12pm, live in the US on FSC
Last 4 head-to-head:
0-0 (a) 08.31.08
2-2 (h) 01.21.08
2-1 Liverpool (a) 08.11.07
0-0 (a) 03.18.07
Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 4-1 United (a); 4-0 Real (h); 2-0 Sunderland (h)
Villa: 1-2 Spurs (h); 0-2 City (a); 2-2 Stoke (h)
Liverpool: Gerrard 10; Torres 9; Kuyt 7; Alonso, Benayoun 3; Aurelio, Babel, Riera 2; Arbeloa, Carragher, Dossena, Hyypia, Ngog 1
Villa: Agbonlahor 10; Carew 7; A Young 5; Barry 4; Sidwell 3; Milner 2; Davies, Heskey, Knight, Laursen, Petrov, Reo-Coker, L Young 1
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Guess at a squad:
Mascherano Carragher Skrtel Aurelio
Kuyt Gerrard Riera
There are nine games left in the league campaign. Liverpool can’t drop points in any of them.
If there are no new injuries, the line-up pretty much writes itself. It’s probably too soon for Yossi to return, while there are lingering questions over Alonso and Arbeloa, both of whom missed the trip to Old Trafford. I imagine Liverpool will be more careful with Arbeloa, having suffered a recurrence of his hamstring injury in the pre-game warm-up on Saturday. And at the same time, it looks like Agger’s close to returning as well.
There are a couple of options if Arbeloa or Alonso can’t go. Carragher could step in at right back, with Hyypia reprising his immaculate performance from last Saturday in the center of defense. Lucas would probably come in for Alonso in a straight swap. But, given Mascherano’s performance at right back a couple of matches back, I reckon there’s a better chance we’ll see him there, and Lucas/Alonso in the middle, if Arbeloa's out but Alonso's fit.
The only other change I could see happening would be Dossena or Babel on the left in place of Riera, who hasn’t had the best of spells of late. But despite Dossena’s goals, I’d imagine he’s still preferred off the bench, while I reckon Benitez trusts Riera more than Babel, and will start the Spaniard unless he’s not fit.
Fifth on 52 points, Villa have had an exceptional campaign by their standards, but have also dropped off of late, winless in their last seven. It’ll mark a return to Anfield for Emile Heskey, who hasn’t scored since his first game for the Villans, as well for Friedel (and we know how I feel about former keepers facing Liverpool).
Hopefully, Liverpool will continue to play with the attack in mind. Struggling for goals for most of the season (including in the 0-0 reverse fixture at Villa Park in August), they’ve scored four both of the last two games against two of the toughest teams in Europe. It appears to be the ideal time to hit top form (okay, maybe the ideal time would have been January, but beggars can’t be choosers). Keep on.
(PS: Happy Birthday, Fernando! Now go get us a hat trick, son.)