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Stephen Warnock exclusive: "I expect Villa to give Liverpool a really tough game"

The former Aston Villa defender began his career in Merseyside and is looking forward to his old sides coming face to face this weekend.

Soccer : Barclays Premier League - Aston Villa V Liverpool Photo by AMA/Corbis via Getty Images

Stephen Warnock is anticipating a tough test for Aston Villa when they lock horns with Liverpool on Saturday.

The former England international represented 10 clubs during his 14-year playing career, but perhaps the two sides he is most-closely associated with meet at Villa Park this weekend.

Warnock made over 100 appearances for the Villans between 2009-2012 and was part of the team who famously made it to the 2010 League Cup final, only to be beaten at the last hurdle by Manchester United.

The 37-year-old called time on his playing days in 2018 and, despite representing Villa for the final time some seven years ago, Warnock still keeps an eye out for the claret and blues’ fortunes.

“I watched Villa against Manchester City at the weekend and I thought Villa didn’t really go after them,” he said in a recent interview with 7500 to Holte.

“There was maybe a bit of a feeling that they were going to the champions and what Manchester City could do if they turned up. I think they thought if they went for them, there was going to be gaps in behind and they were going to punish them."

“I thought Raheem Sterling had an unbelievable game and then he started to draw players across to him and make it difficult.”

After facing the champions of England last week, Villa's attention has now switched to the tussle with the champions of Europe on Saturday.

Warnock knows a thing or two about the Reds - the club he began his career with - and the former defender is more than aware of just how dangerous Jurgen Klopp’s men can be.

“With Liverpool, you just worry for Villa, that if they show up they’re going to cause all kinds of problems. They’re relentless at the moment,” he said.

“The only thing that goes in Villa’s favour is, away from home, Liverpool aren’t the same as at home. They find it a bit more difficult because teams sit in away from home as well, and they’re finding that tough to break down at times.

“But you always know they’ve got great quality on the pitch. I expect Villa to give them a really tough game because, at Villa Park, the fans are getting behind the team and they are creating chances.

“It will be a tough game, but I think if Villa could sneak a draw it would be a great result and a massive confidence booster going into a busy period coming up to Christmas.”

Liverpool have been perhaps the most consistent and reliable team in Europe this season, winning nine of their 10 Premier League games to date.

Yet, Warnock believes that defending deep is not necessarily the best way to stop this free-flowing Liverpool side.

“I’ve watched a lot of teams against them and you’ve almost got to cheat as a team - you’ve got to leave players up the pitch and trust your defenders and midfielders to do a job,” Warnock claimed.

“When you look up as a defender, you need an outlet to give you a breather. It’s so hard because they just try and create overloads against you all the time. You need numbers to try and stop that.

“So, it’s a gamble, and you can come away getting beat by three or four goals, but you will get opportunities if you are brave enough. That’s the hard thing to do against the quality of Liverpool.”

Warnock, a left-back in his day, said he is fan of the two players who have operated in that position this season: Neil Taylor and Matt Targett.

“I like both of them,” he admitted. “I think Neil’s had a brilliant career. He’s maybe been a bit affected by the tackle on Seamus Coleman - I think when you watch him now, he’s just not as tough in the tackle.

“I think he’s a little bit more reluctant going into tackles and I think that’s probably hampered him a little bit. He’s been a great servant for Villa and he was a great buy at a critical time.

“I think Targett is a brilliant left-back,” Warnock added. “I thought he played well against Man City at the weekend. Defensively he’s very good and, going forward, he’s got real quality with his left foot.

“I think they’ve got a very good left-back - I couldn’t believe Southampton actually let him go. I know they’ve got [Ryan] Bertrand, but I’d say he’s maybe even better than him.”

To read more of Warnock’s thoughts on Villa, and his reflections on his career in B6, make sure to check out 7500 to Holte next week.