Aston Villa host Liverpool on the final day of the season this Sunday, hoping to build on a fantastic all-round performance that saw them pick up all 3 points away to Arsenal last weekend.
Darren Bent was the goalscoring hero that day and will look to finish the campaign in style by hitting double figures for Villa in just his 16th appearance. Changes look likely ahead of what could be the final game at Villa Park for a number of the first XI. Ashley Young looks set to leave the club in the summer with this weekend’s opponents being strong admirers while the likes of Nigel Reo-Coker and Brad Friedel have yet to sign contract extensions at the club and could well be on their way out.
Fringe players such as Ciaran Clark, Marc Albrighton and Barry Bannan, who all played a vital role in the first half of the season, will be hoping for a recall on the final day, whilst new signings Jean Makoun and Michael Bradley will be hoping to prove their worth with the latter having failed to impress since joining on loan in January. Villa’s other loanee Kyle Walker has had a substantially higher impact and will play his last game in claret and blue, assuming a deal, either loan or otherwise, cannot be agreed for next season.
The visitors will still be without Steven Gerrard after the captain has missed out on much of 2011 with a groin problem. Defenders Agger, Aurelio and Kelly are also all missing with knee and hamstring injuries respectively. Raul Meireles should recover from a hamstring problem picked up against Fulham to bolster Dalglish’s midfield ranks.
Brad Friedel, also thought to be a target of his former club, will make his 400th Premier League start on Sunday and his first since turning 40 on Wednesday having become the club’s oldest ever player earlier this season. Petrov will be making his 500th appearance for a British club if he plays, while Ashley Young will be making his 300th.
Despite losing 0-2 at home to Tottenham last time out, Liverpool will arrive at Villa Park full of confidence, boasting a spectacular record in this fixture. The Reds are unbeaten in their last 12 visits since 1998 when former Liverpool striker Stan Collymore netted a brace in a 2-1 win for the home side. Villa’s win at Anfield last year was their only success against Liverpool in their last 18 attempts, losing 6 and drawing 11.
Despite defeat last time out Liverpool are the league’s in form side having taken 32 points in their last 15 games under Kenny Dalglish. Villa have only lost once in their last 7 games but their backline has the worst record of the club since the 1997 season, so be wary of the threat of the Reds new striking partnership of Andy Carroll, and in particular, Luis Suarez.
Liverpool are unbeaten in their last seven final day games, last losing to Chelsea in 2003 but have conceded seven goals from penalties this season, more than any other side. Meanwhile Villa’s duo of Ashley Young and Darren Bent have won more spot kicks than any other league players (6), since the start of last season.
Expect goals as Villa have only failed to score once in their last 16 games, while Liverpool’s last 3 away trips have seen 12 goals scored. I’m predicting a few changes now that we are mathematically safe. Who do you think will start with a full squad to choose from?
Possible Starting XI: Friedel; Walker, Cuellar, Clark, L Young; Albrighton, Makoun, Reo-Coker, Downing; A Young; Bent
Key Man: Stewart Downing
Goalscorer(s): Bent, A Young
Final Score: 2-2
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