Current England manager Roy Hodgson isn’t a popular man on Merseyside right now. An injury to Daniel Sturridge which looks set to keep him out of action for up to three weeks, and reports of Jordan Henderson being a doubt for the Switzerland game – which the midfielder eventually played in- has only further fuelled the Hodgson hate-train.

In fact, it’s probably safe to say that ever since Hodgson told reporters that the club isn’t too big for a relegation dogfight there’s been a somewhat strained relationship between fans and the 67-year-old. His torrid spell at Anfield is still fresh in the memory of many who wish to forget it, but with the ex-Fulham boss now in charge of the national team, Liverpool supporters are still strongly connected to one of the club’s most unpopular managers. With Brendan Rodgers openly criticising England’s tough training methods, it’s clear than the Northern Irishman is just as frustrated as the fans at losing last season’s highest scoring Englishman.

And so the pressure rests upon the shoulders of Mario Balotelli, an Italian who has rarely avoided the spotlight during his controversial career but has never consistently attracted attention for the right reasons. At Liverpool, he should be aware that this may be his final opportunity to impress at a big club and prove he is a genuinely world-class talent. In this young squad led by Brendan Rodgers, Balotelli has all of the tools he needs to do so.

Over at Villa Park, Paul Lambert’s men are undefeated in their first three games, picking up two wins and a draw. Today sees the start of a quite unbelievable schedule of matches however, with Lambert preparing to lead his team out against all of last season’s top five over the next five league fixtures. If Aston Villa rest atop the table come November they may be considered genuine title contenders, but picking up a respectable amount of points will be the plan for Lambert and his assistant Roy Keane, and doing so will lift the pressure to regain any lost points against weaker teams over the winter months.

Villa’s first task is to thwart a Liverpool side which, over the last 18 months, has looked unstoppable at home. However Paul Lambert has no Anfield defeats on his record, and the Villains themselves haven’t tasted defeat in front of the Kop since December 2010. Confidence can be found in those statistics, but Villa’s defence must be on its toes to deal with Raheem Sterling’s blistering pace and Mario Balotelli’s unpredictability. For Liverpool, they will be looking to built upon their dominating 3-0 defeat of Tottenham, and as Brendan Rodgers continues to ease his new signings in to the squad, there may be many more performances like the one seen at White Hart Lane.

Team News

Liverpool
Striker Daniel Sturridge is unavailable after suffering a thigh injury during an England training session, while Emre Can could be out for up to six weeks because of an ankle problem picked up during his Germany Under-21s appearance. Joe Allen is doubtful for the match at Anfield but will be assessed before kick-off. Martin Skrtel and Glen Johnson are both still sidelined, but Mario Balotelli has recovered from a minor illness and is expected to start.

Aston Villa
New loan signing Tom Cleverly should make his debut this evening, but defender Ron Vlaar remains a doubt with a calf injury. Jores Okore may make his return after a knee problem, but will be assessed before the match. Star striker Christian Benteke has started training again after rupturing his Achilles tendon back in March but is not expected to play until the end of the month.

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About The Author

Elliot Morrow

was born in Cumbria, England and carries the embarrassing burden of having supported Manchester United between the ages of 7 and 9. However, after seeing the error of his ways through help from his Father, Elliot is now a die-hard Liverpool fan of over 10 years. Currently living in Manchester while studying Film and Media at university, he has to keep his passion for The Reds slightly under-wraps, but won't hesitate to wear his Liverpool shirt around the city centre when he's feeling brave enough.

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