because I've tired myself out with three consecutive derbies, and partly because at least two Liverpool fans know where I live. Think of it as self preservation!
Seeing how I can't make the Liverpool fans cry this week, I'm hoping that Aston Villa can do that job for me on Saturday. 3 points and some Scouse tears please Tim.