The Premier League is back on Boxing Day, with Aston Villa taking on Liverpool at Villa Park.
The clash with Aston Villa comes after Liverpool were knocked out of the EFL Cup fourth round by Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. Jurgen Klopp will want an immediate response from his boys against the Villans as the Reds look to crawl back up to the Premier League standings.
Aston Villa, on the other hand, couldn’t have asked for a better start under new manager Unai Emery, picking up two wins in as many games. Emery will want to make it three league wins on the bounce on Monday.
On that note, here are the key battles between Aston Villa and Liverpool worth keeping an eye on.
#Joe Gomez vs Jacob Ramsey
Trent Alexander-Arnold missed the EFL Cup tie against Man City due to illness and remains doubtful to face Aston Villa. Should Alexander-Arnold fail to recover in time, Joe Gomez will be a candidate to deputise at right-back.
Gomez hasn’t been in the best of forms this season and endured a tough time against Erling Haaland and co. on Thursday evening. Filling in at right-back will not be easy for the Englishman, even though he has played in that position before.
The Liverpool defender could come up against Jacob Ramsey on Monday. Ramsey has operated as a wide midfielder under Emery, and his pressing, energy and creativity has been key in executing the manager’s game plan perfectly.
With Gomez struggling for form, Ramsey could take advantage and give the defender a run for his money.
#Mohamed Salah vs Tyrone Mings and Lucas Digne
Mohamed Salah took his tally to 14 goals for the season with a strike in the 3-2 defeat to Man City in the EFL Cup fourth round.
The Egyptian has been well-rested and refreshed during the World Cup break and should be raring to get himself on the scoresheet against Aston Villa. Expected to start in his favoured position on the right flank in Klopp’s 4-3-3 formation, Salah will look to create problems for the Villa backline.
Aston Villa’s defence must stay vigilant throughout the 90 minutes to stop Salah, especially the left-hand side of Tyrone Mings and Lucas Digne. Mings and Digne cannot afford to give the Liverpool star any time or space on the ball to shoot or create chances.
If they can double up on Salah and tame him, Villa’s chances of getting a positive result out of the game will go higher.
#Leon Bailey vs Liverpool centre-backs
Leon Bailey has failed to really show his true worth to the Villa faithful due to his fitness issues and inconsistency, but it felt he was close to being back to his best before the World Cup break.
With his explosive pace and unpredictable movement, Bailey could cause Liverpool some serious problems on the break. The Liverpool centre-backs will have their work cut out against the Jamaican forward, who is expected to line up in a two-pronged attack alongside Ollie Watkins.
Virgil van Dijk, the Reds’ defensive lynchpin, has not been at his best this season and this is a great opportunity for him to silence some of the critics. The Dutchman will need help from his centre-back partner Joel Matip in stopping Bailey at Villa Park.