January 15, 2015

Mired in another extended winless stretch and wondering if Christian Benteke can end his goal drought against his former club, Liverpool hope a visit to the Premier League bottom-dwellers can turn everything around.

Aston Villa, however, have reason to feel confident while trying to win back-to-back games for the first time this season in Sunday's matchup with the Reds.

Since totaling eight goals in successive victories Jan. 20 and 23, Liverpool (9-8-8) have managed three - all in the last two matches - during an 0-2-3 stretch over all competitions. Philippe Coutinho scored the equaliser in Tuesday's 2-1, 122-minute loss to West Ham United in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

It's the third time this season Liverpool have gone without a victory in at least five matches over all competitions.

Benteke, the Reds' leader with seven overall goals, matched a season high with eight shots at Upton Park. But he hasn't scored in 11 overall matches since going back-to-back against Leicester City (Dec. 26) and Sunderland (Dec. 30).

"There are worse situations in the world of football so we have to carry on and he has to carry on," manager Jurgen Klopp told Liverpool's official website.

"If he had no opportunities then it would be a much bigger problem. ... I've talked to him a few times and gave him some advice as a human being and a coach."

Perhaps facing his former club for the first time since leaving Villa, where he recorded 42 Premier League goals in the previous three seasons, will do the trick. The Belgian forward sat out Liverpool's 3-2 victory over the Villans (3-5-17) on Sept. 26 with a hamstring injury.

Klopp doesn't want to make this weekend's reunion any bigger than it already is, and isn't certain how major a role Benteke will play.

"I have not had the best experiences with players coming back to former clubs," the German boss said. "Usually they make more pressure and you want to show extra.

"It's professional football and it's one game going to your former club. We will see which lineup we will choose for Aston Villa but it will not be because of personal histories with this club."

Klopp won't have midfielder Joe Allen or defender Dejan Lovren available because of muscle issues, but Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi appear fit after both saw time Tuesday. Against Villa in September, Sturridge scored twice, James Milner had a goal with an assist and Coutinho set up two.

Though Liverpool own a 7-1 scoring advantage during their four-game winning streak at Villa Park, they haven't done the double over the Villans since 2005-06.

Last-place Villa begin the weekend eight points from safety, but continue to fight. With key offensive threat Rudy Gestede sidelined by a hamstring injury, Joleon Lescott and Gabriel Agbonlahor scored on two of the Villans' three shots on target in Saturday's 2-0 home win over Norwich.

Villa haven't won consecutive league fixtures since May 2-9.

"Of course, the feeling was a little bit lighter because of the victory," coach Remi Garde told Villa's official website. "But, as a manager, straight away you have to focus on the next game.

"I always think to win you have to play good football and not to make many mistakes - and when you do it you have to correct it."

Villa have looked relatively solid during a 2-2-0 league home stretch, where they've yielded two goals and recorded a pair of clean sheets.

"We have had good games in the past few weeks," said Villans defender Aly Cissokho, who played his first Premier League season with Liverpool in 2013-14. "It is a home game so we are going to have the fans with us.

"The stadium this coming week is going to be packed and it is always great to play in that environment."

The status of Gestede, who scored both goals at Anfield, remains uncertain for this contest.

You May Like

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)