Liverpool travel to the Midlands this afternoon to take on Alex McLeish’s Aston Villa side, needing three points to maintain pressure on the leading pack in the Premierhsip.
As with all of Liverpool’s game, this is a vital one. Not because the season is going to be a success of failure after this game, but for the fact that Liverpool have shotten themselves in the foot once too many times this season. According to the stats, Liverpool have hit the woodwork 15 times thus far this season, more than any other side, and had the chances gone inm then they’d be in third place! Clearly a fine line between achieving aspirations and another season of “could have, would have, should have”. Obviously a line no finer than the width of the woodkwork…
The reality is that those shots didn’t go in and Liverpool are “languishing” in seventh place with 26 points and needing a wi to move up to 29 and again be in the mix. Arsenal and Tottenham also play this afternoon, and if the two North London teams play according tot he form guides, then the best Liverpool fans can hope for is sixth spot. Having said that, we all know football is “a funny old game” and as such anything can happen. Tottenham lost to Stoke last week and the pressure will be on them to overcome a Sunderland team that now has the mercurial Martin O’Neill at the helm. The team is unbeaten since O’Neill took over so this is by no means a given for Tottenham. They will have to be back to their best to beat this Sunderland side. Arsenal have a tough fixture against Manchester City, but I belive they can get the result they want. Roberto Mancini’s side concede far too often, and if the Gooners are tight at the back, then they could cause an upset.
For Liverpool, I would expect the back four to remain in tact. Kenny Dalglish has faith in the back line that is proving to be among the stingiest in the league. In midfield also, I can’t see Dalglish making any changes. I don’t see a start for Jonjo Shelvey because Dalglish evidently wants to be sparing with him and ease him back into the side gradually. Personally I’m a fan of Shelvey and believe he can add more to the team than Jordan Henderson. He’s definately got a better eye for a pass than Henderson and is a better tackler also. The team definately needs a versatile midfielder in the style of Steven Gerrard and Shelvey is as close to that as they’re likely to have for now.
The only question is in attack. Maybe Dalglish will play Suarez as a lone striker, which he seems to prefer in away games. Should this be the case, then the extra midfielder will be either Craig Bellamy or Dirk Kuyt. As to which, well we’ll have to wait and see, but Bellamy certainly has more pace and the combination has worked well recently. Not forgetting Andy Carroll who I think is showing signs of finding his feet at Liverpool which is a good thing because without them you’re not much of a player! Don’t be surprised to see Carroll start the game purely out of the fact that Dalglish really does rate him highly rather than his anything else. Most Reds fans would agree with that. Anyway, until this time last year most supporters would have said the same about Lucas. Need I say more?
In terms of ability, I think Liverpool have the advantage. Villa, in reality are an ordinary side under McLeish. Nothing special and nowhere near consistent. This isa game Liverpool should be winning and woodwork, refereeing decisions aside, I would expect Liverpool to take all three points. Their profligacy in front of goal has left the team in a situation of relying on other teams to slip up and at the same time, putting more pressure on themselves.
So, as for a prediction, well I don’t do predictions… 2-0 Liverpool!
By Ben Green
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