MX23RW : Monday, May 27 08:06:49| >> :600:103587811:103587811:
Feb 14, 2016 at 2.05pm UK at ​Villa Park
Attendance: 35,798
Aston Villa
FT(HT: 0-2)
Sturridge (16'), Milner (25'), Can (58'), Origi (63'), Clyne (65'), Toure (71')

Preview: Aston Villa vs. Liverpool

Sports Mole previews Sunday afternoon's Premier League match at Villa Park between lowly Aston Villa and out-of-form Liverpool.

Sunday's Premier League action is bookended by a pair of mouthwatering matches involving the top four, but in the middle there is also an intriguing game as rockbottom Aston Villa take on Liverpool.

Given Villa's predicament you might expect Liverpool to be heavy favourites, but the Reds are enduring a tough spell at the moment and have been hard to beat at home of late.


Joleon Lescott celebrates scoring during the Premier League game between Aston Villa and Norwich City on February 6, 2016© Getty Images

After a club-record 19-game winless streak, Villa have won two and lost only one of their last five league games to give themselves a glimmer of hope of beating the drop and maintaining their status as one of the few clubs to never be relegated since the introduction of the Premier League.

Still, they will need a finish like Leicester City managed last season if they are to stay up, with the gap to safety eight points with only 13 games of the season to go.

Last Saturday they earned their third win of the season by overcoming fellow strugglers Norwich City 2-0 thanks to a Timm Klose own goal and Gabriel Agbonlahor's first goal of the season.

Manager Remi Garde praised Agbonlahor and tipped the forward to get back to his best and help keep Villa in the league after ending his 11-month goal drought.

Victory over Norwich made it four league games unbeaten at Villa Park and avoiding defeat in two days' time would make it five without a loss at home for the first time in over a year.

Garde was also asked about his own future yesterday and said that he would consider staying at the club should they be relegated, but only if he were given funds to invest in the squad after failing to sign a single new player in the January transfer window.

Recent Premier League form: LWDDLW
Recent form (all competitions): DWDLLW


Liverpool's English striker Daniel Sturridge (2nd L) scores his team's second goal during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Aston Villa at the Anfield stadium in Liverpool, north-west England, on September 26, 2015. © Getty Images

A terrible week on the field, but a triumphant one off it for Reds supporters after their walk-out protest in the 77th minute of last Saturday's match against Sunderland caused the club's owners to scrap its ticket-price hike on Wednesday.

A healthy chunk of the Anfield crowd made their way out with their side leading 2-0 against the lowly Black Cats, but those that stayed saw Sunderland pull off a miraculous late fightback to earn a point.

Manager Jurgen Klopp also missed his side make it just one win in six league games as he had to have his appendix out after falling ill in the build-up to the match.

The Reds' stuttering form means that they are 12 points behind the top four and Merseyside rivals Everton have climbed above them on goal difference.

Things got worse on Tuesday night when Liverpool travelled to West Ham United for an FA Cup fourth-round replay and lost in heartbreaking circumstances in the 120th minute just seconds before a penalty shootout would have been needed.

One positive from the midweek defeat was the return of Daniel Sturridge, who has scored four goals in three Premier League appearances for Liverpool against Aston Villa, including two composed finishes in the reverse earlier this season.

Since joining the club in January 2013, Sturridge has only played one more game (60) than he has missed (59) for Liverpool in the Premier League, but if he can stay fit for the remainder of the campaign he may compete with the likes of Wayne Rooney, Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy for a place in Roy Hodgson's England attack at Euro 2016.

Recent form: LDLWLD
Recent form (all competitions): WWDLDL

Team News

Christian Benteke reacts as he is foiled by a tiny Darren Randolph during the FA Cup fourth-round replay between West Ham United and Liverpool  on February 9, 2016© Getty Images

The big question for Klopp is whether to start any of his three recognised strikers - Sturridge, Christian Benteke or Divock Origi - all of whom are fit again.

Former Villa man Benteke scored five goals in six appearances in all competitions against Liverpool for Villa before moving to Merseyside this summer and he is two goals away from 50 in the Premier League, but the Belgian has failed to net in his last five league appearances and Sturridge may be the preferred choice if Klopp decides against in-form Roberto Firmino leading the line.

At the back, Kolo Toure should come in with Dejan Lovren out, while Joe Allen is also absent having suffered a shoulder injury.

Allen's place in midfield should be taken by Philippe Coutinho after the Brazilian returned against West Ham in midweek and scored a cheeky free kick to level the scores.

Changes are unlikely from Garde after Villa's win over Norwich, but Alan Hutton is available again having overcome a hamstring problem.

Rudy Gestede and Carlos Sanchez will be assessed, while Jordan Ayew (suspended), Libor Kozak (ankle), Adama Traore (foot) and Jordan Amavi (knee) are all sidelined.

Villa possible starting lineup:
Bunn; Richards, Okore, Lescott, Cissokho; Bacuna, Gueye, Westwood; Gil, Veretout; Agbonlahor

Liverpool possible starting lineup:
Mignolet; Clyne, Toure, Sakho, Moreno; Henderson, Can, Milner; Lallana, Firmino, Coutinho

Head To Head

Liverpool, who won the reverse 3-2 at Anfield, have won four of the last six Premier League meetings with Villa and all of their last four visits to Villa Park.

In fact, the Reds have won 11 and lost just one of their last 17 Premier League visits to Villa Park.

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We say: Villa 1-3 Liverpool

Liverpool will be desperate to find some form ahead of the League Cup final later this month and with Sturridge fit for the time being, Villa might be the perfect opponents for Klopp's men to get back to winning ways.

Who will claim victory on Sunday, Villa or Liverpool?

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Joe Allen of Liverpool in action during the UEFA Europa League group B match between Liverpool FC and FC Sion at Anfield on October 1, 2015
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