Aston Villa-Liverpool Preview
LONDON (SE) - Aston Villa will hope to consign a poor run at Anfield to the history books and extend their recent unbeaten record when they visit Liverpool on Saturday.
Villa progressed to their second League Cup semi-final in four seasons after a 4-1 win at Norwich City on Tuesday night, and are now unbeaten in five in all competitions.
This contrasts with a record of just one win in their last ten visits to Liverpool and just one away win in their last 32 Premier League matches.
However, Villa manager Paul Lambert believes his side are now poised to get the rewards for their consistent recent play.
"For a few weeks now we've been playing really, really well. We've come through a really hard run. The likes of Man United, Man City and Arsenal - that's really, really demanding," Lambert told the club website. "I think we are an easy target for people saying we're young and all that but we're playing very well, extremely well and the lads have been brilliant."
In the aftermath of the convincing cup win over Norwich, Lambert praised his young team for the maturity they have displayed in their play recently.
"They need a bit of help but if you can give them time and they can keep that collective spirit, with the crowd we've got, they'll drive us on. It was a huge win for us. I couldn't fault the lads with the way they played - with enthusiasm, passion, drive and the quality of football - that was excellent."
Liverpool (5-7-4) come into the game on a mini revival of their own, having won their last two League matches. The Reds are unbeaten in five straight games at Anfield, winning three. They have conceded just one goal in that run and haven't allowed a goal in 227 minutes of football at home.
A big influence on the recent run has been Jose Enrique who has epitomized the Anfield spirit by switching from defense to midfield to accommodate manager Brendan Rodgers tactical requirements.
Enrique was rewarded for his efforts with his first goal for the club (against Wigan) and the Liverpool supporters' player of the month award for November.
"It (switching positions) was okay. I feel comfortable there, although I prefer to play as a left-back as it is my position," he told the club website. "But if I have to play there again, it is not a problem.
"I have always been an attacking full-back, so the new position is just more attacking than defending, so I feel good there. I want to say thank you very much to the supporters who voted for me. I hope I can continue to play like this and try to help the team as much as I can."
Villa (3-6-7) are likely to be without striker Darren Bent, who went off with a hamstring injury in the midweek match, while Ron Vlaar, Gary Gardner and Edna Stevens are also doubtful with longer term injuries. Liverpool will still be without Fabio Borini and Martin Kelly but leading scorer Luis Suarez is eligible to return after a one-match suspension.
Liverpool took four points off Villa last season, drawing 1-1 at Anfield as Suarez snatched a point with a goal eight minutes from time. Chris Herd had opened the scoring after 10 minutes. The Reds scored twice early, through Craig Bellamy and Martin Skrtel to beat Villa 2-0 at Villa Park in December.
Overall Villa have had plenty of trouble at Liverpool, losing 57 of 90 trips there while winning just 15 times and drawing 18. Liverpool has outscored Villa by 200 goals to 93 in those games.