How you doing mate? You guys have had quite the start to the season: cause panic at the Emirates then almost take down the Bridge. Makes having Liverpool visit Villa Park almost a break in the schedule. You been happy with Villa's early form?
Doing great! And you're right, Liverpool at home almost does feel like a bit of a break, and that's not even taking anything away from your club. It's been a really hectic early season, one in which I would have honestly been happy with a point and a non-disastrous goal differential. So to head into the club's first home match with a +1 differential and 3 points? I'm ecstatic!
And what's made this more exciting is that Aston Villa are playing a fun, fast, aggressive style of football that seems to be working. They're just stout enough in defense to hold (although they haven't really faced an amazing attack yet), and phenomenally dangerous on the counter. If they keep this up, they'll be a ton of fun to watch.
How're Liverpool fans feeling after a tight 1-0 win over Stoke in your opener?
I'd say it's cautious optimism on our front. Certainly the attacking play was fluid and consistent with where we were headed at the end of last year. Coutinho is a genius, Lucas is returning to full speed, and it seems like Chelsea sold us its best striking option at a knock-down price in Sturridge.
The real issue is that the opener was more of the same on a few fronts. Most obviously, our dominance in the run of play only led to the one goal and a few cracks of the bar. I can safely speak for everyone when I say we really need to quit playing crossbar challenge during matches, truly infuriating.
Likewise, after not taking our chances a clumsy defensive error gave Stoke the chance to share the points - only Mignolet's heroics saved us. Those two issues combined have been deadly for us over the past few years and really need to be ironed out if we want to move up the table.
That's partly why I'm nervous about Saturday. You're right in that Villa's counterattack is top notch, you won 3-1 at Arsenal with 40% possession I think. Benteke could finish the plays, but the real threat is direct running by Weimann and especially Agbonlahor into the space behind our fullbacks.
I've liked your summer recruitment though, Jores Okore was a find. You confident in the new charges?
Yeah I am. Okore looked good at Chelsea, and I imagine he'll be starting regularly when he's back up to full health after a preseason knock. Elsewhere, I've been happy with what I've seen from Antonio Luna, who we all affectionately call Tony Moon. His own goal aside, he's shown a nice ability to get up and down the pitch. Though, as with most Villa defenders his play in the back is a little suspect.
The other players we haven't seen too much of yet. I'm really intrigued to see Nicklas Helenius in EPL play. A couple of times during the preseason we played something like a 4-2-4 or 4-2-3-1 formation using Helenius, Weimann, Agbonlahor, and Benteke up top. It was... interesting. I'm not sure if it's the best idea ever, but it certainly would fit into the mold of this team as being fun. Maybe with Okore coming back and the defense being a bit more solid we'll see it. It's one of those things that could backfire really easily, but it could also be insanely effective. Who cares if you give up 2 or 3 goals when your score 4 or 5?
Is it okay if I don't ask Suarez questions? I imagine you're sick of writing about that. Instead, what sort of potential do you think Mignolet has for the club? Is he a cornerstone around which Brendan Rodgers can build?
I would prefer you didn't ask Suarez questions so thank you kindly. I was hoping we'd sell him to Madrid earlier in the summer and be done with him but it hasn't happened...yet.
I really like Mignolet, certainly a guy to count upon moving forward. Reina is a genuinely good guy so it was tough to see him leave, but the truth is he hasn't been top class for a few seasons now and it was probably time for the switch.
All our signings are quality but with the sale of so many high earners it's basically been a neutral net spend. We need sign some real players to improve the first team if we want to push on for the Champions League.
Alright, down to business. What's your guess at Villa's lineup on Saturday?
I think we'll run out pretty much the same thing we saw against Chelsea. The lone exception being Okore on for the head-woundee Ciaran Clark. So I'm guessing: Brad Guzan; Matthew Lowton, Ron Vlaar, Jores Okore, Antonio Luna; Karim El Ahmadi, Ashley Westwood, Fabian Delph; Andreas Weimann, Gabby Agbonlahor, Christian Benteke.
And Liverpool? Do you have a prediction for the outcome?
Interesting, and I'll be very intrigued to watch players like Okore and Fabian Delph who seems to be finally cracking some of his potential.
For Liverpool the only question for me is whether Henderson retains his place and I think a lot of it depends on Rodgers's shape. My guess: Simon Mignolet, Glen Johnson, Kolo Toure, Daniel Agger, Jose Enrique, Lucas, Stevie Gerrard, Jordan Henderson, Philippe Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge, Iago Aspas. If there's a change, I guess it'll be Joe Allen for Henderson if Rodgers wants a more concrete 4-3-3 on the road.
A prediction sure to be wrong: I'll go 2-1 Liverpool. I like Villa a lot (and as a fellow Yank I like seeing Guzan do well) but I don't trust that backline just yet, particularly with injuries forcing Lambert's hand. Aspas and Coutinho get off the mark, and Liverpool concede on the counter to Weimann. A very entertaining and close contest, but I think the Reds will improve upon their opening match.
I see Villa coming home to a packed Villa Park and just running wild. I'm not sure, with the energy that'll be in the stadium, that anyone will be able to stop that counterattack. But, remembering this is Aston Villa, we'll give up a goal or three. So, I'm going to go ahead and say 3-2 (though I'm tempted to say 4-3) in favor of Aston Villa in a back-and-forth breathless match that I can't wait to watch.
Thanks so much for doing this! It's been a pleasure talking to you! Good luck on Saturday.
Check out their well done Villa blog, click here.