Whilst Villa’s influence upon the league table impacted the relegation battle at the weekend with victory over Burnley (1-3), attention now turns to the summit.
Liverpool’s draw with Spurs (1-1) now means that Jurgen Klopp’s side come to Villa Park needing nothing less than a win if they are to maintain any hope of leapfrogging Man City.
The arrival of the club for whom Gerrard appeared over 700 times, many of which as Captain, arguably presents his sternest managerial test to date since his appointment. This is a peak Liverpool side, with an array of well drilled technical talent, poised to strike for domestic and European honours. It’s a position our owners, club CEO Christian Purslow and indeed Gerrard aspire for Aston Villa to be in.Embed from Getty Images
Despite a recent slump in form, culminating in a run of 4 consecutive defeats, Gerrard will be lifted by an upturn in results and individual player form. Although a draw against Leicester wasn’t pretty, it stopped the rot, and wins against Norwich and Burnley quelled a growing disquiet at the clubs lowly league position.
Adding 7 points to the board from the last 3 fixtures has certainly improved matters, with the hope that this Villa side can perhaps produce a surprise performance against one of the continents best sides.
That’s a big ask, particularly as Gerrard has struggled to translate his vision into victories against the Premier Leagues top sides. This is a stern test not just of how members of the current squad can go head-to-head against elite opposition, but also hopefully an insight into how tactically Villa intend to compete going forward.
Gerrard will have interesting pre-match decisions too. Dare we meet fire with fire? Or do we go conservative in our approach and risk digging in against a potent attacking force?
Indeed, should Gerrard persevere with the competent Callum Chambers in a holding role, so successful at Burnley or stick with Emi Buendia at the expense of Philippe Coutinho?
The former Rangers boss must also ponder if disrupting the promising goalscoring relationship of Watkins and Ings, though negating our threat, will offer more protective bodies in midfield.
Regardless, it’s nice to have something of interest riding on a game so close to the seasons conclusion. A result in our favour will give an optimism ahead of an important 2022/23 campaign, whilst determining if the Premier League trophy arrives on Merseyside or Manchester.
A night ‘under the lights’ of Villa Park to look forward to.