It’s been a fairly difficult restart for the Villans so far, gaining just two points in our previous four clashes. The problems that seemed to coexist when we took to the field of play, before the lockdown, have been far from eradicated. In a bid to find results, and with games running out, the desirable energy levels must rise alongside a consolidated effective rearguard to give us a profitable margin in our efforts to elude the dreaded bottom three.
It was an agonisingly late double from Liverpool which won the reverse fixture at Villa Park, as Sadio Mane got the winner not long after Andrew Robertson scored the initial leveller. So close, yet in the closing stages of what was looking like a much needed win, our defensive frailties showcased our costly insecurities to hold onto a lead. Trezequet scored the only goal from a cross which the winger calmly steered goal-wards as it evaded Allison.
This week, we spoke to Neil Atkinson from The Anfield Wrap (@TheAnfieldWrap on Twitter), to get an expert opinion on what we can expect from Liverpool in the upcoming fixture.
Q. You have won the league! This has been a great season for you, sure to go down in folklore. Do you think you will go on to break Man City’s record points total?
Ultimately yes, just. I think the emotional toll gone in and then suddenly lifted could have a knock on effect but I reckon the players have a good run of games now against your lads, Brighton and Burnley to adapt to the new normal. If they take maximum points from that – which won’t be easy, let’s be clear – then I think they will redouble their efforts to get that points total. I think the other thing in their favour is the recency of both the record and playing Manchester City. I think if the record was Huddersfield from 1924 then they may feel differently. But it is held by a side they have dethroned. It’s different.
Q. With the season almost over and the title sealed, what are the chances of seeing a rotated team and some shining talents like Harvey Elliot and Curtis Jones feature in the remaining fixtures?
I think the five sub thing is in their favour as well as the games but what I would like to see is them playing as the only young player with the first team players. What I think would be counter-productive in terms of development would be playing weakened sides.
Q. Who has been the most effective player within your system, based on this season’s performances and achievements?
Virgil van Dijk remains a defining factor. The thing about van Dijk is that he is by a distance the best centre back for an elite side in the world. He’s not just the best but he is comfortably so. He changes everything. Jordan Henderson has been hugely effective through the campaign as well. It often isn’t pretty but it is whatever the game needs at that time and that includes while we were getting webbed 4-0 by City just there when he was the one who emerged with most credit. And both Sadio Mane and Mo Salah are so important. But you asked for one so van Dijk.
Q. How will you respond after a rare loss to Manchester City with the next game only a few days later?
I would have thought we would be fine under normal circumstances. I am mildly concerned that we may not be entirely sure how to be Champions. I know this sounds strange but I felt if anything we were too keyed-up, too urgent against City and my worry now is that that result won’t have relaxed them but will have further increased the urgency.
Q. Is there anyone in the Villa team that you think will cause Liverpool problems? What areas should we be looking to exploit?
Oh you probably ask this every week and someone says Jack Grealish. And they’d be right. John McGinn is obviously good. I like Douglas Luiz. Ultimately, and it is easy to say, I think you should come at us. If it was me I’d play those three in centre mid, accept you won’t get a load of the ball and will have to graft but get them in there as they can release quickly. Then I’d have two very wide forwards who should cheat and not track the fullbacks but go goalside and I’d play whoever at centre forward but tell him he needs to do the work of the wide forwards and get on the holding midfielder as well. Endless shuttles. Almost play as a grafting attacking midfielder than a number nine. It’s what Man United sort of do against us.
Q. Finally, what is your predicted lineup? And can we get a score prediction?
R – L Alisson; Williams, Gomez, van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Keita; Salah, Minamino, Mane.
Liverpool 2-0 Aston Villa
A frantic fixture list will continue this week as we immediately prepare for another three match game week. This will more than likely have a huge say in whether we stay up or face the drop.
Liverpool will either be wanting to put us to the sword after their comprehensive defeat to Manchester City, or they may see it as a chance to play some youth and start planning ahead for next season. I see it as a win for Liverpool either way and, although I try to remain optimistic, we have more games coming up which are practically viable to retain positive results.
A performance which gives us something to build on and giving the Champions a tough game would be a big positive but we need to show a truly devoted display.
Liverpool 2-0 Aston Villa
By Jamie Morris