LFC Talk

Match Preview: Aston Villa v Liverpool by lfctalk
August 30, 2008, 14:59
Filed under: Match Previews

All eyes will be on Villa Park on Sunday afternoon when Martin O’Neill and Rafael Benitez come face to face after a Summer of tension and divide over Gareth Barry’s future.

The England midfielder has been the subject of attention of Liverpool for 17 weeks and after failing to first budge Villa’s pricetag and then meet it, the Reds failed to prise the left-footer away from the Midlands. After seeing his move falter and finally fail the player decided to pledge that he would spend the forthcoming season at Villa Park this week, much to his manager’s relief.

Both sides will be looking to get the three points on Sunday in a crunch encounter after difficult weeks. O’Neill’s side will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing 3-2 defeat away at Stoke last weekend and their visitors will want to bounce back from near-humiliation against Belgian champions Standard Liege. Champions League football was on the line throughout both legs against the surprise package and was only secured in the 118th minute with a shinned-strike from Dirk Kuyt.

Villa could have two debutants in their side with new signings Carlos Cuellar and James Milner looking to make their first appearances for the club. Milner will actually be making his second debut for the Villans should he play after spending 2005/6 on loan there.

Liverpool are unbeaten in their last ten visits to Villa Park and will have to try and extend that record without captain Steven Gerrard. The midfield talisman had surgery on his groin injury on Thursday and will be out for around two weeks. He will miss the two opening England World Cup qualifiers but will be hoping to return against Manchester United at Anfield on 13th September.

Olympic hero Javier Mascherano is likely to replace Gerrard in midfield for the game and is expected to partner Xabi Alonso in a 4-4-2 formation. Lucas Leiva has also returned from Olympic duty, but is likely to only feature on the bench. Finnish defender Sami Hyypia is unlikely to feature after a recent hamstring problem. Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel are vying to partner Jamie Carragher at the heart of the defence and Andrea Dossena will be hoping to return to the side at the expense of Fabio Aurelio.

Ryan Babel is pushing for a recall to the side after two substitute appearances after his return from Beijing. The Dutchman has replaced Yossi Benayoun twice in the past week and provided the cross for Kuyt to end Liege’s hopes of a shock on Wednesday night. Albert Riera’s protracted move will not completed in time for the Spaniard to make his bow at Villa Park.

Nicky Shorey, Ashley Young, John Carew, Luke Young, Martin Laursen and Stilian Petrov are all likely to return to the Villa side after being rested in midweek. Steve Sidwell remains sidelined with a calf injury, however.


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