Liverpool will be hoping to end their indifferent recent run of results by getting the better of Aston Villa, who may just be feeling that they could pull off the greatest of escapes from relegation.
Make no mistake, the hosts’ chances of survival are extremely slim as they still have a significant amount of ground to make up, but a run of eight points from the last 15 available certainly represents progress. If they can maintain that ratio over their remaining games it would be much more promising, but few sides they come against between now and the end of the season will be as charitable as Norwich City, who they overcame with a degree of comfort last time out.
Joleon Lescott came up with his second vital headed goal in the space of a month to settle a nervy Villa side down, and during the second half they played with a freedom that has not been seen at the club for some time, with Gabriel Agbonlahor making the most of a goalkeeping error to grab the second and seal it. Here they will feel that the Liverpool defence is there to be shot at, but must be wary of an attack that really turns it on when on song.
That attack may include Christian Benteke, who makes his first return to Villa Park since making his big-money move last summer. While the Belgian remains the Reds’ top scorer in all competitions this season, at present he is badly short on confidence and that very much showed on Tuesday evening as he passed up a number of good chances in what turned out to be a last-gasp defeat to West Ham United after extra time in their FA Cup fourth round replay.
It was the latest source of frustration for manager Jurgen Klopp, who was not present at Anfield to see his team throw away a two-goal lead in the latter stages against struggling Sunderland, in a game that was somewhat overshadowed by a mass walkout from a section of supporters. That particular row seems to have been resolved to an extent, but the more pressing matter is the events on the pitch, where Liverpool just do not have a winning mentality and are languishing in ninth as a result.
Alan Hutton is back available for Aston Villa, who are also hopeful over the fitness of Rudy Gestede and Carlos Sanchez. Elsewhere, Jordan Ayew continues to serve a ban and Jack Grealish has an ankle problem.
Joe Allen is out for Liverpool along with defensive duo Dejan Lovren and Martin Skrtel, but strikers Divock Origi and Daniel Sturridge are in contetion to start after featuring from the bench in midweek.
Last Meeting: Goals from two out-of-favour strikers earned Liverpool a comfortable win in this fixture in January 2015, with Fabio Borini scoring just his second Premier League goal for the club by turning in Jordan Henderson’s cross on 24 minutes to open the scoring. The game was put beyond doubt with 11 minutes remaining when Rickie Lambert fired a powerful low shot into the bottom corner.
Played for both – Milan Baros: Signed by Gerard Houllier in the summer of 2002, Baros often struggled to reproduce his form for the Czech Republic during his three years with Liverpool, managing 19 goals in 68 top-flight games. However, he left on the biggest possible high as he helped them win the Champions League in 2005 and then moved on to Aston Villa, where he scored nine goals in 42 Premier League outings.