Why Liverpool vs. Aston Villa Is the Premier League Match to Watch This Weekend

Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterDecember 13, 2012

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - APRIL 07:  Andy Carroll of Liverpool is tackled by Stephen Ireland of Aston Villa during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Aston Villa at Anfield on April 7, 2012 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool host Paul Lambert's Aston Villa this weekend in the match to watch on Saturday (10 a.m. ET).

The Reds will be hoping to win their third English Premier League game in a row, while Villa will be looking to avoid defeat for the sixth straight time.

Let's take a look at why this match is an affair worth checking in on.


In-form underdogs

Villa will arrive at Anfield having not lost in five games in all competitions, with their most recent result a mightily impressive 4-1 away win at rock-solid Norwich City in the quarterfinals of the League Cup.

While they are certifiable underdogs, this can't be ruled a steamrolling after the claret and blue side also held up against Stoke last Saturday for a clean sheet.

Christian Benteke and Andi Weimann are a blossoming partnership, while Matthew Lowton and Ashley Westwood continue to show undoubted promise. Spirits are high, confidence is high.

Liverpool will welcome Luis Suarez back from suspension and hope he fires them to victory, but the Reds have a recent history of surrendering points to their Birmingham counterparts in this fixture.

Could we see a repeat of last season's frustrating 1-1 draw, or even an inkling of 2009's infuriating 3-1 defeat?


Intriguing key battles

My colleague Karl Matchett has done a piece leading up to this game focussing on key battles on the field.

The premier battle—and the one which could decide the match in a flash—is how either of Liverpool's switching wingers matches up against Eric Lichaj.

The U.S. international is playing out of position at left-wing-back and doing an honest job for the team, but he's been bettered by almost every forward player he's come up against.

Westwood has become accustomed to controlling games, and after this performance against Stoke City, Villa fans rightly feel they have their very own little Joe Allen. It'll be Lucas' job to shut him down, but after a lengthy injury layoff, how sharp will the Brazilian be?


Tactical oddities

There is, however, one battle that supersedes allthe battle of the formations.

With Villa using a 3-5-2 for the third successive game against Norwich City midweek, it's all but certain Lambert will opt for this formation at Anfield.

How will the 4-3-3 match up against the three-man defence? Villa's wing-backs will need to be erring on the side of defensive caution to make sure they continue to retain a spare man at the back, while Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel look set for a man each in Christian Benteke and Gabby Agbonlahor.

If the wing-backs are pinned in, can Villa's midfield see enough of the ball against a Lucas Leiva-led pack?