Preview: Liverpool vs. Aston Villa 

Preview: Liverpool vs. Aston Villa 

Taking to the Anfield turf for the final time in the 2022-23 Premier League season, Liverpool welcome Aston Villa to Merseyside for Saturday afternoon’s showdown.

The Reds are seeking an eighth successive victory to remain on the coat-tails of the top four, while Unai Emery’s side still harbour ambitions of a spot on the continent.

To the unbridled delight of the away section at the King Power Stadium and fans watching on from home, two of Liverpool’s local lads came up with the goods in Monday’s 3-0 thumping of Leicester City, who were made to pay after failing to build on a fast start against Jurgen Klopp’s in-form troops.

A quickfire Curtis Jones brace sparked a chorus of boos from the home crowd at half time, before Trent Alexander-Arnold picked out the top corner with aplomb to rub salt into the wounds for Leicester, who became the latest victims of Liverpool’s end-of-season surge.

Fighting until the end to retain their status as a Champions League club, Liverpool’s three-goal thumping of the Foxes leave Klopp’s men one point adrift of Manchester United and Newcastle United in fifth place, although both teams still have a game in hand – the Magpies will play theirs against Brighton & Hove Albion on Thursday night.

The damage may have already been done earlier in the season regarding Liverpool’s top-four aspirations, but a run of three successive clean sheets is a sight for Klopp’s sore eyes, and the Reds have strung together an 11-game unbeaten home sequence in the Premier League, taking 29 points from those 33 on offer.

Furthermore, not since a 3-1 loss to Crystal Palace in the 2014-15 campaign have Liverpool suffered defeat in their final home match of the season, and Saturday’s visiting head coach already has a plethora of painful memories from his previous sojourns to the red half of Merseyside.

Seven years on from masterminding Sevilla’s Europa League final triumph over Liverpool in 2016, Emery is appropriately winless in seven successive fixtures with Liverpool, who always had Arsenal’s number during his ill-fated North London stint.

However, speaking of North London teams experiencing miserable fortunes, that is exactly what happened to Tottenham Hotspur at Villa Park last weekend, as an early Jacob Ramsey effort and a Douglas Luiz free kick – which Fraser Forster arguably should have done better with – propelled the Lions into a thoroughly merited two-goal advantage.

A controversially-awarded Harry Kane spot kick cut the deficit in half in the dying embers, but it was too little too late for a lacklustre Spurs, who now only find themselves clear of eighth-placed Villa on goal difference as the battle for Europa Conference League football intensifies.

While Emery has turned Villa Park into an intimidating fortress, shortcomings on the road are beginning to bedevil his charges; the Lions have lost their last two away from home against Manchester United and Wolverhampton Wanderers without scoring, while also being held to a 1-1 draw versus Brentford before that.

Aside from their freak 7-2 success during the behind-closed-doors COVID-19 era, Villa have experienced little joy versus Liverpool in recent times too. A 3-1 reverse at Villa Park on Boxing Day stretched the visitors’ losing streak against the Reds to five matches, and not since a Gabriel Agbonlahor winner in 2014 have they come away from Anfield with all three points in the bag.

Liverpool Premier League form:

Aston Villa Premier League form:

We say: Liverpool 2-0 Aston Villa
With their goalscoring powers on the road starting to wane, Villa will travel to Merseyside in hope rather than expectation against a Liverpool side who have proven adept in shutting up shop over the past few weeks.

Emery’s men certainly command plenty of respect from their Anfield adversaries, but we cannot envisage any other result than a routine success for Klopp’s Champions League-chasing crop.

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