After suffering a third successive defeat at Sheffield United at the weekend, Villa have an opportunity to hit reset ahead crucial festive games against Southampton, Watford and Norwich.
This Carabao Cup Quarter Final clash see’s Liverpool return to Villa Park, but it will certainly be a very different one to that which won 2-1 earlier this season.
Liverpool will field their under-23 side owing to the senior team featuring in the Club World Cup semis in Qatar tomorrow (18th December).
This therefore represents an opportunity for Smith to rediscover winning ways and put Villa within 90 minutes of the only realistic crach at silverware. It must not come at the expense of Premier League status though.
With opportunity, however, comes risk.
Risk, firstly, in the sense of not fielding a strong side ourselves. A number of key faces have been misfiring lately and there is visible fatigue within the ranks. Much depends upon Smith finding the balance between resting players who will be key not just over Christmas, but ahead of what will be a telling January to March.
Secondly, there is the risk of under-estimating Liverpool’s youngsters, though this is predicted to be the least experienced side they have ever fielded competitively.
With that said, there are a clutch of promising future starlets who despite the League Cup being low down Liverpool’s prioritise, will undoubtedly be a stage with which to raise their prospects of graduating to the first XI.
This is a deceptively tricky game for Villa to navigate.
Secure victory and it’s regarded merely as a game we should’ve won.
Lose the game or key personnel as a consequence of it and it opens up the wrong narrative for a campaign that could easily become a dogfight.
Score Prediction: Aston Villa 2-0 Liverpool
- Kick off time – 07:45pm (GMT)
- Liverpool have lost only once at Villa Park in 20 years.
- Villa have failed to win in 6 of the last 7 games since November.
- Mings remains out with a thigh injury.
- Steer is injured, Heaton may be rested with Nyland deputising in goal.
- Hourihane and Davis are also injury doubts.
- Neil Critchley will manage the visitors with Klopp in Qater.
- Villa last reached the semis of the league cup under John Gregory (99/2000)
- Henri Lansbury is the competitions top creative player with 5 assists.
- Predicted Villa XI: Nyland; Elmohamady, Konsa, Hause, Taylor; Lansbury, Luiz, Grealish; Jota, Trezeguet, Kodjia.
- Predicted Liverpool XI: Kelleher; Gallacher, Hoever, Van den Berg, Larouci; Chirivella, Kane, Christie-Davies; Elliott, Longstaff, Brewster.
- Sources: This Is Anfield | Squawka | The Hard Tackle | BBC