MX23RW : Saturday, January 18 14:56:28| >> :600:2853751:2853751:
Dec 17, 2019 at 7.45pm UK at ​Villa Park
Attendance: 30,323
Aston Villa
Hourihane (14'), Boyes (17' og.), Kodjia (37', 45'), Wesley (92')
FT(HT: 4-0)

Preview: Aston Villa vs. Liverpool - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Tuesday night's EFL Cup quarter-final between Aston Villa and a weakened Liverpool, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

A place in the semi-finals of the EFL Cup is up for grabs on Tuesday night when Aston Villa welcome a weakened Liverpool squad to Villa Park.

The vast majority of the visitors' senior players will be in Qatar for the Club World Cup instead of this match, leaving Under-23 boss Neil Critchley to attempt the unlikely and unusual feat of using the youth team to secure the club's place in the last four.

Match preview

Liverpool under-23 boss Neil Critchley pictured in 2014© Reuters

It will be Liverpool, but not as we know them on Tuesday night.

Flying high at the top of the Premier League table, now 10 points clear of second place after the weekend's action, the Reds have been made to pay the price for featuring in seven different competitions this season by playing two games in different continents in two days.

The 20-man travelling party to Qatar contains all of the star names expected, leaving Under-23s boss Critchley to field a team that he, but very few others, will be familiar with.

The EFL Cup has been increasingly used as a testing ground for young players in recent years, but Tuesday's scenario is a unique one and it will be the only occasion all season that Liverpool go into a match as overwhelming underdogs.

Critchley has challenged the youngsters to show what they can do with no pressure on their shoulders, but there is no doubting the size of the task for them against a Premier League side at full strength.

From Aston Villa's point of view, they will rarely get a better chance to reach the semi-finals of the competition at the expense of a team that has otherwise been nigh-on unstoppable this season.

Aston Villa manager Dean Smith on October 19, 2019© Reuters

Liverpool's five successive wins and 33 victories across all competitions this term are essentially meaningless with an entirely new bunch of players, giving Villa an ideal opportunity to turn around their own poor run of form.

Dean Smith's side have lost their last three games and six of their last eight to drop to 17th in the Premier League table, with only goal difference keeping them out of the relegation zone after Saturday's 2-0 defeat at Sheffield United.

A couple of crucial relegation battles against Southampton and Norwich City are coming up either side of Christmas, but under the circumstances Tuesday's match will also be high up the priority list as Villa look to reach the semi-finals of the competition for the first time since 2012-13.

The 1995-96 EFL Cup was their last major trophy and they have so far shown positive signs that they might be able to end that 24-year drought, thrashing Crewe Alexandra in round two before back-to-back triumphs over Premier League opposition in Brighton & Hove Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Success against Liverpool would go down as a third consecutive Premier League scalp even with the youth squad out, although there is still reason to be cautious with many of those expected to play on Tuesday having already featured in this season's competition, including during the Reds' madcap 5-5 draw with Arsenal in the last round.

Even forcing a penalty shootout would be a major achievement for the youngsters who will play in this match, with Liverpool's best hope perhaps being that the winning habit from the senior team has permeated through to the lower levels.

Aston Villa EFL Cup form: WWW
Aston Villa form (all competitions): LWDLLL

Liverpool EFL Cup form: WW
Liverpool form (all competitions): DWWWWW

Team News

Liverpool's Harvey Elliott during the match against MK Dons on September 25, 2019© Reuters

Critchley's team selection for Liverpool Under-23s' 1-1 draw with Chelsea on Saturday offered some hints about who might play on Tuesday, with Harvey Elliott and Rhian Brewster given the afternoon off entirely.

The duo have started both EFL Cup games so far this season and are expected to do so again for the quarter-final if Brewster overcomes an ankle knock, while the likes of Ki-Jana Hoever, Caoimhin Kelleher, Pedro Chirivella, Herbie Kane and Sepp van den Berg have also featured in this competition already in 2019-20.

Two players who will not be available are Curtis Jones and Neco Williams, both of whom have been taken with the senior squad to Qatar.

Aston Villa are also likely to take the chance to field some youngsters, although unlike Liverpool they do have the option to include a smattering of first-team stars in the mix.

A number of fringe players such as Neil Taylor, Ezri Konsa and Henri Lansbury are expected to be given an opportunity, while Orjan Nyland could start in goal with Jed Steer sidelined through injury.

Tyrone Mings will not be risked after missing the weekend defeat with a hamstring injury, while Conor Hourihane is also likely to sit out again as he continues to nurse a knock.

Keinan Davis could play some part, though, while Jonathan Kodjia is expected to lead the line with Wesley among those handed a rest ahead of the upcoming crunch match with Southampton.

Aston Villa possible starting lineup:
Nyland; Elmohamady, Konsa, Hause, Taylor; Lansbury, Luiz, McGinn; Jota, Kodjia, Trezeguet

Liverpool possible starting lineup:
Kelleher; Hoever, Van den Berg, Clayton, Larouci; Chirivella, Dixon-Bonner, Kane; Elliott, Brewster, Longstaff

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We say: Aston Villa 3-0 Liverpool

Stranger things have happened in football, but this is the one match Liverpool will go into this season expecting to lose. The simple fact is that this will be a Premier League side against an Under-23 side, and when it boils down to that there can surely only be one outcome.

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Who will progress to the EFL Cup semi-finals?

Aston Villa
Aston Villa
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Mohamed Salah during a Liverpool training session on October 23, 2019
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