The story so far
Mistakes will cost you - and you certainly can’t commit them against the elite teams of the world and get away it. With that in mind, can you guess how Villa conceded their first goal last weekend against Manchester City? Yep - via a mistake.
Villa were beaten 3-0 in a routine performance by Manchester City, but still found reason to keep their heads held high after a solid first-half and a fairly acceptable scoreline. In midweek, the Villans responding by thumping a rotated Wolves XI out of the Carabao Cup.
In the next round they will be facing tomorrow’s opponents, a busy Liverpool side. As to when Liverpool and Villa are set to play at Villa Park in the cup, nobody really knows. However, Villa’s league match tomorrow is set in stone.
Liverpool’s success has created a busy schedule. Not only do they have Champions League and Premier League fixtures to contend with, they will kick off a FIFA Club World Cup campaign in December, before continuing with League Cup and FA Cup fixtures. From here on out, each week could contain two Liverpool fixtures! A good problem for your team to have, no?
As for their Premier League fixtures, Liverpool have yet to lose...
Who are ya?
Last week we described Manchester City as winners, and it’s only fair that we describe Liverpool as winners as well.
6 European Cups, 7 FA Cups, 3 UEFA Cups, 18 league titles. Liverpool, for a large part of their history have ended a season with a medal. Sure, there have been barren patches, but over the past few decades, Liverpool have been a top winning side in England.
The league title has evaded them for a long while though, and although Liverpool have claimed the superior European Cup a number of times since their last league title triumph, it’s a bugbear for the club. They came almightily close last season, and this season will come down to the wire as well.
Jürgen Klopp is a man possessed and often resembles a beehive in the shape of Teutonic man rather than a composed football manager. His teams seem to take a lot from his personality, shaping up in a boisterous manner and refusing to let in.
A champion of the game and a big heart outside of it, Klopp’s fire is a perfect compliment to the dynamic Pep Guardiola.
Schooled in Germany, Klopp has taken his game to another level in a stint at Liverpool that hasn’t always been easy. The sky is the limit.
One to watch
Liverpool boast a strong and relentless squad that is dominant in all areas of the pitch. The front three are feared, the full-backs are the key players, the midfield are dynamic and mobile and the goalkeeper is world-class. However, in the team - Virgil Van Dijk stands out.
Van Dijk, the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year, is the elite defender. A ball-playing centre-back with composure and an eye for goal, the Dutchman is unstoppable on his day.
Able to clear the skies of aerial passes, break up moves and create attacking opportunities, Virgil is an all-round threat that can deal with overloads and pour pressure on the opposition.
There are many copy-cats, but there’s only one Virgil Van Dijk, and Villa will be facing him on the weekend.
What about the Villa?
The last section of Villa’s breathing room will expire this weekend - as this is the last game for a while that Villa should accept a loss in. A beating against Manchester City was expected, but it was hard to take.
Now, Aston Villa will take on Liverpool in slightly different circumstances, for Aston Villa are playing at home.
The big questions for Aston Villa heading into this game surround Jack Grealish and Wesley.
Will Jack Grealish return from injury? Will Keinan Davis start instead of Wesley?
Jack Grealish will start the game if fit as his calf injury sustained against Manchester City was only a minor worry. He’ll continue out-wide on the left. As for Wesley, he’ll likely run with the start after Keinan Davis collapsed with a hamstring injury against Wolves.
The rest of the side is a foregone conclusion. Douglas Luiz will get a chance to build on his promising performances with another start against Liverpool, his second to last game at the Villa before he heads to join up with the Brazil squad for the first time later in November. John McGinn, being John McGinn will start once more after a guest appearance against Wolves midweek. Marvelous Nakamba will slot straight back into the holding midfield role forcing the impetus onto Conor Hourihane to impress from the bench to take a space in this team. Henri Lansbury put his best foot forward against Wolves, and could be due some game time as a result.
Tom Heaton, Matt Targett, Tyrone Mings, Björn Engels and Fred Guilbert will be in for another tough game, but are Aston Villa’s best at the back.
Liverpool play aggressively with a high-line shrinking the pitch. The cut in from out wide and play through the middle. They create shooting opportunities consistently, taking pop shots from outside to surprise.
It’s very hard to stop Liverpool, so how do you?
The best answer? To stop the full-backs. Manchester United were able to nullify Liverpool’s full-backs by muddling up the pitch and carrying out man-to-man assignments on the wide players. This resulted in a 1-1 draw, but importantly, not a loss. To gain something from this match, Aston Villa need to do the same, because Liverpool’s full-backs are auxillary everythings.
They need to press Liverpool, play the long ball, be professional and smart with fouls, and not give the ball up in their own half.
Villa should also be prepared for the high press, and they shouldn’t lose the ball without a fight as any press that Liverpool can offer to Villa’s centre-backs will be outmatched by the number of defensive Villa players. AVFC cannot afford to lose the ball in a 3-vs-2 situation like they did last week when Engels’ weak pass was picked off in the penalty area. It’s common sense, and Villa need to keep their heads.
Sitting back won’t help Villa either - so Dean Smith’s men will need to stick to their guns and avoid giving Liverpool excuses to blow them away.
A tough game - but Villa learnt a lot last week. They can use that at home against Liverpool and steal a draw.