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Villa-nous: The Aston Villa Preview

Following the international break. Liverpool look to pick up where they left off, returning home after two games away from Anfield to face Paul Lambert's Aston Villa side who've made an impressive early start.

Jamie McDonald

US: 12:30 PM EST-NBC Sports

UK: 5:30 PM BST-Sky Sports 1

We return to Anfield finally after three weeks away and two fixtures against Man City at the Etihad and Spurs at White Hart Lane, with an international break after that, to face Aston Villa.

Villa have made a great early start, with seven points from three games, and sit third in the fledgling EPL table, two spots above us. That said, the Villans now must face us, Arsenal, and Chelsea in the space of three weeks, and it's up to us to send them into a downward spiral.

We've made a decent start ourselves of course, only a point behind Paul Lambert's side, and coming off an impressive 3-0 win over Tottenham.

After that win over Spurs though, the international break came, and our squad emerged the worst for wear, with Emre Can out six weeks, Daniel Sturridge out for three, and Jordan Henderson, Martin Skrtel, Joe Allen, and Glen Johnson all picking up knocks, though Henderson looks fit to play. These injuries go along with Jon Flanagan who continues his recovery and Jose Enrique who got some time against Spurs. Brendan seems confident that we might finally see Adam Lallana don the famous red for the first time, as he talked about him in his press conference on Thursday. Mario Balotelli was given the day off from training yesterday (for varying reasons if you read the reports), but Brendan says that he'll be fit to play on Saturday.

Much has been made this week of Steven Gerrard's excellent record against the Villans, but Stevie likely doesn't really pay attention to those facts and the team will be focused on this fixture, not what's happened before.

For Villa, they're missing Christian Benteke, which could be a blessing and a curse, because while Villa have made such a great start, Benteke's been key in recent matches against Liverpool, and has been quite a handful against the Reds defense especially, scoring in both matches last season.

Ron Vlaar is also doubtful for the away side, but was doubtful last week with a thigh problem when he went on to play in their 2-1 win over Hull City.

Paul Lambert's style isn't unlike our own, with a young spine of the team, a strong midfield, and a side that utilizes sharp passing and fast build up. After a shaky start to his tenure, Lambert's looked to have clicked his style into place with hard work and determination. But can their good work continue against the Red Men? These games against Villa in the past have been close run affairs, and we've learned to expect nothing with them.

Other thoughts:

-There's talk of Sterling being rested, and I'm all for it at this stage. There's no point in burning your best players out early, and players like Markovic and Lallana especially need a bit of time in the first team. And if not here then when? You want these boys playing at a top, top level, so waiting for the Middlesborough match might be a problem. (JAceKopite16)

-With so many injuries, it looks as if the only really changes from last week will be a replacement for Sturridge and Balotelli playing up front on his own. The rumored formation is a 4-2-3-1 with Stevie, Hendo,  Coutinho, Markovic and Lallana in midfield. (JAceKopite16)

-Our defense needs to remain on point like last week. Everything went off without a hitch, our defense doesn't need changing either. Sakho and Lovren did well last week for me, despite their going for the same ball at times. (JAceKopite16)

-This is why we bought Balotelli. Time for him to shine. (Dan)

-I'm really disappointed that Can got hurt before he could get into the flow of things with Liverpool. (Dan)

-Last season at Anfield Villa ran over our midfield for the first 45 minutes and it took some magic to turn around a 2-0 deficit. Liverpool must be better in the middle tomorrow. (Dan)

-Building off of what JAce said about the defense, I'm really hoping Moreno, Sakho, Lovren, and Manquillo can get a good run of games together. The more time they get together, the better. If they can get used to each other and organized, it will go a long way towards preventing the problems the defense had last year. (blunatic)

-How awesome is it having depth? Having all these injuries and still feeling confident in whatever lineup we put out there is a nice change from the Liverpool we've seen the last few years. (blunatic)

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