Liverpool will face Aston Villa in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon without both primary center-backs, marking another challenging match for Jurgen Klopp’s team.
Liverpool vs. Aston Villa
Premier League (4) | AnfieldSeptember 3, 2023 | 2pm (BST)
The Reds achieved a remarkable 2-1 victory against Newcastle last weekend, with a motivated Darwin Nunez leading his 10-man squad to triumph. On the other hand, Sunday’s match will be against an impressive Villa side who have recovered from their initial defeat to Newcastle and secured consecutive wins, including an impressive eight-goal performance against Hibernian in the European qualifying round.
Liverpool needs to be at their peak performance when facing Unai Emery’s team, especially considering their previous draw against them in the final home game of last season. Here are 10 vital points to be aware of before the Reds’ encounter with the Villans:
- No Van Dijk or Konate
While there are numerous positive aspects going into Sunday’s match, there are genuine concerns in defense. Virgil van Dijk is suspended and is likely to face an extended ban, while Ibrahima Konate is still recovering from an injury and will not be available until after the international break. This means that Joel Matip and Joe Gomez are expected to start at center-back, which will be a significant test for them following their poor performances in the previous season. They performed well last weekend, but they will need to be at their best against Villa’s dynamic attack, featuring talented players like Ollie Watkins and Moussa Diaby.
- Other injury updates
In addition to Van Dijk and Konate, Liverpool’s injury concerns are gradually easing. Curtis Jones has returned to training and may make the matchday squad as he looks to reach a higher level in his Reds career. Similarly, Stefan Bajcetic is also in contention. However, Thiago is still out due to a minor setback in his recovery, and new signing Ryan Gravenberch was not registered in time for the match.
- Predicted Liverpool lineup
With the international break approaching, Klopp does not need to worry about rotating his squad, so Liverpool’s strongest possible lineup should be expected. Matip and Gomez will be accompanied by Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson in defense, while Wataru Endo will have the opportunity to showcase his skills alongside 10 teammates. Dominik Szoboszlai and Alexis Mac Allister are likely to start in the No.8 roles, and there will be a crucial decision to make in attack. Nunez’s impressive performance against Newcastle puts him in a strong position to start, but Cody Gakpo and Diogo Jota are also strong options. Predicted Liverpool lineup: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Gomez, Robertson; Endo, Szoboszlai, Mac Allister; Salah, Diaz, Nunez
- Aston Villa on the rise
Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard’s tenure as Villa manager was underwhelming, but the team has transformed since Emery took charge in October. Under Emery’s guidance, Villa achieved a seventh-place finish in the Premier League and qualified for the UEFA Europa Conference League. They have made impressive signings during the summer transfer window, including highly-rated Spain international Pau Torres, Youri Tielemans, Nicolo Zaniolo (on loan), and Diaby. Despite a disappointing 5-1 defeat to Newcastle at the start of the season, Villa bounced back with wins against Everton and Burnley. They are now one of the leading teams outside the traditional ‘big six’ in the division and pose a significant threat.
- Probable Villa lineup
Villa comfortably defeated Burnley 3-1 last Sunday, and it is expected that their lineup will remain largely unchanged for the match at Anfield. Emiliano Martinez, one of the Premier League’s best goalkeepers, will start behind a back-three consisting of Ezri Konsa, Diego Carlos, and Torres. Tyrone Mings is likely to miss the entire season due to a knee injury, while Emiliano Bunedia, Jacob Ramsey, and former Liverpool player Philippe Coutinho are also unavailable. Matty Cash, who scored twice against Burnley, should continue as a right wing-back, alongside Lucas Digne on the left side, and Boubacar Kamara and Douglas Luiz in midfield. Diaby and John McGinn are expected to support Ollie Watkins in attack. Predicted Villa lineup (3-4-2-1): Martinez; Konsa, Carlos, Torres; Cash, Kamara, Luiz, Digne; Diaby, McGinn; Watkins.
- Salah’s future
Klopp reaffirmed in his Friday media briefing that Mohamed Salah is not for sale this summer, despite ongoing interest from Saudi Arabia. Liverpool is unable to sell Salah at this time, and it would be a massive surprise if he were to leave, especially with insufficient time to find a suitable replacement. While a potential departure next summer is more plausible, as Salah would be 32 years old with only one year remaining on his current contract.
- Nine years since an Anfield victory
Villa supporters will be dismayed to know that their team has not won at Anfield in the past nine years. The last victory came in September 2014, with a Gabriel Agbonlahor goal securing a win as Brendan Rodgers’ reign at Liverpool started to decline. Since then, Liverpool has won four of the five Premier League matches against Villa at Anfield, including a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Gerrard’s Villa in December 2021, thanks to a Salah penalty. However, in May, a late Roberto Firmino equalizer was needed to secure a 1-1 draw, which highlighted Villa’s improvement under Emery.
- Did You Know?
Nunez has faced unwarranted criticism since joining Liverpool. However, he has performed consistently well, despite occasionally missing scoring opportunities. The 24-year-old has scored 17 goals in his first 45 appearances for the Reds, which is the same tally Luis Suarez achieved in that timeframe when he arrived at Liverpool. Suarez eventually became one of the greatest players in the club’s history as he adapted to the Premier League. This statistic demonstrates that fans can be too quick to write off players, although it would be unfair to expect Nunez to reach Suarez’s level.
- Simon Hooper appointed referee
The referee for Sunday’s game will be Simon Hooper. After the controversy surrounding the officials in the previous match against Newcastle, all eyes will be on them once again. Hooper officiated three Liverpool league games last season, including the 3-1 victory against Southampton, the 2-0 Merseyside derby win over Everton, and the disappointing 4-1 defeat to Man City. Concerningly, Hooper failed to award Wolves a clear late penalty against United earlier this month, suggesting that controversy may not be avoided in this match.
- Follow the match with TIA
Unfortunately, Liverpool vs. Aston Villa will not be broadcast live on Sky Sports on Sunday. Instead, the chosen match is Crystal Palace vs. Wolves, followed by Man United’s trip to Arsenal at 4.30pm. However, TIA’s matchday live blog will be available, providing updates and entertainment starting from 1.15pm (UK time).
Come on you Reds!