By Christopher Boulay
Liverpool looks to keep pace in the race for Champions League football as the club heads to Villa Park to face Aston Villa.
Currently, the Reds sit in seventh place, six points off pace of of third-place Chelsea, who drew 1-1 at Wigan on Saturday. This could be important to gain points now, as Tottenham may pass the Blues with an upcoming match against Sunderland, and Spurs do not look to be slipping up anytime soon.
However, in the build-up to the match, one major issue looms. The Luis Suarez-Patrice Evra incident remains unresolved, as the Football Association failed to make a decision as initially promised on Friday. With such a huge decision to be made, it doesn’t need to be said it could very well affect the Uruguayan during the match, and it will be interesting how he responds.
With Jay Spearing serving the second of his three matches on the bench for the red card against Fulham, the midfield still needs some sorting out. Jonjo Shelvey, coming off of his recent “Young Player of the Month” award for his recent work on loan at Blackpool, may see some time in the midfield. However, it may be safer to say that Jordan Henderson and Charlie Adam continue to appear in the middle.
The defense has been solid, as of late, and Kenny Dalglish seems to be quite happy with the back four. Jose Enrique has looked the most impressive in the back this season, and his work on the wing may show he is the best signing of the summer.
For Aston Villa, they will be without Gabriel Agbonlahor, as he faces a ban for receiving his fifth yellow card for a foul against Bolton. With Shay Given still out injured, American goalkeeper Brad Guzan will get the start in net, and he shouldn’t be taken lightly. However, questions may be asked of his experience, as his work with Villa is typically few and far between. Beyond this, Villa may not have many changes from their win last weekend, as the club suffers from a lack of depth. Due to this, and Agbonlahor’s absence, Emile Heskey may be brought in to lead the attack with Darren Bent. Both Agbonlahor and Bent lead the Villains with five goals in the league.
If Stewart Downing makes an appearance against his old club, he may have a chance to reverse Liverpool’s fortunes against Villa. Downing scored the lone goal in Aston Villa’s victory over Liverpool on the last day of last season. However, he has not been as fortunate at Liverpool, as he has not scored since that goal.
Aston Villa v Liverpool
When: Sunday, December 18th, 1405 GMT / 0905 EST
Where: Villa Park, Birmingham
EPL: Liverpool 7th (26 points), Aston Villa 10th (19 points)
Probable Aston Villa Starting XI:
DEF: Hutton, Warnock, Dunne, Collins
MID: N’Zogbia, Albrighton, Petrov, Herd
FW: Bent, Heskey
Subs from: Marshall, Clark, Ireland, Bannan, Delfouneso, Weimann, Burke
Probable Liverpool Starting XI:
DEF: Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Jose Enrique
MID: Kuyt, Adam, Henderson, Maxi
FW: Suarez, Carroll
Subs from: Doni, Downing, Kelly, Carragher, Bellamy, Coates, Aurélio, Wilson, Flanagan, Shelvey
Interact: What’s your final score predictions? Comment below.