Aston Villa’s probabilities of taking a consequence from Anfield might relaxation on the health of Jack Grealish, whereas Liverpool might look to use the aptly named Matt Targett.
The Reds’ return to type was halted on Tuesday evening, with Actual Madrid comprehensively outplaying them in Spain, taking management of their Champions League quarter-final tie.
It was one other reminder of this group’s flaws this season, with key defensive figures missed and sure people performing properly beneath their greatest.
On Saturday, Liverpool host a Villa aspect who stay within the top-four struggle, in a powerful marketing campaign below Dean Smith.
It’s a must-win for the Premier League champions, as they give the impression of being to finish an incomprehensible run of six league defeats in a row at Anfield.
Forward of the sport, we spoke to Villa fan and author Crippy Cooke (@CrippyCooke) to get his ideas on the weekend conflict, the magic of Grealish and lots extra.
How would you assess Aston Villa’s season to this point?
Superb. We spent most of final season in a relegation dogfight and at the moment are chasing a spot in Europe a 12 months later.
We’ve the third-best defensive report within the Premier League and solely eight groups have misplaced fewer video games, so we’re shifting in the best course below Dean Smith.
We’ve additionally overwhelmed the likes of Liverpool, Leicester and Arsenal whereas taking some extent off Chelsea, so we’re able to standing as much as one of the best groups within the desk.
Do you consider a top-four end remains to be potential?
I don’t assume so. Regardless that we might go simply 4 factors adrift of the Champions League locations with a win in our subsequent recreation, I feel a top-six push is extra practical.
Even that isn’t assured, nevertheless, as we’re presently ninth within the desk, however I feel we’ll come shut.
I’d accept any top-half end, because it’s a notable enchancment from final season, the place we secured survival in our last recreation.
Then subsequent season, we will make a concerted effort to push even greater up the desk.
Who’ve been Villa’s three greatest gamers to this point?
Grealish has been our star performer. He creates essentially the most possibilities, has essentially the most take-ons and contributes essentially the most objectives, both by scoring or helping.
With out him, we battle to interrupt groups down.
On the different finish, Emi Martinez has been excellent. He’s a Signing of the Season contender and arguably top-of-the-line goalkeepers within the Premier League.
We’re lucky to have a superb shot-stopper who just isn’t solely courageous to say crosses, however can maintain on to efforts with out spilling or punching the ball.
Ollie Watkins is in third place. His motion off the ball is unbelievable and his holdup play is significant to bringing others into the assault.
He’s additionally proven a ruthless nature with 11 Premier League objectives in his debut season and doesn’t all the time get the credit score he deserves for tireless work.
Simply how extremely do you price Grealish?
I feel Grealish is one of the best participant Villa have ever produced.
He’s adequate to affix any membership in England, in addition to each aspect in Europe outdoors of Barcelona, Actual Madrid and Bayern Munich.
He’s a superb playmaker with nice imaginative and prescient who’s tough to wrestle off the ball with out fouling, to not point out making good defenders look amateurish with how simply he ghosts previous them.
Switching our consideration to Liverpool, why do you assume they’ve struggled this season?
I feel accidents have killed Liverpool’s marketing campaign, however vitality ranges look so diminished in comparison with final season, too.
The pandemic appeared to disrupt the Reds on the tail-end of 2019/20 and so they’re nonetheless feeling the results from that.
They put the whole lot into profitable their first title in 30 years and at the moment are burnt out.
Solely Man Metropolis have efficiently defended a Premier League crown since 2009, so it’s getting tougher to remain on high for the long-term.
Do you assume they are going to be title contenders in 2021/22?
I feel so. Their type has picked up of late and can keep constant after they can title the identical beginning XI every week, so I feel Liverpool can be Man Metropolis’s largest challenger subsequent season.
It’s straightforward to neglect that they’ve completed within the high 4 in every of the final 4 campaigns and amassed 97 factors or extra in back-to-back seasons.
For that cause, I feel they’re higher positioned than Arsenal, Man United, Chelsea, Tottenham and Leicester to go all the way in which.
Waiting for Saturday, who do you worry most?
Mohamed Salah and Diogo Jota might give us issues on Saturday as they’re ruthless in entrance of purpose.
If we make one error enjoying out from the again, we’ll get punished by one among them.
Liverpool’s convincing win over Arsenal ought to inform Villa that the weekend assembly received’t go the identical manner as October’s 7-2 demolition.
It doesn’t assist that Trent Alexander-Arnold has returned to type both, as his distribution is excellent and requires excessive ranges of focus from our again line for 90 minutes.
The place do you see the important thing battles happening?
I feel Alexander-Arnold and Salah might give Targett a tough afternoon at left-back.
If we don’t have Grealish to pin Trent again, it might result in fixed stress down that aspect.
We had been fairly terrible for the longest time in opposition to Fulham and spent a whole lot of the sport defending, so the very last thing we want is to permit one among Liverpool’s greatest passers a whole lot of the ball.
Lastly, hit us together with your prediction…
Liverpool aren’t having fun with enjoying at dwelling whereas Villa are choosing up factors on the highway, so I feel we will get one thing on Saturday.
That being mentioned, we’ve been inconsistent within the second half of the season and aren’t as formidable on the again, so it wouldn’t shock if we performed out a 1-1 draw.