3pm EST, live in the US on Setanta
Last 4 head-to-head:
2-1 Liverpool (a) 08.11.07
0-0 (a) 03.18.07
3-1 Liverpool (h) 10.28.06
3-1 Liverpool (h) 04.29.06
Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 5-0 Luton (h); 1-1 Boro (a); 1-1 Luton (a)
Villa: 3-1 Reading (h); 0-2 United (h); 2-1 Tottenham (a)
Liverpool: Torres 11; Gerrard 7; Babel, Kuyt, Voronin 3; Alonso, Benayoun 2; Hyypia, Sissoko 1
Villa: Agbonlahor 7; Carew, Laursen 6; Barry, Maloney 4; Gardner 3; Mellberg, Young 2; Davies, Harewood, Knight, Moore 1
Referee: Mark Clattenberg
Is it just me, or do referees who give a team a contentious decision always give their next opponent all the 50/50 decisions (coughSteveBennettcough)?
Guess at a squad:
Finnan Carragher Hyypia Arbeloa
Pennant Gerrard Mascherano Kewell
As I said in the last match review, I doubt the line-up with be that different from the one on Tuesday. Reina will obviously return, while Mascherano and Finnan probably will, and Kewell and Kuyt might.
Kuyt has looked like Benitez’ preferred partner for Torres, but I still want to see Crouch up front with Torres again. I hate to keep harping on Kuyt and Voronin’s troubles, and it’s not as if Crouch is scoring at a better rate (still without a goal in the league), but Liverpool need to see if Crouch and Torres can prove a viable pairing while Crouch’s price is still high in case they don’t.
But I do want to say that I hope to see Babel line up as a striker in the near future, and preferably with Torres. But given that he played the full 90 last time out, and Benitez’s apparent unwillingness to play Babel two games running at his age and experience level, I doubt he’ll start again on Monday, and if he does, it's probably be on the left.
Liverpool will have to be careful about Villa’s counter-attack and wary of their prowess at set pieces. Agbonlahor and Young have the pace to frighten on the counter, and with a target man in John Carew, there will be flick-ons for those two to clean up, which makes me think back to the Tottenham game in October, where two Berbatov lay-offs to Keane from two long balls led to two goals.
In addition, Laursen (Villa’s second-leading scorer), Knight, and Mellberg are all big defenders and aerial threats, and if Liverpool give up any free kicks, the zonal marking will have to be excellent. But, and not to jinx it, but both of those concerns are things that Liverpool have come up against in the past.
In team news, Carson’s ineligible for Villa, and it looks like Gareth Barry will miss out after bruising his pelvis in training.
Villa’s unbeaten in the league in their last six, since the 1-3 home loss to Pompey in early December. They are up to 6th, and are tied with Liverpool (and Everton and City) on 39 points.
I don't need to remind that Liverpool has underperformed in the league the last 3 times out (4 if you count the narrow Derby win). I’ve promised the lot of you (and myself) to keep off-field matters out of on-field write-ups. But it’s clear that a win here would do wonders for the morale on the field, as Villa will be tough opposition, but Liverpool have a good record against them at Anfield in the past. Plus, hopefully, the road to rebuilding on-field confidence began with 5 goals on Tuesday, and Monday will be another step in the road on the way back.