Liverpool v Aston Villa
Barclays Premier League
24th Aug 2009
Kick Off : 20:00
Ground : Anfield
The Reds are off and running and White Hart Lane is now a distant memory after our 4-0 complete victory over Tony Pulis’ men. Stoke’s game brought up a number of interesting stats…. Lucas had another impressive game, his accurate pass rate of 93% compared to Mascherano’s 88% made very interesting reading, young 18 year old Daniel Ayala made his Anfield League debut and looked comfortable and put in a steady display with another commanding accurate passing rate of 92%.
Over the past number of days Glen Johnson’s performances in his first two competitive matches for the Reds have earned him rave reviews. Glen Johnson crowned his home debut with a man of the match performance….
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When Glen Johnson first signed for Liverpool, it left critics questioning whether the 24 year old right back was over priced, even Benitez admitted he had spent “a little bit more” than he wanted to for the England right back. Johnson has brought a new dimension to Liverpool’s attack, in both his League games so far, he became a potent threat on the right and has already formed an exciting partnership with Dirk Kuyt. He’s quick, he’s good on the ball, gets to the byline, puts in pinpoint crosses and gives the team genuine width. He’s a player who will become vital to Liverpool in our attempts to break team down – an area we lacked last year in tight games…. Click here to read our focus on Glen Johnson’s impressive Anfield debut against Stoke.
The Stoke match also saw Jamie Carragher, resplendent in black head bandage make his 400th league appearance, its hard to believe its over twelve years ago since Jamie Carragher scored his first goal for the club against Villa in our 3-0 win at Anfield in January 1997.
It’s Aston Villa who Benitez will be turning his attentions to over the coming days, Villa and Martin O’Neill travel to Merseyside on Monday night. O’Neill will be hoping for a massive improvement after their frustrating afternoon last weekend when a goal in each half ensured an opening day defeat by Wigan. Thursday night then saw Aston Villa stunned by an early Nikica Jelavic goal as they lost the first leg of their Europa League qualifier away at Rapid Vienna 1-0.
Villa have found victories hard to come by at Anfield, over the years, Liverpool have beaten Villa 53 times at Anfield, drawn 16 and have only lost 14 times at Anfield.
Martin O’Neill has struggled to strengthen his squad over the Summer, Gareth Barry has left, along with their number 2 goalkeeper Stuart Taylor. At the back, Martin Laursen has retired while Zat Knight has also been sold to Bolton Wanderers. Stewart Downing was their only major signing after arriving from Middlesbrough for £12 million but a broken foot has sidelined him until the end of November…. Full-back Habib Beye also arrived in a £2.5million deal from Newcastle United while 19-year-old midfielder Delph joined from Leeds.
Remember, Villa’s final 13 League games of last season brought them a disappointing 11 points.
Liverpool Team News
Liverpool are hopeful about signing Sotirios Kyrgiakos before Monday but its unlikey the 30-year-old Greek international will be thrown into action straight away for Monday night. Martin Skrtel is still training at Melwood having suffered a hairline fracture of the jaw but my bet is young Daniel Ayala keeping his place alongside Carragher at the heart of the defence, Ayala would be severly tested with the strength and pace of Villa’s forward line but I believe our 18 year old can step up to the challenge…..
Liverpool will also have Daniel Agger out of action for 6-8 weeks, Agger is reportedly due to have surgery next week, the Danish centre-back has been troubled by the problem since March and reports suggest he has travelled to France for next week’s operation….
Benitez is unlikely to change his midfield from the side that beat Stoke, although Albert Riera and Ryan Babel will be pushing for a starting place on the left of midfield. Dirk Kuyt will also make his 150th Liverpool appearance in a Liverpool shirt on Monday night.
Gerrard and Torres should continue upfront, Gerrard will be looking to add to his hat-trick from the corresponding 5-0 victory last year.
Aston Villa Team Prediction
Villa were boosted by the return of midfielder Stiliyan Petrov from injury last weekend while John Carew is expected to return to the squad for Monday night, Carew missed the opening Premier League game with Wigan because of a foot injury and then missed their opening Europa League clash against Rapid Vienna with a virus last Thursday. Meanwhile defender Luke Young has also been given compassionate leave after the death of his half-brother.
Im expecting Villa to line up in a 4-4-2 formation with Friedel in goal, Beye at right back and Shorey at left back. Cuellar and Davies are expected to form the central defence although Villa will be assessing Curtis Davies’s shoulder injury in the coming days, The midfield should see Milner, Delph, Petrov, Young with Gabriel Agbonlahor and former Red Emile Heskey upfront.
Villa (from): Friedel, Guzan, Marshall, Davies, Shorey, Beye, Cuellar, Lichaj, Clark, Lowry, Sidwell, Young, Milner, Albrighton, Delph, Petrov, Reo-Coker, Gardner, Carew, Agbonlahor, Delfouneso, Heskey.
Liverpools Premier League Top Goalscorers
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Player to watch :
Ashley Young – Villa have a number of players to keep an eye out for, James Milner made a great start to his England career against Holland last week by setting up Jermain Defoe for the equaliser, Milner has pace and is very dangerous in the final third of the pitch. A constant threat.
However, the main dangerman for me is Ashley Young…. It will be interesting to see whether Young can emulate his performances from last season. The former Watford winger was voted PFA Young player of the year last season after an impressive eight goals and eight assists in the Premier League and UEFA Cup. Young possesses an excellent array of crossing, shooting and passing and has a devastating delivery from set pieces from either flank. Young’s pace and trickery to beat players as well as using both feet to good effect will keep Glen Johnson busy!!
Key head to head :… Carragher v Agbonlahor
With Milner and Young supplying the crosses, Agbonlahor and Heskey will be a major threat to the Liverpool defence. John Carew will also be looking to return to the first team action so Carragher and his Liverpool defence will have a busy evening! Agbonlahor gives any defender a problem along with his pace and power and will be looking to improve on his goalscoring record of 13 goals last season.
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Assistant referees: Phil Sharp & Trevor Massey
Fourth official: Mike Jones
Aston Villa – Last 5 Meetings :
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Only five Liverpool players have scored League hat-tricks against Villa – Bobby Graham (1964), Ian Rush (1984), Robbie Fowler (1998), Michael Owen (2000) and Steven Gerrard (2009). I’m going to predict a Fernando Torres hat-trick Monday night to give us a well earned 3-1 win! The Spaniard has scored six goals in his last 4 games at Anfield and Liverpool have never lost a Premier League match in which Fernando Torres has scored.
Stay tuned to Redkopi and TIA over the coming days for match updates and news….
Redkopi – “The Eye of the Red Kop“