A 15-point gap to current leaders Arsenal suggests a title challenge already looks beyond the Reds, meaning qualifying for the Champions League is now the main focus. The betting odds have Liverpool at 33/1 to win the title this season – odds which highlight how far off the pace they are.
Liverpool head into their first festive fixture at Aston Villa seven points adrift of fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur, albeit with a game in hand. If Jurgen Klopp’s side are to bridge the gap on the top four, picking up three points at Villa Park would be a good way to signal their intentions.
However, they will not find things easy against a Villa team that has looked revitalised since Unai Emery replaced Steven Gerrard as manager.
Villa were in freefall under Gerrard, but Emery’s appointment sparked a resurgence that has fired them up to 12th in the table.
They have won both of Emery’s league games in charge and will be eager to resume their season after the World Cup break with another victory. A Danny Ings double helped Villa secure a 2-1 victory at Brighton & Hove Albion and the forward will hope to be handed the opportunity to face his former club.
Emery appears to have instilled more grit into Villa’s play and they will fancy their chances of putting a major dent into Liverpool’s top four aspirations.
Having gone into the season as one of the favourites to win the title, it would fair to say that the campaign has been hugely disappointing for the club.
A record of six victories in 14 outings has left the Reds sixth in the table, and any hopes of mounting a title challenge look extremely remote. The Reds produced an improved performance in their last game before the World Cup, with Darwin Nunez (2) and Roberto Firmino on target in a 3-1 home win over Southampton.
Liverpool can ill-afford to miss the top four this term, particularly with the club up for sale, which puts added pressure on the players to perform.
Aston Villa vs Liverpool Head-to-Head
Liverpool hold the upper hand over Villa in their previous meetings, winning 100 and drawing 40 of their 199 fixtures in all competitions.
Since their embarrassing 7-2 defeat at Villa Park in October 2020, Liverpool have rattled off four consecutive victories over the Midlands side in league and cup.
They triumphed 2-1 on their most recent visit to Villa, with goals by Joel Matip and Sadio Mane cancelling out Douglas Luiz’s opener.
Aston Villa vs Liverpool Team News
Jacob Ramsey faces a race against time to be fit for the game after missing Villa’s three friendly matches ahead of the season’s resumption.
Ramsey is an integral part of Villa’s midfield, and his absence would be a significant blow to their hopes of defeating Liverpool.
Emery has a tough decision to make in goal, with Emiliano Martinez not guaranteed to start following his exertions with Argentina at the World Cup. Diogo Jota, Luis Diaz and Arthur all miss out for Liverpool, while Ibrahima Konate will need to be assessed after playing for France in the World Cup final.
However, Naby Keita and Joel Matip are fit again, which boosts Klopp’s options ahead of the busy festive period.
Aston Villa vs Liverpool Potential Line-ups
Aston Villa: Martinez, Cash, Digne, Mings, Konsa, McGinn, Kamara, Luiz, Buendia, Ings, Watkins.
Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Robertson, Gomez, van Dijk, Fabinho, Thiago, Elliott, Salah, Firmino, Nunez.
Aston Villa vs Liverpool Prediction
Liverpool would generally be viewed as a banker bet to win at Villa, but the current circumstances surrounding both teams make this a tricky test.
Emery’s arrival at Villa Park has steadied the ship and he will be desperate to see his team perform well against one of the league’s big hitters.
Villa worked their socks off to secure three points at Brighton in their last outing before the break and that work ethic could stand them in good stead against the Reds. Liverpool have underperformed for much of the season, but undoubtedly showed plenty of signs of life in their 3-1 victory over Southampton.
Having had a few weeks to regroup following a disappointing start to the campaign, Liverpool should have enough about them to secure a narrow victory at Villa Park.
Prediction: Aston Villa 1-2 Liverpool.
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