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|Liverpool / Liverpool||-133
|Tie / Liverpool||+320
|Tie / Aston Villa||+2000
|Tie / Tie||+825
Steven Gerrard’s sides tend to be tough to break down, and the Reds might have to wait until the second period before making the breakthrough.
Back Draw/Liverpool in the Half-time/Full-time market (+320)
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Steven Gerrard only joined Aston Villa a few weeks ago, but he is already the favorite to become Liverpool’s next permanent manager. Although Jurgen Klopp is not expected to vacate the Anfield hot seat until his contract expires in 2024, his superiors at the club may have already begun to consider potential successors. If Gerrard does a good job at Villa, it is hard to see the Liverpool board handing the reins to anyone else.
Gerrard is guaranteed to receive a hero’s welcome when he returns to Anfield on Saturday. It will be strange to see him representing another club at the stadium where he spent the vast majority of his playing career. Gerrard is one of the greatest players in Liverpool’s history. A local lad who captained the team for years, he inspired the club to multiple trophies – including the Champions League in 2005.
But Gerrard’s focus for now is on Aston Villa. He has made a bright start to life in the West Midlands after leaving Rangers last month. His new side have won three of their four games under his stewardship. The only blot on Gerrard’s copybook was a narrow 2-1 defeat by Manchester City – a respectable outcome against the Premier League leaders.
Qualifying for Europe was the aim for Villa at the start of the season. The owners acted decisively in dismissing Dean Smith after a poor run, and Gerrard has made an instant impact. Now up to 10th in the table, Villa are beginning to look up rather than over their shoulders again. A positive result at Anfield would be a real statement of intent heading into the hectic festive period
After Chelsea’s defeat by West Ham United in the early kick-off last Saturday, Liverpool briefly climbed to the top of the Premier League table. Their last-gasp 1-0 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers, secured by Divock Origi’s strike in the fourth minute of second-half stoppage time, moved the Reds above the Blues at the summit of the standings. A few hours later, Manchester City in turn displaced Liverpool courtesy of a 3-1 triumph over Watford.
Neutrals will hope for the first three-way title race since 2013/14, when City edged out Liverpool and Chelsea. The Blues finished third that season, and there have been some signs of late that they are not quite at the level of Liverpool and City. The underlying numbers suggest that to be the case: Chelsea’s expected goals difference of +11.8 is some way short of Liverpool’s +24.6 and City’s +23.1.
Ask Klopp in private and he would probably opine that City are his team’s biggest challengers this season. Liverpool were able to keep pace with Pep Guardiola’s men in 2018/19, finishing just one point adrift of the champions. Klopp’s side then won the league the following year, before finishing a distant 17 points behind City last term.
Liverpool are set to lose Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah to the Africa Cup of Nations next month. They could lose ground while the tournament takes place, so it is essential that they remain within touching distance of City before Mane and Salah jet off to Cameroon. If not, City could pull clear of the chasing pack in the new year.
Gerrard’s Rangers team was characterized by its solid backline. In winning the Scottish Premiership last season, the Gers conceded just 13 goals in 38 matches. Gerrard was famously a talented but ill-disciplined player who sometimes struggled to hold his position. As a manager, his sides tend to be extremely well organized and difficult to break down.
We have seen a few signs of that already at Villa. His first game in charge was a 2-0 victory over Brighton & Hove Albion in which the Seagulls created very few chances. Villa also stifled Crystal Palace in a 2-1 win at Selhurst Park last month. They were a little more open in the first half against Leicester City last weekend, before tightening up after the interval on their way to another 2-1 win.
Gerrard will try and take the sting out of Liverpool’s play in the opening 45 minutes on Saturday. That is easier said than done. But there is reason to believe that the Reds will have to work hard for the points this weekend.
Villa will form a compact shape without the ball and will probably be content to sit back in the opening stages. Liverpool should get the job done in the end, but this could be a tricky test. Back Tie / Liverpool in the Half-time / Full-time market.
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|Liverpool vs Aston Villa Information|
|Teams||Liverpool vs Aston Villa|
|Location||Anfield, Liverpool, England|
|Time||Saturday, 11 December 2021, 10.00 AM EST|
|How to watch||NBC Sports|
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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