Verdict: Both teams to score
Best odds: 12/25
After a dominant two-legged victory over Hibernian, Aston Villa is set to travel to Anfield for a Premier League clash against Liverpool on Sunday. Aston Villa sealed an 8-0 aggregate triumph over the Scottish side during the week to claim a spot in the group stage of the Europa Conference League.
Meanwhile, Jurgen Klopp’s team, despite playing with 10 men, secured a 2-1 victory against Newcastle United last weekend, much to the surprise of the St James’ Park crowd.
A red card in the first half during the clash between Newcastle and Liverpool, similar to what occurred last year, threatened to banish one team’s hopes of victory at St James’ Park. Virgil van Dijk was sent off for a last-man foul on Alexander Isak, and Liverpool found themselves trailing to a goal from former academy player Anthony Gordon. However, just as they did in August 2022, Liverpool managed to snatch victory late in the game.
On this occasion, it was substitute Darwin Nunez who became the hero by scoring a brilliant brace off the bench, preserving Liverpool’s undefeated start to the new season and extending Jurgen Klopp’s winning streak over Eddie Howe to 11 games—an all-time Premier League record for a manager against a single opponent. The previous matches saw Liverpool draw 1-1 away to Chelsea and beat Bournemouth, also with 10 men, at home by 3-1.
With seven points from the opening nine available this season, Liverpool currently sits in fourth place and have gone 14 games without defeat in the Premier League since suffering a 4-1 loss to Manchester City. They have won nine and drawn five league matches during this run.
Moreover, Liverpool’s unbeaten Premier League streak at Anfield now stands at 13 matches since their loss to Leeds United in October. However, given that Liverpool has both scored and conceded in each of their last five matches, Aston Villa will likely be looking to take advantage of their most glaring weakness and play an attacking game.
The arrival of midfielder Ryan Gravenberch from Bayern Munich was confirmed in the final hours of the summer transfer window, but the Dutch international is unlikely to make his club debut so soon.
Meanwhile, Van Dijk is suspended due to the red card from the previous match, and though he wasn’t supposed to be absent longer than that, his behaviour during the incident and severe verbal altercation with the referee have made a suspension prolonging highly likely.
Van Dijk’s usual centre-back partner Ibrahima Konate is out with an injury, as is midfielder Thiago Alcantara. Both Konate and Thiago are expected to be in contention after the upcoming international break.
The one player who could feature on Sunday after recovering from an ankle injury and subsequent surgery, is Curtis Jones. Klopp has confirmed the 21-year-old midfielder being in full training.
Aston Villa experienced a 5-1 defeat at St James’ Park in the opening weekend of the season against Newcastle. However, since that embarrassing loss, Unai Emery’s team appear to have learned from the experience. They have put together four consecutive wins, scoring an impressive 15 goals in the process. The most recent highlight was a 3-1 victory over Burnley, with right-back Matty Cash contributing with a brace and Moussa Diaby adding another goal.
In addition to their league form, Aston Villa easily progressed through their Europa Conference League qualifying playoff tie against Hibs. They secured a 3-0 victory in the second leg after winning the first leg with five unanswered goals against the Scottish Premiership side at Easter Road. This success has earned them a spot in the group stage, where they will face AZ Alkmaar, Legia Warsaw, and Zrinjski Mostar.
While Aston Villa have been in fine attacking form, they failed to keep a clean sheet in their last seven Premier League away matches. However, it’s worth noting that they managed to hold Liverpool to a 1-1 draw at Anfield last season, ending Liverpool’s five-game winning streak against them since their memorable 7-2 victory in a closed-door match.
Emery has not reported any new fitness concerns following their recent victories over Hibs and Burnley. However, several players remain sidelined due to injury. Emi Buendia and Tyrone Mings are recovering from knee injuries, Jacob Ramsey has an ankle issue, and Philippe Coutinho is dealing with a thigh problem. First-choice goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez has a minor calf issue and may be a doubt for the weekend, while Alex Moreno is nursing a thigh injury.
Aston Villa made a loan signing on transfer deadline day, bringing in Clement Lenglet on loan from Barcelona, but much like Gravenberch for Liverpool, the defender may not be quite ready to play for his new club.
With Van Dijk and Konate both out of contention, Villa will seek to break through Liverpool’s make-shift back line likely to consist of Joel Matip and Joe Gomez.
Liverpool are still the favourites to win the contest, but they’ll probably need to score at least twice to justify that claim.
Verdict: Both teams to score
Best odds: 12/25
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