Coming off a two-week international break, Liverpool will look to bounce back from two dreadful performances.
In their last match, the Reds fell to Southampton, 3-1. On Sunday, Brendan Rodgers’s side travel to Villa Park to face Aston Villa, after having lost the reverse fixture, 3-1.
With eight matches left in their Premier League schedule, Liverpool continue to battle for a Europa League spot, and only have Chelsea and Everton as truly daunting tasks.
Meanwhile, Aston Villa will be fighting tooth and nail for three points as they remain firmly in the relegation scrap. A loss to Villa would be a harsh wake-up call for the Reds, especially after failing to get a point against relegation-threatened Southampton.
Aston Villa have been on a recent high, with 10 points in their last six matches. They will attempt to string together a three-match win streak for the first time since the 2009-2010 season.
"The Anfield game has long gone, it's finished,” head coach Paul Lambert said, ahead of the Sunday clash. “It will have no bearing on what happens now. The fact we've won the last two games is something more to take into it than what we did at Liverpool. But, in the last few weeks, we've played really well. We're playing well enough to try and win it on Sunday.”
The biggest threats to watch from the Villa end will be the attacking trio of Gabriel Agbonlahor, Andreas Weimann, and Christian Benkete. Belgium international Benteke scored a brace against Liverpool earlier this season, and Weimann also got his name on the scoresheet.
However, Villa’s goal-scoring record at home this season has been a dismal, with their 14 goals giving them the second lowest tally in the Premier League. The return of striker Darren Bent will boost the attack, and provide more options for Lambert.
For Liverpool, Luis Suarez leads the team, and the Premier League, with 22 goals. Liverpool, which struggled to score last season are fourth in scoring this season.
Defending has been a problem, however, with Rodgers stating that they club will search for reinforcements this summer. Liverpool had three consecutive clean sheets before surrendering five goals in their last two matches. The Reds have conceded 39 goals this season, which is 10th in the Premier League.
D: Johnson, Carragher, Agger, Enrique
M: Lucas, Gerrard
Coutinho, Suarez, Downing
Aston Villa (probable):
D: Lowton, Vlaar, Clark, Baker
M: Westwood, Bannan, N’Zogbia
F: Weimann, Benteke, Agbonlahor
Betting Odds: Bet365 places the odds on an Aston Villa victory at 4/1, a draw at 3/1, and a Liverpool win at 8/11.
Prediction: Given Aston Villa’s injury concerns and weaknesses on the left side of defense, Liverpool will have plenty of opportunities to generate chances. With the offensive line intact, and the return of Lucas, Pepe Reina, and Jamie Carragher, Liverpool will have few concerns with containing the Aston Villa attack. However, Aston Villa are capable of exploiting holes in the middle of the pitch and have proven they can exceed expectations against prominent clubs. Expect a tight match.
Liverpool 2-1 Aston Villa
Where to watch: The Barclays Premier League match kicks off on Sunday, March 31 at 8:30 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by Fox Soccer Plus, with a live stream available on Fox Soccer 2Go.