Liverpool vs. Aston Villa
Premier League (4) | Anfield
September 3, 2023 | 2pm (BST)
Next up is Sunday’s visit of an impressive Villa outfit, who have recovered from an opening weekend mauling by the Magpies, securing back-to-back triumphs – they’ve also hit eight against Hibernian in the European qualifying round.
Liverpool will need to be at their best when they face Unai Emery’s team, having only managed a late draw at home to them in the final home game of last season.
Here are 10 things to know ahead of the Reds’ clash with the Villans:
1. No Van Dijk or Konate
While there is plenty to feel positive about going into Sunday’s match, there are real concerns at the back.
Both largely did well last weekend but they will need to be at the top of the game against a vibrant Villa attack featuring the likes of Ollie Watkins and Moussa Diaby.
2. Other injury news
Away from the absence of Van Dijk and Konate, Liverpool’s injury worries are easing.
New signing Ryan Gravenberch was not registed in time to be part of the matchday squad.
3. Predicted Liverpool XI
With the international break to come next, Klopp doesn’t need to worry about rotation, so Liverpool’s strongest possible starting XI is to be expected.
Possible Liverpool XI: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Gomez, Robertson; Endo, Szoboszlai, Mac Allister; Salah, Diaz, Nunez
4. Aston Villa a team on the up
It’s fair to say that Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard did an underwhelming job as Villa manager, but they have been transformed since Emery replaced him last October.
The Spaniard guided his side to a seventh-place finish in the Premier League, qualifying for the UEFA Europa Conference League, and they have enjoyed an impressive summer transfer window.
Highly-rated Spain international Pau Torres has come in to sure up the defence, while Youri Tielemans, Nicolo Zaniolo (loan) and Diaby also represent intriguing signings.
Outside of the traditional ‘big six’, Villa are one of the leading sides in the division these days, and they will pose a big threat this weekend.
5. Likely Villa starting XI
Villa comfortably saw off Burnley in a 3-1 win last Sunday and it would be a surprise if their starting XI was much different at Anfield.
Emiliano Martinez remains one of the Premier League‘s best goalkeepers, following his 2022 World Cup heroics with Argentina, and he will start behind a likely back-three of Ezri Konsa, Diego Carlos and Torres.
Matty Cash scored twice at Burnley and should continue as a right wing-back, with Lucas Digne on the left side, and Boubacar Kamara and Douglas Luiz in midfield.
Diaby and John McGinn are then expected to support Ollie Watkins in attack, with the latter looking for his first league goal of the season.
Predicted Villa XI (3-4-2-1): Martinez; Konsa, Carlos, Torres; Cash, Kamara, Luiz, Digne; Diaby, McGinn; Watkins.
6. Salah is going nowhere…
Speaking to the media on Friday, Klopp reiterated that Mohamed Salah is not for sale this summer, despite continued interest from Saudi Arabia:
“The position remains the same, absolutely. No doubt about that. We cannot [sell Salah]. That’s how it is. Nothing else to say.”
While the Saudi transfer window doesn’t close until next week, it would be an almighty shock if Salah left, with no time to replace him.
Next summer feels far more likely, at which points he will be 32 and will only have one year remaining on his current deal.
7. Nine years without an Anfield win
While neutrals may be fancying Villa to cause Liverpool real problems on Sunday, their record at Anfield makes for grim reading for their supporters.
Their last win there came back in September 2014, when a Gabriel Agbonlahor strike proved to be the difference between the two sides, as Brendan Rodgers’ reign started to go sour.
Since then, Liverpool have won four of the five Premier League meetings that have taken place at Anfield, including a hard-earned 1-0 win over Gerrard’s Villa in December 2021, thanks to a Salah penalty.
A late Roberto Firmino equaliser was needed back in May to earn Klopp’s men a 1-1 draw, however, which was a sign of their improvement under Emery.
8. Did You Know?
Nunez has taken some unfair flak since joining Liverpool, when in fact he has done a solid job overall, despite some rash finishing.
The 24-year-old has scored 17 goals in his first 45 appearances for the Reds, which is exactly the same tally as Luis Suarez managed in that time when he arrived.
Nunez’s compatriot ended up being one of the greatest players in Liverpool’s history as he grew more accustomed to the Premier League, and who’s to say the current Reds hero can’t do similar?
Expecting him to reach Suarez’s level could be unfair, but this statistic shows that football fans can be far too quick to write players off.
9. Simon Hooper takes charge
Simon Hooper has been confirmed as the referee for Sunday’s game, with all eyes set to be on the officials once again, following the farce at Newcastle last time around.
The 41-year-old took charge of three Liverpool league games last season, the first of which was the 3-1 victory at home to Southampton.
Worryingly, he failed to award Wolves a blatant late penalty at United earlier this month, when it was clear that Andre Onana had fouled Sasa Kalajdzic, so don’t hold your breath when it comes to controversy being avoided.
10. Follow the match with TIA
TIA’s matchday live blog will be available as always, however, with Sam Millne keeping you entertained from 1.15pm (UK).
Come on you Reds!