Liverpool will be looking to win for the first time in five Premier League outings as they take on an Aston Villa side that should come into the game with renewed confidence following their victory in the Second City derby.
Wins are as hard to come by as goals for the Reds at present, with their far from convincing penalty shootout victory over League Two outfit Carlisle United in the Capital One Cup representing the eighth failed attempt to score more than once in a match this term. Such struggles continue to leave manager Brendan Rodgers under real pressure, and they simply cannot afford to drop more points on home soil here having taken just one from recent Anfield outings against West Ham United and Norwich City.
There were at least a few more positive signs against the Canaries, as Rodgers’ bold decision to restore long-term injury absentee Daniel Sturridge to the starting XI and play him alongside Christian Benteke in attack did provide them with more of a threat going forward, so as the England star regains full match fitness, Liverpool will hope to reap the rewards of that new partnership in times ahead. If they can get in behind the Villa defence regularly, they have the players to cause considerable damage.
All seemed flat at Aston Villa after they somehow contrived to lose at Leicester City and they put in a somnolent home display to slip to defeat against another West Midlands side, West Bromwich Albion. It was not the ideal preparation for a clash with their biggest rivals of all, Birmingham City, and there was little change in the first half of that game, with an obvious lack of quality in the final third drawing boos from disgruntled fans at the half-time whistle.
However, manager Tim Sherwood changed things in inspirational fashion, refusing to procrastinate and making two changes at the interval. Ciaran Clark was restored to his natural place at centre-back, while Jordan Ayew and Jack Grealish certainly did not disappoint in offering Villa the impetus they needed, and Rudy Gestede’s superb match-winning header along with the celebrations that followed have the potential to breathe new life into what was appearing set to be another year of struggle.
A difficult time for Liverpool has not been helped by an injury to Benteke which keeps him out of this game, with Dejan Lovren and Roberto Firmino also sidelined. Captain Jordan Henderson is not expected back until early November.
Gabriel Agbonlahor is unlikely to feature for Villa due to a calf problem, but they do have higher hopes over the fitness of Idrissa Gueye and Adam Traore.
Last Meeting: Aston Villa won for the third time in their opening four Premier League matches of last season when they claimed a 1-0 success in September 2014. The only goal was scored by Gabriel Agbonlahor, who reacted quickest to turn a loose ball home after the hosts had failed to deal with a corner. Liverpool had most of the possession but created little as a poor final ball often saw their attacks come to nothing.
Played for both – Steve Staunton: The Irish international defender had two spells at both clubs, spending four years at Liverpool before moving to Villa in 1991. He stayed until 1998, making 171 Premier League appearances and scoring 12 goals ahead of his return to Merseyside, where he made 44 league appearances over two seasons. Back at Villa from 2000, he made his last 75 top-flight outings there, staying until the summer of 2003.