The player Liverpool could Targett & the brilliance of Grealish – View from Aston Villa

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on whatsapp
Share on email

Aston Villa’s chances of taking a result from Anfield could rest on the fitness of Jack Grealish, while Liverpool could look to exploit the aptly named Matt Targett.

The Reds’ return to form was halted on Tuesday night, with Real Madrid comprehensively outplaying them in Spain, taking control of their Champions League quarter-final tie.

It was another reminder of this team’s flaws this season, with key defensive figures missed and certain individuals performing well below their best.

On Saturday, Liverpool host a Villa side who remain in the top-four fight, in an impressive campaign under Dean Smith.

It is a must-win for the Premier League champions, as they look to end an incomprehensible run of six league defeats in a row at Anfield.

Ahead of the game, we spoke to Villa fan and writer Crippy Cooke (@CrippyCooke) to get his thoughts on the weekend clash, the magic of Grealish and plenty more.

 

How would you assess Aston Villa’s season to date?

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - Sunday, October 4, 2020: Liverpool’s goalkeeper Adrián San Miguel del Castillo looks dejected as his side lose 7-2 during the FA Premier League match between Aston Villa FC and Liverpool FC at Villa Park. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Amazing. We spent most of last season in a relegation dogfight and are now chasing a place in Europe a year later.

We have the third-best defensive record in the Premier League and only eight teams have lost fewer games, so we’re moving in the right direction under Dean Smith.

We’ve also beaten the likes of Liverpool, Leicester and Arsenal while taking a point off Chelsea, so we’re capable of standing up to the best teams in the table.

 

Do you believe a top-four finish is still possible?

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - Sunday, October 4, 2020: Aston Villa's Ollie Watkins (R) celebrates with team-mate Ezri Konsa Ngoyo (L) after scoring the fourth goal, completing his hat-trick and making the score 4-1, during the FA Premier League match between Aston Villa FC and Liverpool FC at Villa Park. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. Aston Villa won 7-2. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I don’t think so. Even though we could go just four points adrift of the Champions League places with a win in our next game, I think a top-six push is more realistic.

Even that isn’t guaranteed, however, as we’re currently ninth in the table, but I think we’ll come close.

I would settle for any top-half finish, as it’s a notable improvement from last season, where we secured survival in our final game.

Then next season, we can make a concerted effort to push even higher up the table.

 

Who have been Villa’s three best players so far?

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Friday, January 1, 2020: Aston Villa's goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez during the New Year's Day FA Premier League match between Manchester United FC and Aston Villa FC at Old Trafford. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government putting Greater Manchester in Tier 4: Stay at Home during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Grealish has been our star performer. He creates the most chances, has the most take-ons and contributes the most goals, either by scoring or assisting.

Without him, we struggle to break teams down.

At the other end, Emi Martinez has been outstanding. He’s a Signing of the Season contender and arguably one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League.

We’re fortunate to have a brilliant shot-stopper who is not only brave to claim crosses, but can hold on to efforts without spilling or punching the ball.

Ollie Watkins is in third place. His movement off the ball is fantastic and his holdup play is vital to bringing others into the attack.

He’s also shown a ruthless nature with 11 Premier League goals in his debut season and doesn’t always get the credit he deserves for tireless work.

 

Just how highly do you rate Grealish?

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Friday, January 1, 2020: Aston Villa's captain Jack Grealish during the New Year's Day FA Premier League match between Manchester United FC and Aston Villa FC at Old Trafford. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government putting Greater Manchester in Tier 4: Stay at Home during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I think Grealish is the best player Villa have ever produced.

He is good enough to join any club in England, as well as every side in Europe outside of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.

He’s a brilliant playmaker with great vision who is difficult to wrestle off the ball without fouling, not to mention making good defenders look amateurish with how easily he ghosts past them.

 

Switching our attention to Liverpool, why do you think they have struggled this season?

MADRID, SPAIN - Tuesday, April 6, 2021: Liverpool's Sadio Mané appeals to the referee after being fouled during the UEFA Champions League Quarter-Final 1st Leg game between Real Madird CF and Liverpool FC at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano. (Pic by Propaganda)

I think injuries have killed Liverpool’s campaign, but energy levels look so diminished compared to last season, too.

The pandemic seemed to disrupt the Reds at the tail-end of 2019/20 and they’re still feeling the effects from that.

They put everything into winning their first title in 30 years and are now burnt out.

Only Man City have successfully defended a Premier League crown since 2009, so it’s getting harder to stay on top for the long-term.

 

Do you think they will be title contenders in 2021/22?

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, April 3, 2021: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (L) celebrates after scoring the second goal with team-mates Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho' (C) and Thiago Alcantara (R) during the FA Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Liverpool FC at the Emirates Stadium. Liverpool won 3-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I think so. Their form has picked up of late and will stay consistent when they can name the same starting XI each week, so I think Liverpool will be Man City’s biggest challenger next season.

It’s easy to forget that they have finished in the top four in each of the last four campaigns and amassed 97 points or more in back-to-back seasons.

For that reason, I think they’re better placed than Arsenal, Man United, Chelsea, Tottenham and Leicester to go all the way.

 

Looking ahead to Saturday, who do you fear most?

BERGAMO, ITALY - Tuesday, November 3, 2020: Liverpool's Diogo Jota celebrates after scoring the first goal with team-mate Mohamed Salah (L) during the UEFA Champions League Group D match between Atalanta BC and Liverpool FC at the Stadio di Bergamo. (Pic by Simone Arveda/Propaganda)

Mohamed Salah and Diogo Jota could give us problems on Saturday as they’re ruthless in front of goal.

If we make one error playing out from the back, we’ll get punished by one of them.

Liverpool’s convincing win over Arsenal should tell Villa that the weekend meeting won’t go the same way as October’s 7-2 demolition.

It doesn’t help that Trent Alexander-Arnold has returned to form either, as his distribution is outstanding and requires high levels of concentration from our back line for 90 minutes.

 

Where do you see the key battles taking place?

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, April 3, 2021: Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold during the FA Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Liverpool FC at the Emirates Stadium. Liverpool won 3-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I think Alexander-Arnold and Salah could give Targett a difficult afternoon at left-back.

If we don’t have Grealish to pin Trent back, it could lead to constant pressure down that side.

We were pretty awful for the longest time against Fulham and spent a lot of the game defending, so the last thing we need is to allow one of Liverpool’s best passers a lot of the ball.

 

Finally, hit us with your prediction…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, July 5, 2020: Liverpool’s manager Jürgen Klopp (L) and Aston Villa's manager Dean Smith greet each other before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Aston Villa FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool aren’t enjoying playing at home while Villa are picking up points on the road, so I think we can get something on Saturday.

That being said, we’ve been inconsistent in the second half of the season and aren’t as formidable at the back, so it wouldn’t surprise if we played out a 1-1 draw.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on whatsapp
Share on email

Fan Comments