Liverpool FC status Frånvaroläge: Elliot(långtidsskadad), Firmino(tillbaka i träning, osäker), Jones(skadad) Trolig startelva (4-3-3): Alisson Alexander-Arnold, Matip van Dijk, Robertson – Fabinho, Henderson, Thiago – Salah, Jota, Mané Tankar om elvan: Vi är på väg in i en hektiskt period nu och det kommer snart bli väldigt svårt att förutspå startelvorna, den här bör dock till stora delar vara given. Många spelare vilade i veckan och vi har ingen match förrän på torsdag, så ingen anledning att rotera inför Gerrards återkomst. Matip eller Konate är, som vanligt, den enda frågan, men där tror jag Klopp kör på med Matip under lördagen, trots att Konate imponerade i Milano. Att skadelistan börjar bli kortare lagom till jul och nyår är välkommet, vi kommer snart verkligen behöva använda oss av hela truppen i ligaspelet. – Guy Poxon(@guypoxon) Aston Villa status 1. After a tough start Aston Villa parted company with Dean Smith, what are your thoughts on that? Every Villa fan was sad to see it end for Dean Smith. He was responsible for some of the best periods in the club’s recent history. However, there’s no getting away from the fact that our owners wanted the club to push into European contention and the performances over the past 7 months had been far too inconsistent. Smith did earn victories against Man United, Chelsea and Spurs in that time, but the performances were often broken up with abject losses and the midfield, in particular, looked a real issue for Aston Villa. Now that we have been afforded time to move on from Smith, I think it was the right move for Aston Villa to get in a higher calibre coach. 2. Now you have Steven Gerrard as manager, are you satisfied with that appointment? The fanbase was split on Gerrard’s appointment. Everyone was backing him, obviously, but many had concerns with the relatively low level of experience he had managing at the top level. I, however, was always more excited by the prospect of Gerrard’s charisma and profile, combined with the brilliance of Michael Beale’s tactics and the rest of his backroom staff. In only a few weeks’ time it looks like Gerrard, Beale and his staff have combined well with Aston Villa’s remaining staff (Aaron Danks, Neil Cutler and Austin MacPhee). The squad seems to be responding well to the new regime and I think Gerrard’s man-management is getting far more out of players than under the previous regime. The tactics under Gerrard have been transformative to our performance and results. Gerrard’s main change has been to revert back to the back four system that Villa had operated with so well in the first half of last season. He plays a 4-3-3 with the front three remaining narrow, in order to take a “defend first” mentality. Aston Villa out of possession make it difficult for teams to play through the middle and that showed against Man City in particular. Pep’s side were limited to very few shots the lowest xG of Man City’s entire season. Meanwhile, Villa hit them on the break effectively with the hold up play of Ollie Watkins proving vital. Villa were unlucky not to take a point, or even win, and some of our passing moves during counter attacks were brilliant. 3. How would you describe the way Gerrard wants you to play? Going forwards and in possession, Aston Villa have been using counter attacks to create chances. Gerrard wants the team to turn over possession in the middle of the park and then use his fullbacks high up the pitch to create width and stretch the game. We have seen that narrow front three combine well with the midfielders and fullbacks to create scoring opportunities from crosses and through the middle. Attacking from set pieces has been a big success, too. We have dangerous centrebacks in Mings, Hause and Konsa who have benefited greatly under the new regime. Longer term, Gerrard wants Villa to be a possession-based team and in the most recent game against Leicester, Villa showed plenty of strong build up play which led to some of the better chances. My only criticism at this point, is that we still have work to do in terms of retaining possession against some of the stronger sides. 4. Which players have benefitted most from Gerrard´s arrival? Marvelous Nakamba has seen a new lease of life under Gerrard – as have most of the midfield. Nakamba is a similar profile to Kante from Chelsea (not on that level, of course!). Under Dean Smith, Marvelous Nakamba struggled to be consistent. While his break up play and tackling was good, his ball retention caused Villa problems and cost us goals in the past. Under Gerrard, he seems to know exactly what to do every time he wins the ball back and he’s been pivotal coming out on top against N’diddi vs Leicester, playing well against Man City’s Rodri and bossing Bassouma against Brighton. John McGinn is also in fine form. He’s benefited from a more advance role up the pitch under Gerrard’s system, now that Nakamba is screening the back four effectively. McGinn is a top player who offers work rate, physicality and quality with his assists and goals. He’s not too dissimilar from the type of midfielder that Liverpool lean towards. 5. We have a transfer window coming up, do you expect any new arrivals at Villa? I expect Gerrard will be backed in January if he deems it necessary to bring in support. However, with a few youngsters knocking on the door for first team action, I could only really see one backup fullback coming in, and maybe a midfielder. We may also see one or two fringe players leave the club if the price is right. 6. You are currently 10th in the table, what are your expectations on the remainder of the season? Looking at the teams in the Premier League this year, I’d say Villa’s squad is good enough that we should aim for 8th or 9th. I think we can get ahead of Brighton because he have a deeper squad and a few players due to come back from injury. I also think that Villa were unlucky to lose to Wolves and I would expect us to aim to finish above them. Pending a drastic Leicester improvement and Newcastle spending big in January, that would leave us around 8th. I do believe we have a better or more balanced defence and midfield than Arsenal, and I would love it if we could finish ahead of them. We need to show ambition to get back into Europe! 7. What kind of game do you expect at Anfield? Liverpool have the best player in the world in Mo Salah, in my opinion. He’s absolutely amazing to watch! I think Liverpool are also right up there and probably one of the best teams on the planet. I think Liverpool may have too much for Villa, but I think both teams will score and I hope it’s a tight game. That being said, Villa may have an extra boost knowing that Steven Gerrard would love to go to Anfield and claim some points. It’s usually an exciting game to watch! Totaal reflektion: Det är en väldigt speciell match som spelas på Anfield på lördag, Steven Gerrard är tillbaka på sin hemmaarena som motståndare och det är såklart en extra krydda i den här drabbningen. Vi kommer till matchen i väldigt fin form och har satt oss i en bra position inför fortsättningen av ligaspelet. Det här är en match vi ska vinna, men Villa är också i bra form och skakade City rejält härom veckan. Captain Fantastic verkar ha fått igång laget ordentligt och vi kommer behöva göra en riktigt bra prestation för att ta alla tre poängen. Villa är täta centralt, så det är mycket upp till Trent och Robertson på kanterna att hänga med i anfallen så bra som vi vet att de kan.