Champions Liverpool face Aston Villa on Sunday, both sides looking to continue their perfect start to the new Premier League season.
Here’s all you need to know about Sunday’s clash at Villa Park:
How have they started the season?
The Villains scraped to survival last season in what was their first year back in the top-flight after a four-year absence, yet already look a much stronger outfit this term after a hugely successful summer of recruitment.
Having already brought in Ollie Watkins, Matty Cash, Emi Martinez and Bertrand Traore, Villa strengthened even further this week with the major coup of capturing Chelsea’s Ross Barkley on a season-long loan, the club having also secured Jack Grealish’s future with a new five-year deal signed in mid-September.
Those high profile additions already look to have made Dean Smith’s side a much more competitive outfit and have enjoyed a 100 percent start to the new season with two wins from two, including a comfortable 3-0 win over struggling Fulham last weekend. One blot on the copybook will have been Villa’s tame exit from the Carabao Cup this week, however, the top flight side losing at home to Championship club Stoke City, former Burnley striker Sam Vokes netting the only goal of the game.
That defeat also saw defender Kortney Hause withdrawn through injury meaning he will have to be assessed ahead of Sunday’s fixture, while Smith is also contemplating handing a start to new man Barkley in midfield.
🗣"He is ready to go"
Dean Smith seems positive that Ross Barkley will feature for Aston Villa this weekend pic.twitter.com/C3Wg3B2hIX
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) October 2, 2020
It’s hard to believe after such a dominant title victory last season, but Liverpool perhaps look better and hungrier than ever if their start to the season is anything to go by, the Reds having picked by nine points from nine in the league so far.
The last win over a much improved Arsenal side was particularly impressive, as a side without midfielders Jordan Henderson and Thiago Alcantara put their opponents to the sword, full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold once again showcasing his exceptional attacking prowess, while new man Diogo Jota came off the bench to net his first goal for the club.
Relentless from start to finish ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/B6EBp8tX0J
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) September 29, 2020
However, Jurgen Klopp did see his side exit from the Carabao Cup in midweek, the Gunners taking their revenge with a penalty shootout victory at Anfield after a pretty drab 90 minutes of football. Despite the eventual defeat, the fact that Klopp was able to make nine changes and still be competitive is a real marker of the depth of the Reds squad and a further reason for rival clubs to be concerned.
As for Sunday, the former Borussia Dortmund boss will continue to assess the fitness of captain Henderson, yet will be unable to select new man Thiago until after the international break, the Spain international having tested positive for coronavirus.
Liverpool 2-0 Aston Villa, 5 July 2020
With the hosts having secured their first-ever Premier League title just 10 days previous, they had perhaps taken their foot off the gas somewhat, putting in an unusually below-par performance against Dean Smith’s side.
Despite not quite being at their scintillating best, the Reds were still too good for their opponents, Sadio Mane smashing home late on before young Curtis Jones sealed all three points in the 89th minute with a composed, curling effort.
In fairness the visitors were unlucky to walk away from the match with nothing having created, yet spurned, the best opportunities of the match, while the hosts were ruthlessly clinical as always.
Aston Villa: Martinez; Cash, Mings, Konza, Targett; Luiz, McGinn, Hourihane; Grealish, Watkins, Traore.
Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Keita; Salah, Mane, Firmino.
Who is the referee?
How can I watch?
UK and Irish readers can watch on Sky Sports Premier League and Main Event.
What time is kick off?
Aston Villa 15/2