Predicting the Liverpool Lineup vs Aston Villa: Sterling to replace Gerrard?

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Liverpool continue their Premier League campaign when they travel to Aston Villa, seeking to avenge defeat in the corresponding fixture back in September. Ben Twelves discusses the team selection options ahead of the match.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 13, 2014: Liverpool's Lazar Markovic in action against Aston Villa during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Brendan Rodgers’ improving Reds head to Villa Park on Saturday with another chance for the Reds to make progress in their task of clawing their way back into the race for Champions League qualification.

Liverpool have started to reignite their challenge for a top four finish in recent games and Rodgers’ side arrive in the midlands in their best league form of the season – unbeaten in the last five matches having collected 11 points from the last 15 available – and with Saturday’s visit being to the Premier League’s lowest scorers, Rodgers’ men have a huge opportunity to close the gap on fourth place again.

The Reds will of course have to hope that results elsewhere fall their way if they are to become genuine contenders in the sprint for Europe’s top competition, but before looking to assistance from others in the chasing pack, Liverpool must keep their side of the bargain over the next two winnable league games against Villa and Sam Allardyce’s West Ham either side of an FA Cup fourth round clash against Bolton.

A busy schedule is looming for Rodgers and his squad, but with a week break between last Saturday’s important victory at Sunderland and the match against Paul Lambert’s struggling Villains, Rodgers can afford to put rotation to the back of his mind and continue with his strongest team as he goes in search of another vital three points.

 

The Team

KINGSTON-UPON-THAMES, ENGLAND - Monday, January 5, 2015: Liverpool's captain Steven Gerrard in action against AFC Wimbledon during the FA Cup 3rd Round match at the Kingsmeadow Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Rodgers has an injury-hit squad at his disposal for the clash with Kolo Toure away on international duty at the African Cup of Nations, Brad Jones, Jon Flanagan, and Joe Allen all missing again as well as the match coming too early for Daniel Sturridge to be involved as he continues his final part of recovery from injury.

The Reds also face the prospect of being without Steven Gerrard, who is a doubt after being withdrawn at half time against Sunderland last weekend with a groin injury, but the Captain is set to be monitored ahead of the clash along with Adam Lallana who could make a surprise return ahead of schedule.

A refreshed Raheem Sterling is set to return to the fold with Gerrard’s likely absence opening up a place for England international to come back into the team, with the only question mark being over whether that is in an attacking midfield role or up front.

Fabio Borini will be hoping Sterling enters into one of the positions in the two behind the striker in order to keep his place up front, as will Mario Balotelli who will be hoping that a lively cameo appearance in last week’s 1-0 victory persuades Rodgers to hand him a first start since the beginning of November.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, New Year's Day, January 1, 2015: Liverpool's Fabio Borini is brought down by Leicester City's captain Wes Morgan but no penalty was awarded during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Defensively Liverpool should remain unchanged with there being no need to increase Dejan Lovren’s involvement after the Croatian played the second half last Saturday, but Javier Manquillo will be hopeful of regaining his place at right wing-back if the impressive Lazar Markovic is chosen to play in the attacking three.

 

The Line Up

With the Liverpool boss set to stick to what’s worked best in the 3-4-2-1 formation, Rodgers has two main selection options two choose from for the match.

The first possibility could see only one change made to the team that started at the Stadium of Light being Sterling making a simple move into Gerrard’s advanced role alongside the Brazilian magician, Philippe Coutinho and behind Fabio Borini, who claimed the assist for Markovic’s winner and produced a tireless performance last weekend.

Choosing that option, Liverpool’s starting XI would look like this at Villa Park on Saturday afternoon:

Villa away Selection 1

However, Rodgers could instead choose to restore Sterling to lead the Liverpool attack ahead of Borini, and opt to replace Gerrard’s shirt with Javi Manquillo who would come into the side at right wing-back, thus allowing Markovic to move into a more natural attacking position alongside Coutinho and supporting Sterling.

This alternative would see Liverpool line-up like so come kick-off time in the midlands:

Villa away Selection 2

Liverpool are slowly but surely edging themselves back into top four reckoning and it is vital that the Reds avoid any slip ups again on Saturday afternoon in order to make it four wins out of their last five, as they continue clawing back the deficit to allow for an increasingly possible challenge for fourth place in the second half of the campaign.

 

What would your lineup be? Select below:

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