Fortress Anfield – remember that? When Liverpool host Aston Villa on Saturday it will be 115 days since the Reds last won a league game at home.
That was against Tottenham on December 16 – a win that put Jurgen Klopp‘s side top of the league.
Now, it’s a much different story and the visit of Villa is one that will be key in the new focus for a top-four finish.
There will, of course, also be the narrative of that 7-2 defeat in the reverse fixture last October ahead of this encounter.
A reporter in Klopp’s press conference laughably asked whether the FA Cup meeting between the sides had put that nightmare out of the window — a game when it was Villa’s youth team in opposition!
“No, we played a different Aston Villa that night,” Klopp rightly said. “Of course we have to put things right, that’s clear. You cannot put a game like this to one side immediately, that’s not possible.”
Dean Smith’s side have enjoyed an impressive campaign are still in the top-four battle – they will arrive with aims of inflicting an incredible seventh consecutive home league defeat upon Liverpool.
Meanwhile, a win for Liverpool would actually see them temporarily move into fourth place in the league, with Chelsea the late kick-off and West Ham and Tottenham in action on Sunday.
It’s the first 3pm Saturday kick-off of the season for Liverpool.
Liverpool have no new injury problems to worry about, with the usual suspects still absent.
Despite the relentless nature of the fixtures at the moment, it would be a surprise if Klopp made major changes.
That means Alisson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Nat Phillips and Ozan Kabak starting, but Andy Robertson could get a much-needed rest at left-back.
In midfield, Naby Keita looks likely to make way after a disastrous performance against Madrid – one that saw him hooked before half-time.
Thiago is expected to return in the middle of the park, while Curtis Jones, James Milner and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are all waiting in the wings, too.
Roberto Firmino was missed in midweek, despite his poor recent form, so he should lead the line against the Villains, possibly in place of the out-of-form Sadio Mane.
Star man Jack Grealish is out for Villa, meaning Smith could field the same team that won 3-1 at home to Fulham last Sunday.
Last 5 at Home to Aston Villa (All Competitions)
Won 2-0 – July 2020 (Mane, Jones)
Won 3-2 – September 2015 (Milner, Sturridge x2; Gestede x2)
Lost 1-0 – September 2014 (Agbonlahor)
Drew 2-2 – January 2014 (Sturridge, Gerrard pen; Weimann, Benteke)
Lost 3-1 – December 2012 (Gerrard; Benteke x2, Weimann
Did You Know?
Liverpool have been famed for their attacking brilliance under Klopp, scoring bucket-loads of goals at Anfield along the way.
Incredibly, though, the Reds have only scored twice at the Kop end since December 6 – a run now stretching longer than four months.
Those rare efforts were both provided by Salah, one of which was a deflected strike in the win at home to Tottenham and the other a penalty against Man City.
In fact, Liverpool have only scored twice more at home in that time – Mane and Firmino against West Brom and Spurs, respectively – with five defeats thrown in without netting and a goalless draw with Man United, too.
Liverpool – Last five results (all competitions)
Lost 3-1 vs. Real Madrid
Won 3-0 vs. Arsenal
Won 1-0 vs. Wolves
Won 2-0 vs. Leipzig
Lost 1-0 vs. Fulham
Aston Villa – Last five results (all competitions)
Won 3-1 vs. Fulham
Lost 2-0 vs. Tottenham
Drew 1-1 vs. Newcastle
Drew 0-0 vs. Wolves
Lost 1-0 vs. Sheffield United
Talking to the media on Friday, Klopp was asked about Villa and their chances of European qualification, and the threat of forward Ollie Watkins:
“They are good, they really good. Good setup, made some good signings – [some of them so] long ago, we probably won’t see them anymore as ‘signings’.
“I think [Ollie] Watkins, only to mention him, bringing [Ross] Barkley in helped as well, [Matty] Cash very good signing as well.
“Really, really, really good side, and good sides in the Premier League are immediately in contention for European spots. Yes, of course they are.”
TV & Liveblog Info
Liverpool vs. Aston Villa kicks off at 3pm (BST) and is live in the UK on Sky Sports Premier League and Sky Sports Main Event, with coverage getting underway at 2.30pm.
Henry Jackson is in charge of This Is Anfield’s matchday liveblog, keeping you up-to-date with all the action and providing a biased view from 2.15pm.