Aston Villa expect “hard time” for Liverpool defender – but fear 2 key threats

Jurgen Klopp‘s final away game as Liverpool manager is away to Aston Villa, but the hosts are in positive spirits about spoiling the party.

The Reds will have had eight days without a fixture by the time Monday night’s match rolls around, as Klopp’s exit edges closer.

While much will again be made of the Liverpool manager, this is a big game for the Villans, who know a win could seal Champions League qualification.

It has been a fantastic season for Unai Emery’s side, and getting into Europe’s biggest competition would be a significant achievement.

With the game on the horizon, we spoke to Villa fan and writer Crippy Cooke (@CrippyCooke) to hear about a great campaign under Emery, Klopp’s legacy and much more.


How positive has this season been? Did you see it coming?

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Thursday, November 10, 2022: Aston Villa's manager Unai Emery during the Football League Cup 3rd Round match between Manchester United FC and Aston Villa FC at Old Trafford. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I definitely didn’t see a top-four finish coming.

Finishing seventh in 2022/23 was a dream, so I didn’t expect us to improve upon that this season.

I was a big fan of Unai Emery’s appointment after Steven Gerrard left the club, and expectations skyrocketed after seeing what Emery could do with the squad, but this is unbelievable.

I thought Tottenham, Chelsea and Man United would finish above us, so all we could hope for was seventh again.

I was glad to be wrong.


Just how significant could Champions League qualification be?

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

We haven’t finished in the Premier League top four since 1996, and we haven’t been in the top European competition since 1982/83.

For that reason, this is going to be a massive moment for the club.

To have a sleeping giant finally delivering on their potential is the best feeling and I cannot wait to see what type of players we get linked with.


Who have been Villa’s best and worst players this season?

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - Monday, December 26, 2022: Aston Villa's Ollie Watkins celebrates scoring his side's only goal during the FA Premier League match between Aston Villa FC and Liverpool FC at Villa Park. Liverpool won 3-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Ollie Watkins has been insane this season. He is averaging a goal every other game and has chipped in with so many assists.

Watkins has netted some brilliant solo goals and has saved us many times when we’re staring a defeat or draw in the face.

He has been our best player by some distance.

So much was expected of Nicolo Zaniolo when he first arrived, but he has not lived up to his billing. Fans have seen glimpses of quality, but he hasn’t been consistent.

The gambling scandal may have been a distraction earlier in the season, but he’s still not standing out.

Zaniolo has been used sparingly and can’t stay fit, so he has been not a successful signing.


How would you assess Liverpool’s season? What’s gone wrong?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, April 24, 2024: Liverpool's Alexis Mac Allister (L) and Darwin Núñez during the FA Premier League match between Everton FC and Liverpool FC, the 244th Merseyside Derby, at Goodison Park. Everton won 2-0. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I thought Liverpool could sustain a title challenge, but the wheels fell off when the pressure hit.

There have clearly been some issues in the dressing room, and Jurgen Klopp‘s announcement hasn’t had the desired effect on the players.

On their day, Liverpool can still blow sides away, but dropping 10 points in their last six games is criminal.


What are your thoughts on Klopp’s exit? Will you miss him?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, May 5, 2024: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp during the pre-match warm-up before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I’m indifferent to Klopp leaving.

I do think he is getting unfairly criticised for not winning more silverware at Liverpool, though.

He has claimed a Premier League title, Champions League, FA Cup, League Cup (twice), Club World Cup and Super Cup, so he’s not done badly.

Liverpool have reached three Champions League finals in five seasons, too, and been runners-up in the Premier League twice.

People have short-term memories in football and forget where the Reds were before he joined.

I think Klopp is leaving at the right time, though. This team have peaked now and will be in transition soon.

Fabinho, Gini Wijnaldum, Jordan Henderson, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino departing was the beginning of the end.


Where will the key battles take place on Monday?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, May 5, 2024: Jarell Quansah of Liverpool after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC at Anfield. (Photo by Ryan Brown/Propaganda)

I think Watkins could give Jarell Quansah a hard time.

Liverpool’s back-line has been a little porous of late, shipping four goals in two games, so it’s an area Villa should look to exploit.

Lucas Digne didn’t have a great game against Olympiakos, so Trent Alexander-Arnold and Mohamed Salah might give him a tough time at left-back.

Leon Bailey will need to track back on the right to keep Andy Robertson quiet if the latter is fit.


If you could only have one Liverpool player at Villa, who would it be?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 31, 2024: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates after scoring his side's winning second goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Brighton & Hove Albion FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 2-1. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I will always say Salah. He’s one of the Premier League‘s best, hitting heights only a few have reached.

The Egyptian is an incredible talent, still posting impressive numbers as he turns 32 in June.

I know he’s not in favour with some at Liverpool and is getting flak for a poor attitude, but Salah would walk into any side.


Finally, what’s your prediction?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 24, 2019: Arsenal's manager Unai Emery (R) shakes hands with Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Arsenal FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 3-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

We will be reeling after losing in the Europa Conference League, so I hope we respond on Monday.

Home advantage should help our cause, but we don’t have a good record against Liverpool in recent years.

Since the 7-2 win, we have only managed one draw from the seven meetings that followed, so I’m not overly confident.

I will sit on the fence and say 1-1.