Liverpool face Aston Villa on Boxing Day in sore need of victory after defeat to Manchester City in the Carabao Cup fourth round dampened some Christmas spirits. The Reds return to Premier League action for the first time since November 12 and find themselves seven points off the top four. Express Sport looks at the team that may face Villa, with Jurgen Klopp poised to make a number of changes to the mix-and-match side that lost at the Etihad with three World Cup stars back in the fold.
Goalkeeper – Alisson
Caoimhin Kelleher, to his credit, was solid away at City despite conceding three goals. But there is no doubt that Brazil’s No 1 Alisson will return between the sticks here.
Liverpool would be in a far worse position in the table were it not for Alisson this season. Liverpool have conceded 17 goals in the Premier League when they would have been expected to concede 24.6 goals, per xG, from the chances they have given away to opponents.
Defence – Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson
The defensive issues that have plagued Liverpool this year were on full show at City but they were missing two of the most important back-line figures. The talismanic Virgil van Dijk should return to the starting eleven here.
MUST READ: Man City cocksure they have Liverpool beat in Jude Bellingham race
He will be joined by Joel Matip after Joe Gomez struggled against City. He should drop to the bench. Trent Alexander-Arnold will replace James Milner, who went off injured, at right-back while Andy Robertson should keep his spot on the left-hand side. Ibrahima Konate is not yet back after he played in the World Cup final for France.
Midfield – Thiago, Fabinho, Elliott
Fabinho produced an improved cameo in the holding role at the Etihad and should be back in the starting selection at Villa Park at the expense of Stefan Bajcetic. Thiago Alcantara is likely to start to his left.
Harvey Elliott is the favourite to keep his spot on the right-hand side although Klopp also has Jordan Henderson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita available to pick from. Henderson is the likeliest to come in if Elliott is displaced. Curtis Jones remains out.
Man Utd ‘decide on Fernandez’ to deal Liverpool Bellingham dilemma
Klopp responds to Carragher’s ‘outrageous’ Liverpool takeover claim
Liverpool waiting on Jurgen Klopp to make January decision on Arthur
Attack – Salah, Nunez, Oxlade-Chamberlain
Fabio Carvalho is another almost certain to drop out of the team after being hooked just 45 minutes into last week’s Carabao Cup tie. With Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz both sidelined by injuries, Oxlade-Chamberlain could be deployed on the left.
He was bright in a 45-minute cameo at City. Darwin Nunez should lead the line once again with Roberto Firmino currently out with a muscle problem. Mohamed Salah will seek to build on his 15-goal tally against a team whom he has scored five times in seven meetings.
Predicted Liverpool XI vs Aston Villa in full (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Thiago, Fabinho, Elliott; Salah, Nunez, Oxlade-Chamberlain