Aston Villa v Liverpool preview: Daniel Sturridge in line for start
By Pete Hall
Last Updated: 14/02/16 3:49pm
Daniel Sturridge is in-line for a first start since early December as Liverpool travel to Aston Villa for a Super Sunday clash.
The England striker scored twice in Liverpool's win against Villa in September, but has started only three games all season. However, he got an hour's action under his belt in the FA Cup replay defeat at West Ham in midweek and Jurgen Klopp insisted his return to fitness puts him in contention to start in the Midlands.
Klopp's men are without a win in their last five in all competitions, and will have to start getting more points under the belts sooner rather than later if they are to mount a late push for European qualification.
Victory at home to Norwich last time revitalised Villa's fading hopes of Premier League survival as they aim to secure successive wins for the first time this season on Sunday.
And the Premier League's bottom club will fancy their chances against the out-of-form Reds, despite their recent impressive record at Villa Park.
Jack Grealish has been ruled out with an ankle problem. The midfielder suffered the injury in training on Wednesday and will sit out on Sunday. He has struggled to make an impact under manager Remi Garde and has started just two of Villa's last 15 games.
Rudy Gestede and Carlos Sanchez will be assessed after hamstring injuries and Alan Hutton is available but Libor Kozak (ankle), Adama Traore (foot) and Jordan Amavi (knee) are all sidelined.
Midfielder Joe Allen will miss out with a hamstring injury. Defenders Dejan Lovren and Martin Skrtel have both returned to training but neither will be ready for Sunday. There is better news on fellow centre-back Steven Caulker, who has shaken off a back problem.
Youngster Cameron Brannagan has recovered from illness while manager Jurgen Klopp has to decide how best to use strikers Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi and playmaker Philippe Coutinho after all returned to action in midweek after long lay-offs.
The Reds have won four of the last six Premier League meetings with Aston Villa and their last four visits to Villa Park.
In fact, Liverpool have won 11 and lost just one of their last 17 Premier League visits to Villa Park.
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't scored in his five league appearances since scoring the winner against Sunderland in December.
Daniel Sturridge has scored four goals in three Barclays Premier League appearances for Liverpool against Aston Villa.
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.
Liverpool have been leading at half-time in just three of their 25 Premier League games this season; a joint-league-low alongside Sunderland.
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 1st 2015.
The Reds 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).
A league-high 70% (14 of 20) of Aston Villa's goals in the Premier League this season have come in the second half.
This game is all about timing and this is perfect time for Aston Villa to be facing Liverpool. Jurgen Klopp's team have just been beaten over 120 minutes in the FA Cup and they've got the Europa League coming up on Thursday - for me their only chance of qualifying for the Champions League. Liverpool have to put all their eggs into one basket with the Europa League so I see Villa winning on Sunday.
If Villa can win this game and reduce the gap to five or six points, then suddenly they're back in with a slim chance of staying up. Liverpool have been poor when defending set plays and that is where Villa look a threat, I fancy Joleon Lescott to bag the winner.
PAUL PREDICTS: 1-0 (Sky Bet odds 9/1)
Aston Villa are 18/5 underdogs with Sky Bet ahead of their home clash with Liverpool (5/6) with the draw trading at 12/5. Villa remain favourites to finish bottom of the table but are Price Boosted to 18/1 (from 14/1) to win 2-1. Liverpool haven't won in five matches in all competitions but can be backed at 3/1 to win with both teams scoring.
Only Matt Le Tissier of the Sky Bet pundits is backing against a Liverpool victory and thinks Aston Villa will get a draw. Check out their selections here. Liverpool are also one of the picks in Sunday's Soccer Special Price Boost. Back the Reds, Arsenal and Man City all to win at 8/1 (was 5/1).