Aston Villa welcome Liverpool to Villa Park on Tuesday night as the Villans look to book their place in the Semi-Finals of the Carabao Cup.
Dean Smith’s side secured their place in the Quarter-Finals thanks to a 2-1 win over rivals Wolves in the previous round. For Liverpool, they secured their place via a 5-4 penalty shootout win after draw 5-5 with Arsenal in normal time.
Of course, Villa will not be facing the same Liverpool side that knocked out Arsenal previously as Jurgen Klopp’s team also have FIFA Club World Cup duties to attend to. With the first team out in Qatar, the Reds’ hopes of reaching the final four are left with Under-23s coach Neil Critchley and his team of youngsters.
As in previous rounds, Villa is expected to rotate the starting but not to the extent that the visitors will. With that said, Villa come into the game as firm favourites to reach the last four however the job has to still be done regardless of the opposition.
What they said:
Villa manager Dean Smith on the Liverpool team and the possibility of reaching the semi-finals:
"“The team that they play is down to them and it looks like it will be a youthful team, but we need to go and get a result.“Everybody will expect us to beat them, it’s probably a free-hit for Liverpool.”“We have to be really professional and we have to give the supporters something to shout about, and that’s up to us on Tuesday night.”"
’Stand-in Liverpool coach Neil Critchley on facing Villa:
"“I think we’ve got nothing to lose, we’ve got nothing to fear and we just have to see it as an opportunity. Aston Villa away in the quarter-final, you’d expect it to be a really good crowd, they won’t be resting any of their players because they have the chance to reach the semi-final and they’ll be going flat out.“"
With Jed Steer not available, Dean Smith will have to decide whether or not he gives Tom Heaton a night off or not. Should Heaton get a rest then third-choice goalkeeper Orjan Nyland will the man in goal.
Conor Hourihane could be available having sat out of theweekend’s defeat to Sheffield United due to an injury. Neil Taylor, Douglas Luiz, Trezeguet, Jonathan Kodjia and Jota are all expected to be involved and in contention to start, should Smith feel the need for a big rotation ahead of Villa’s big festive fixtures.
As mentioned, with the first team away in Qatar for the FIFA Club World Cup, Neil Critchley will field a very young Liverpool team who will include the likes of England Under-21 starlet Rhian Brewster and the highly-rated midfielder Harvey Elliot.
Brewster is doubtful for the clash and will only feature should he be given the all-clear after a fitness test.
With Villa struggles to one side and with no Liverpool first-team player in sight, there is no way that the team can afford to lose this game. Dean Smith’s men have a busy schedule in the Premier League coming up and a win over Liverpool on Tuesday night will do the team a world of good (albeit an under 23s Liverpool squad). With that said, I think we will see a slightly rotated Villa squad getting the team over the line comfortably winning 3-0.