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“Optimistic” Villa fans still wary of 9-year Anfield hoodoo – but send Watkins warning

It is nearly nine years since Aston Villa last won away to Liverpool, but the Reds will know that record is under threat on Sunday.

Jurgen Klopp‘s men battled their way to a sensational 2-1 victory at Newcastle last weekend, coming from 1-0 down with 10 men to secure all three points.

Liverpool will be bouncing as they head into their second home Premier League game of the season on Sunday afternoon, but they face a formidable Villa side – one who finished seventh on 2022/23.

Unai Emery has turned the Villans into awkward opponents, with the likes of Pau Torres, Youri Tielemans and Moussa Diaby all strong signings, and the Merseysiders will have to play well to win.

With the weekend action edging closer, we spoke to Villa fan and writer Crippy Cooke (@CrippyCooke) to get the lowdown on his club, the key battles at Anfield and more.

 

Aston Villa have started with two wins and a defeat – how optimistic are you?

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - Sunday, August 20, 2023: Aston Villa's Jhon Durán celebrates after scoring the fourth goal during the FA Premier League match between Aston Villa FC and Everton FC at Villa Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Very optimistic after the turnaround.

I did have worries after the Newcastle defeat, as we looked uncharacteristically tired for an opening game, not to mention losing Tyrone Mings, but the response has been brilliant.

Beating Everton and Burnley with eight goals scored and only one conceded shows our class.

I had realistic expectations for this season, as it would be hard to compete with Man City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Man United, Chelsea, Newcastle and Tottenham, but our form in the last two weeks suggests we will be up there.

 

Who do you view as Aston Villa’s key players this season?

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Thursday, November 10, 2022: Aston Villa's Ollie Watkins celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the Football League Cup 3rd Round match between Manchester United FC and Aston Villa FC at Old Trafford. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Ollie Watkins is an essential player because we don’t have anyone else like him, should he get injured.

He hasn’t scored in the league yet, but boasts two assists from three games and is top of our charts for most chances created (seven).

We would be in trouble without him.

Mings is our leader, so we’re going to miss him while he’s sidelined with injury. It’s no wonder things fell apart against Newcastle after he came off, so we’re all hoping for a speedy recovery.

Boubacar Kamara has become an important player for Villa, too, turning over possession so frequently in games while carrying the ball from deep and drawing fouls.

We sold Marvelous Nakamba to Luton because Kamara was superior to him, so he’s another one we can’t be without.

 

Is former Liverpool man Philippe Coutinho surplus to requirements?

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - Sunday, August 20, 2023: Aston Villa's Philippe Coutinho during the FA Premier League match between Aston Villa FC and Everton FC at Villa Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

He has been for a while.

Coutinho impressed in his first few weeks on loan at Aston Villa with four goals and three assists from eight league games, but he managed only one goal from the 11 games that followed.

He scored just once in 20 league games in 2022/23, so it’s little wonder we’re entertaining interest from Saudi Arabia.

If we can sell him before the transfer window shuts, I will be delighted. He has been an awful investment.

 

What’s one thing you would change at Villa currently?

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - Tuesday, May 10, 2022: Liverpool and Aston Villa players kneel down (takes a knee) in support of the Black Lives Matter movement before during the FA Premier League match between Aston Villa FC and Liverpool FC at Villa Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It’s sad to see academy players so readily sold, as Villa fans take pride in the club developing talent, so I would like to see us hold onto more young players.

I understand how ruthless a side must be to stay self-sustainable and competitive at the highest level, though.

 

Away from Villa, which team will surprise us in 2023/24?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Monday, August 15, 2022: Crystal Palace's Eberechi Eze during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Crystal Palace FC at Anfield. The game ended in a 1-1 draw. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

West Ham have started great, Brighton have picked up where they left off and Brentford remain strong, but I think Crystal Palace could be in for a good season.

Wilfried Zaha may have left over the summer, but the Eagles have a great attack with Eberechi Eze, Jordan Ayew, Odsonne Edouard and Michael Olise, when he’s fit.

 

Which Liverpool player would you most like at Villa Park?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 19, 2023: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates after scoring their side's second goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and AFC Bournemouth at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Easy one for me. Mohamed Salah.

He has put up some incredible numbers at Liverpool, scoring 19 Premier League goals or more in six consecutive campaigns, so he would be my pick.

Not only has Salah been consistent in terms of scoring, he’s had double figures for assists in five of his six seasons on Merseyside.

One of Liverpool’s best-ever signings.

 

What’s it like visiting Anfield as an away fan?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Friday, March 4, 2022: A general view the exterior of the Spion Kop before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and West Ham United FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Pretty intimidating. There is a spiritual connection between Liverpool and the supporters, and things have intensified now they are winning again.

There are die-hards that live for the 90 minutes and wear their emotions on their sleeve, so that always makes for a lively atmosphere.

Anfield is loud before matches, as supporters sing their anthem and get pumped up for the game, but things tend to peter out midway through the first half.

The restart often wakes supporters up, but it also depends on the scoreline.

 

Looking ahead to Sunday, where are the key battles?

NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE, ENGLAND - Sunday, August 27, 2023: Liverpool's Dominik Szoboszlai during the FA Premier League match between Newcastle United FC and Liverpool FC at St James' Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Dominik Szoboszlai is one to watch, so Kamara has an important job to keep him quiet. He has been pulling all the strings in midfield for Liverpool, so the Villa man can’t let him settle in possession.

Lucas Digne has had a good start to the season, but won’t enjoy entertaining Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold on the left flank.

Watkins could be in for a difficult physical battle with Ibrahima Konate, too, although the latter does look as though he could be out.

 

Finally, what’s your prediction?

NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE, ENGLAND - Sunday, August 27, 2023: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp celebrates after the FA Premier League match between Newcastle United FC and Liverpool FC at St James' Park. Liverpool won 2-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I will go for Liverpool 2-1 Aston Villa.

It’s been nine years since we won at Anfield, so I’m not holding out much hope for a surprise victory.

We did grab a point in May’s clash, but Liverpool have started the season well and have an enviable attack that is hard to keep quiet.