by Ritchie Slack (@Slack_9)
Last season this very fixture threatened to bring an end to Liverpool’s ten-month unbeaten streak, only for the Reds to display their ‘never say die’ attitude with two late goals from Andy Robertson and Sadio Mane.
Fast forward to 2020, and whilst the whole world has changed, there are still some parallels to draw: once again Liverpool are unbeaten in the league with a 100% record thus far. And Klopp’s men can once again open up a six-point lead over Man City, even if the Citizens are victorious against Leeds on Saturday.
Both teams come into this fixture on the back of Carabao Cup defeats – Villa at the hands of Championship side Stoke City, and Liverpool to Arsenal on penalties.
The big news is that Senegalese forward Sadio Mane is ruled out of the match after testing positive for coronavirus on Friday. Mane will now be self-isolating over the international period. We wish Sadio well and look forward to seeing both him and Thiago (who is also self-isolating after a positive test last week) back playing soon.
Joel Matip, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and summer signing Kostas Tsimikas are also unavailable. Xherdan Shaqiri was left out of Thursday’s squad amid transfer speculation, so the Swiss international is unlikely to play a part at Villa Park.
Diogo Jota could be in line for his first PL start as a Liverpool player. The new £45m signing could see himself filling the Mane void, and after opening his account against Arsenal in the league, who could get bet against him grabbing some of the limelight here?
Liverpool’s skipper and leader Jordan Henderson could return to the squad after picking up a thigh injury in the 2-0 victory away at Chelsea; Klopp has said his captain ‘is not injured anymore’ and is in training. Joe Gomez has also seemingly fully recovered from what was referred to as a minor knock and featured in both games against Arsenal last week.
For Aston Villa, they too are in fine fettle after winning two from two and will be buoyed by the fact they are yet to concede a goal this season in the league – albeit, they have played a game less.
Bjorn Engels, Tom Heaton and Wesley are long term absentees, but they have former Brentford striker Ollie Watkins coming into their team which will enhance their attacking prowess along with Jack Grealish, of course. The Villa side could also feature Merseyside born Ross Barkley, who joined the Villains last week on loan from Chelsea.
Whilst Villa may not have conceded in their past three home games, they haven’t yet faced the Liverpool front line. Mo Salah played in midweek to gain some match sharpness and will be raring to go again. If Klopp can win this game, it will be the third consecutive season in which Liverpool have won their first four games, something no other team has managed in Premier League history – the records just keep coming.
With the International break looming, Liverpool would love nothing more than to heap even more pressure on the chasing pack and sit atop of the PL table once again. Aston Villa will be no easy game, they have a star shining brightly in Grealish, but Liverpool have a few stars of their own too.
The Reds to edge it… just.