Liverpool vs Aston Villa Preview: Champions host desperate Villa after Etihad defeat
(Photo by Ian Cook - CameraSport via Getty Images)

Liverpool will eye an emphatic return to form against relegation-threatened Aston Villa on Sunday after a heavy defeat against Manchester City.

The 4-0 reverse was only the Reds' third loss in 70 league matches, with careless defending and charitable finishing proving costly.

After sealing the title in record time, Liverpool are now bidding to record the league's highest-ever points tally, but they can only afford to drop three more points if they are to eclipse City's benchmark of 100.

Villa, meanwhile, have picked up only two points from their four matches since the restart. 

Dean Smith's men are currently 18th, a point adrift of Watford

Their games against Crystal Palace, Everton and West Ham will be seen as more likely to determine their fate.

Team news

There do not appear to be any fresh injury concerns for Liverpool, who already know they will be without Joel Matip for the rest of the season.

Dejan Lovren could be back in the squad after picking up a knock, while Xherdan Shaqiri is nearing a first league outing since January.

Smith, meanwhile, continues to cope with a depleted squad. Tom Heaton (knee), Bjorn Engels (Achilles) and Wesley (knee) are still sidelined.

Matt Targett joins them on the treatment table after being forced off with a hamstring injury against Wolves.

Frederic Guilbert's knee injury makes him a doubt.

Predicted line-ups

Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Milner; Fabinho, Henderson, Keita; Salah, Minamino, Mane.

Aston Villa: Nyland; Konsa, Mings, Hause, Taylor; Luiz, Nakamba, McGinn; Grealish; Davis, Samatta.

Previous meeting

Liverpool's win at Villa Park had the air of a season-defining victory at the time, and will be remembered as such.

Trezeguet gave the hosts a deserved lead on 21 minutes.

Liverpool toiled offensively to no avail until Andrew Robertson headed in an equaliser on 87'.

And then, remarkably, Sadio Mane snatched all three points for the visitors deep into stoppage time.

The following weekend, they beat Man City to establish a commanding nine-point lead.

What to watch for

Changes afoot for Liverpool?

Liverpool are looking to reassert themselves with the kind of performance they produced against Crystal Palace in their first home game back.

The Reds are balancing their record chase with the enviable opportunity to hand opportunities to youngsters and fringe players.

Robertson's uncharacteristically erratic performance against City could see him make way for James Milner, while opposite full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold could feasibly be rested for Neco Williams after the Welshman's promising substitute appearances.

Klopp may well look to Naby Keita in midfield to provide real attacking impetus against what should be a deep-lying defence.

And Takumi Minamino could resume his search for a first Liverpool goal amid a Roberto Firmino drought stretching back to January.

Television details

The match will be broadcast live on Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Premier League from 16.30 BST on Sunday.

VAVEL will be providing comprehensive text commentary. 

The view from the dugout

Jurgen Klopp, as quoted by liverpoolfc.com:

"If you want to reach something special, the only way to do that is being 100 per cent in the specific game, which means in all specific situations.

"Do we have to lose 4-0 to learn that? I am not sure but it can help, it makes the point absolutely clear. We will try again to use the information from Thursday night."

Dean Smith, as quoted by avfc.com:

"They will be a little bit sore from getting beat 4-0, but we know that their attitude is going to be there.

"I saw it as he [Klopp] did – they had as many chances as Manchester City and their attitude was spot on.

"We have a chance, we made Liverpool work really hard [at Villa Park] and we were three minutes away from getting the victory ourselves."

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