Match Preview: Aston Villa at Anfield

There is just no predicting what team is going to turn up tonight but if you were a betting man and you had to put some money on the result, I fancy you'd be going for a home win.

It's not that I haven't started to believe we can win, it's match day isn't it and all the positive talk from Gabby, Reo-Coker and I'm guessing Milner and Sidwell, has got me believing that I could do anything today.

But without a coffee inside me yet and the knowledge that I have actual work to do today, that doesn't include having to go and do anything with my lawn, it is hard to see how we are going to get anything from tonight.

Team News

Liverpool lost an influential player in the summer when Alonso joined Real Madrid and they also, like us, replaced him with an injured player, in Aquilani. It is also possible Liverpool will be without Skrtel and Agger, El Zhar & Aurelio are all out.

Carew picked up a virus last week and he might still have it, you never know. Davies has injured his shoulder again, so we are not yet sure on his availability. Apart from that, you know about the others. It could certainly be a test for one of our kids tonight, although I suspect that O'Neill will put Beye in at centre back and bring in Eric Lichaj to right back.

The American Owners

Liverpool are in turmoil at one level but at the other, the footballing level, I fancy they'll be as strong this season as they were last but their owners, where I fancy the issues are, haven't provided enough money this summer in my opinion and while I fancy they'll be as strong, I fancy Arsenal and Chelsea will be stronger, which will mean, in my own little world, that Liverpool won't do as well as they did last season.

Our American owner has had it, by comparison, like a holiday at Villa Park, but that might all change soon too. He hasn't, as of yet, provided the necessary money and if you were to look at the new owners that have bought clubs in our league, you've got to say that the Americans are not the ones that look like investing either.

The Managers

But, take away the US owners and Liverpool do have Rafa and you all know how important I believe the manager is to a club and Rafa is one of the best. He knows how to get the best out of his players for the team they are playing and tonight, I'm sure they will come out fighting and they will play to our weaknesses.

Liverpool need this result to keep in touch with the pack, although it really doesn't matter that this stage of the season, but we need it to get our first points and what better place to do that and allow people to start throwing the 'fickle' word about? I fancy we can win or pick up a point tonight.

Under Martin O'Neill, it is easy to predict what is going to happen and you can have fun with the 'how late in the game is he going to make a change' game or put a fiver on him putting James Milner to right back if we are chasing a game, but that isn't going to last forever and nobody can say he doesn't have an ability to get players up for a game.

But when you look at Rafa and O'Neill, you just fancy Rafa knows more about football than O'Neill, or at the very least, how to translate that to players to get them to play that way. For O'Neill to compete with Rafa he needs to spend more money than Rafa. I fancy Rafa might still even do better if spending less, but he also has a huge amount of quality at the club, so he has an advantage.

Prediction Time

I've said above that we could get something out of tonight, the thing is, I don't think we will. Liverpool will be too strong for us. We will, unless O'Neill has finally figured it out, go out playing 4-4-2, leave a big enough space in the middle of the park for the Liverpool five to take advantage and seeing as they'll have that extra man, will pass the ball around us, rather than hit it long to Torres and he'll score for fun.

With that extra man in midfield, they'll also dominate us so all we can do is hit it long to Carew, if he has recovered from his sore toe or virus, or to Heskey if he plays in his place and to Gabby, who will no doubt partner one of the two big men and because of the quality that Liverpool have in the back four, they'll deal with it.

Sure, there is a chance we will get lucky or they'll make a mistake but hoping for that is even worse than hoping for football to be played along the ground or we play a formation more suited to this century. No, we will play 4-4-2, watch Gabby and Milner run into dead ends, fail with crosses from deep and we will hit it long to Gabby and whoever partners him.

But that might not happen and I would love to be wrong. I have hope that we will do something different and I believe in my heart of hearts that Martin O'Neill knows he has to change things around, but with every Villa fan I know almost crying out for a variation of 4-5-1, some even asking for the same one Liverpool play with the Gerrard role going to Milner or Ashley, if it doesn't happen soon, I can't see the results that we've been getting for almost 20 games, changing.

So, some of you will call that a depressing view of tonight, I just like to think of it as a realistic one. We can get a result if Liverpool have an off day and we have our game of the season but if Liverpool are on form, then we will be beaten. That is my realistic view of tonight, because even if things do get changed about, we can't expect things to click into place in the first match.

Match Live: Streams and Banter

A couple of hours before kick off, maybe three or four, we will be starting a new post where we plan on getting a few links dumped and keeping you up to date with team news. I will also be hoping to run a competition later - I'm just waiting back on an email to see what we can give away. So, until then, I'm off to do my work.