Match Preview: Villa (h)

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After 8 goals in two games against Real Madrid and Man United, Liverpool have had a week to prepare for the visit of Aston Villa on Sunday afternoon.

With United away to Fulham on the Saturday, Rafa Benitez’s side are likely to be seven points behind the leaders when they kick-off against Martin O’Neill’s side.

Benitez will be hoping midfielders Xabi Alonso and Yossi Benayoun will be available after both missed the win at Old Trafford through injury. With defender Daniel Agger returning from a back injury too, Benitez almost has a full squad to choose from, only sicknote Philipp Degen remains sidelined.

Update: Alonso looks unlikely to be fit, while Agger and Benayoun are unlikely to start. Arbeloa is expected to be ok.

The corresponding fixture at Villa Park ended 0-0 back in August when Torres picked up an injury early on. This fixture last season ended in a 2-2 draw after Peter Crouch rescued a point as a sub. Benayoun had put the Reds ahead on a night which was overshadowed by protests against Liverpool owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, a saga which still rumbles on behind the scenes at Anfield.

Martin O’Neill’s side are in their worst run of form this season, without a win since early February and booed off after the 2-1 home defeat to Spurs last Sunday. Mind, they’re a strong sort Villa fans – give them some success and soon they’ll be jeering their top scorer and booing their team in the middle of their best season for years. As you can probably guess, I don’t like Villa, or their fans. Villa Park has been half-empty for years but now they’re half decent it’s full of booing Brummies, I don’t know which is worse.

Villa have last summer’s transfer target Gareth Barry, and January’s alleged transfer target and former Liverpool player Emile Heskey in their squad.

Fixtures:

Saturday, 21 March 2009
Blackburn v West Ham, 15:00
Fulham v Man Utd, 15:00
Newcastle v Arsenal, 17:30
Portsmouth v Everton, 12:45
Stoke v Middlesbrough, 15:00
Tottenham v Chelsea, 15:00
West Brom v Bolton, 15:00

Sunday, 22 March 2009
Liverpool v Aston Villa, 16:00
Man City v Sunderland, 15:00
Wigan v Hull, 13:30

To mark the end of the 30-year wait for a league title, the ‘Liverpool Mishmash’ poster is available to order exclusively on This Is Anfield — the history of the Reds in one image!

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