Aston Villa have no chance of a result against Liverpool on Sunday unless lessons are learned from their win over Norwich City, according to manager Remi Garde.
The Premier League’s bottom club sealed a vital three points with a 2-0 victory against Alex Neil’s side last week to move them to within eight points of safety, and give them some hope of beating the drop.
Yet Garde has warned his players that they must sharpen up their all-round display if they are to spring a surprise against Jurgen Klopp’s side, who beat them 3-2 in the reverse fixture prior to the German’s arrival as manager.
“If we are playing the same game against Liverpool we will have no chance to have points,” said Garde. “Against Norwich we deserved the win but in the second half they created many opportunities and if we were unlucky we would have drawn the game.
“My job is to say ‘well done lads for the victory and three points but the football we played won’t be enough to take points from the Liverpool game’.
“We won the game but not in the best way we could have done it. I was not completely happy with the game we played.”
Liverpool exited the FA Cup this week after a 2-1 extra-time defeat to West Ham United in their fourth-round replay, but their recent form against Villa suggest Sunday could be the ideal chance to recapture winning ways.
The Reds have won on their last four visits to Villa Park and have only been beaten once in 17 league trips, while they have not conceded a league goal on the ground since March 2013.
With Liverpool sitting 19 points above their opponents in the table after 25 matches, Klopp has called on his players to demonstrate their superiority and ignore any distractions surrounding Villa’s scrap for survival.
“It’s not a coincidence we are ninth and Aston Villa are bottom, and we have to use it,” he said. “That’s how you prepare a game.
“It’s not our thing to think about what Villa’s target is for this game, we have to be strong and do everything to reach our own targets. The Premier League is always difficult so we have to ignore this fact.”
Klopp confirmed on Friday that Joe Allen will miss the game due to a shoulder injury, while Dejan Lovren is still struggling with a muscle problem and Martin Skrtel is yet to resume full training.
Steven Caulker has shrugged off a back complaint, however, while Daniel Sturridge, Divock Origi and Philippe Coutinho are all set to be involved after featuring against West Ham.
The injury news for Villa is far less positive as they prepare to face former striker Christian Benteke while they grapple with their own crisis in attack.
Rudy Gestede (hamstring), Libor Kozak (ankle) and Jordan Ayew (suspension) are all ruled out, along with long-term absentee Adama Traore (foot), meaning Gabriel Agbonlahor will likely lead the line alone once more.
Jack Grealish (ankle) and Carlos Sanchez (hamstring) are also out, though Alan Hutton is set to return to the bench after recovering from his own hamstring complaint.
Key Opta Stats:
– Christian Benteke scored five goals in six appearances in all competitions against Liverpool for Aston Villa before moving to Merseyside this summer.
– Benteke is two goals away from netting 50 in the Premier League (currently 48), but hasn’ scored in his five league appearances since scoring the winner against Sunderland in December.
– Since joining the club on January 2 2013, Daniel Sturridge has only played one more game (60) than he’s missed (59) for Liverpool in the Premier League.
– Aston Villa are unbeaten in their last four Premier League games at Villa Park (W2 D2 L0) – they haven’t gone five unbeaten at home in the competition since January 1 2015.
– Liverpool have conceded a joint-league-high eight goals from corners this season in the Premier League – two more than they conceded in the whole of 2014-15 (6).