While Saturday's match at Anfield is undoubtedly important for Tim Sherwood and his Villa side, it may be even more crucial for Liverpool and Brendan Rodgers. After winning their first two matches of the season, Liverpool haven't won in their last four league games. On top of that, they needed penalties to sneak by League Two side Carlisle United in the Capital One Cup midweek. If Villa manage to get a result at Anfield (where they haven't lost since 2010), it may spell the end for Rodgers. We chatted with Matt, from This Is Anfield, to see what's really going on over at Liverpool.
Just how much pressure is on Rodgers? Is this simply discontent grumbling by the fans or is he running out of time to turn things around?
TIA: He's clearly under huge pressure, and he's acting like a manager who knows his job is under threat. I'd say he's in survival mode and his team selection vs. Carlisle reflected this, living game-by-game rather than showing any planning ahead for more important games.
He should be running out of time, well, he should have run out of time back in May. FSG have proven to be far less ruthless than we imagined though over the last 6 months. It does, though, seem inevitable he'll be gone at some point, there's a very slim chance he can turn this around.
Related: What do you make of the story making the rounds that Liverpool contacted Carlo Ancelotti, followed quickly by a club statement denying that story?
TIA: Clearly these things happen. I'm told both Ancelotti and Klopp were 'sounded out' in the summer too. Every club does this and it's prudent planning.
Of course the club are going to deny it, a) to ensure no claim of constructive dismissal if it does happen, and b) to not undermine Rodgers in a way that Gillett and Hicks did when their approach for Klinsmann became public knowledge. The club are hardly going to say anything other than deny it. Remember, Rodgers denied Liverpool would ever pay £32 for Benteke...
The reaction to Liverpool's big money buy of Benteke was met with a fair amount of criticism from fans, saying he wouldn't fit the style, he wasn't worth the price, he's overrated, etc. Is that still the consensus, or has he won the fans over with a few stunning goals?
TIA: I'm not sure it's the consensus but it certainly all stills seem apparent. Benteke has done 'ok' in his first 6 games but nothing more, and now has a hamstring injury.
Truth is, Danny Ings has proven himself to be more suited to Liverpool's style of play in these last 2 games and he would be a better partner for Sturridge.
After a rocky start to his Liverpool career, Jordan Henderson has really come into his own and proven a central figure for the Reds. With his injury keeping him out of the side for a few months, how are Liverpool going to replace his presence in the center of the park?
TIA: This is possibly the most depressing aspect of the team at present (now that Lovren is no longer starting). We needed to sign 2 midfielders in the summer; a goalscorer midfielder, and a defensive midfielder. We signed James Milner, who is neither of those.
So the midfield without Henderson is extremely lacking inspiration. Lucas will no doubt start, do his usual thing of giving away needless fouls and free-kicks, releasing pressure for you. Milner will play alongside him no doubt, as he's now Rodgers' favourite son and looked absolutely shattered against Carlisle. Nobody can work out why he played that game.
What's your verdict on Simon Mignolet? It seems to me that everytime I see Liverpool play, he's plagued by clumsy mistakes and questionable decision making. Am I just watching the wrong games?
TIA: He's a decent enough goalkeeper but nowhere near good enough for a top four team. He can't punch and he can't kick. Two pretty important aspects for a modern 'keeper. Fine for a mid table club, but we'll never compete at the top end with him in goal.
Not that Liverpool would ever do this, but hypothetically, which current Villa player would you like to snag for Liverpool's squad?
TIA: Tiago Ilori! We're all a bit perplexed at why we loaned him out having never played him.
Joking aside, there's probably not that star player Villa have usually had that top clubs have their eye on now Delph and Benteke were lured away. I would have taken Micah Richards in the summer as good backup for right-back and centre-back.
Daniel Sturridge returning from injury could not have been better timed, with Benteke set to miss out the next few games through injury. With Danny Ings putting in a good performance last week against Norwich, are you feeling more confident in Liverpool's strike force?
TIA: Somewhat. But it's the way we set up that's the issue, we're extremely slow to get the ball forward for long parts of the game. We're better with 3-4-3 though so hopefully that continues on Saturday.
You do realise the last time we scored 2 goals in a game was against QPR back in May...
Thanks again to Matt for his pre-match insight! In return for his insight, I answered a few of his questions over at This Is Anfield, so read up!