Liverpool lock horns with Aston Villa on Tuesday night looking to secure a place in the Carabao Cup semi-final.
The Reds will be without all of their first-team players and Jurgen Klopp as the European champions have travelled to Qatar for the Fifa Club World Cup, meaning Under-23 manager, Neil Critchley, will take charge of the contest at Villa Park.
The Villans last reached the semi-final of this competition in 2012/13, and will surely fancy their chances of replicating that feat against an unrecognisable Liverpool side — both on the pitch and in the dugout.
Read on for Aston Villa vs Liverpool preview, predictions, teams news and TV coverage information
When is Aston Villa vs Liverpool and where can I watch live?
Competition: Carabao Cup
Venue: Villa Park
Date: Tuesday, 17 December 2019
Kick-off: 7:45 PM (UK time)
TV coverage (UK): Sky Sports Main Event
Last five meetings: Aston Villa vs Liverpool
02 Nov 2019: Villa 1-2 Liverpool (Premier League)
14 Feb 2016: Villa 0-6 Liverpool (Premier League)
26 Sep 2015: Liverpool 3-2 Villa (Premier League)
19 Apr 2015: Villa 2-1 Liverpool (FA Cup)
17 Jan 2015: Villa 0-2 Liverpool (Premier League)
Aggregate Score: Aston Villa (LLLWL) 5-14 Liverpool (WWWLW)
Ones to watch
Aston Villa: Jack Grealish
With Liverpool set to deploy a second-string XI, Villa have a fantastic opportunity to book their ticket in the penultimate stage of this competition, but they will still need their key performers on song if they are to navigate past a youthful opponent.
One of those players is undoubtedly Grealish, who will be desperate to bounce back from missing a penalty over the weekend by producing an influential performance on Tuesday. His leadership qualities, technical verve and passing range will be imperative to unlocking doors and inspiring his side to a win in front of what will surely be a raucous Villa Park crowd.
Key stat: Jack Grealish has created more chances per 90 minutes than any other Aston Villa player this season (2.5).
Liverpool: Harvey Elliott
The precocious teenager has impressed during the fleeting opportunities Klopp has afforded him, but Tuesday night will be a massive chance for him to truly announce himself to Koppites following his summer transfer from Fulham.
Elliot has the creativity and footballing bravado to make in on Merseyside, but he just has to make sure that when opportunities fall his way, he grabs them with both hands.
Key stat: Harvey Elliot created three chances during Liverpool’s win over Arsenal in the previous round of this competition — more than any other player on the pitch.
Smith will be sweating over the fitness of Conor Hourihane, who faces a late fitness test after missing the match against Sheffield United over the weekend with a knock.
Elsewhere, cup ‘keeper Jed Steer is sidelined with an Achilles injury so Orjan Nyland could start in goal, while Tyrone Mings is also set to miss out, but Keinan Davis could make the matchday squad.
Predicted XI: Nyland; Elmohamady, Konsa, Hause, Taylor; Lansbury, Luiz, Grealish; Jota, Trezeguet, Kodjia.
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This will be a completely new-look Liverpool side both in the dugout and on the pitch. Apart from the obvious first-team players who travelled to Qatar, both Adrian and Andy Lonergan also jetted off, as did youngsters Curtis Jones and Neco Williams.
Rhian Brewster would have been expected to lead the line for Liverpool, but Critchley has since confirmed he is a major doubt having sustained an ankle injury.
He told reporters: “He’s got a knock so he’s doubtful. We’re assessing him today, fingers crossed he makes it. We’ll see.”
Liverpool’s side will include a host of players from the club’s Under-23 and Under-18 sides, and Critchley will be joined in the dugout by Under-18 coach Barry Lewtas, academy manager Alex Inglethorpe and elite development coach Vitor Matos.
Predicted XI: Kelleher; Hoever, Van den Berg, Clayton, Larouci; Chirivella, Kane, Dixon-Bonner, Elliott, Christie-Davies; Longstaff.
Liverpool may boast an exceptionally talented production line, but it is hard to look past anything other than a Villa win here providing Smith goes full strength.
It will certainly be interesting to see whether Critchley and his youthful squad can step up to the plate, but with the experience and quality in Villa’s side, they should be able to get the job done and march on in this competition.
Scoreline prediction: Aston Villa 3-1 Liverpool