31 min Henderson curls an excellent first-time pass over Digne to find Salah in the inside-right channel. He teases Mings but then drags a shot wide of the near post.
29 min “What a crazy match!” says Joe Pearson. “Difficult to look away to compose a pithy email. Can’t imagine how hard it is to MBM!”
It could be worse.
28 min Digne goes over in the area after a challenge from behind by Alexander-Arnold. The referee isn’t interested and Liverpool break. The off-balance Konsa loops a backpass miles in the air, and Nunez charges onto the ball to shin an impatient volley from the edge of the area that is kicked away by Olsen.
25 min Robertson’s precise cross is headed over by Nunez, though he was again offside. It wasn’t a great attempt mind you.
24 min Salah wins a corner on the right. Robertson’s deep inswinger is headed away bravely by Konsa, a split-second before he is clattered by Van Dijk.
23 min The state of this pass.
20 min: Matip has a goal disallowed! Robertson’s free-kick was headed authoritatively past Olsen by Matip, but the flag went up straight away and replays confirmed he was offside.
19 min Robertson stays down after Douglas Luiz stands on his achilles. I’m pretty sure it was accidental, but it was still a nasty challenge. Robertson eventually gets to his feet.
17 min: Another chance for Villa! McGinn, on the right, curls a booming, inswinging cross towards Watkins at the far post. He stoops towards the ball but heads it into the ground and straight at Alisson.
At the other end, Nunez misses a great chance, though he was offside so it wouldn’t have counted.
17 min “Ooh, ooh, I was at that game!” says Ian Copestake of Robbie Fowler’s goal. “Staunton returning to his old team for a horsing leading to a vision of Fowler’s divinity.”
16 min This is a really open game. Liverpool look very sharp, especially their full-backs.
13 min: Great chance for Bailey! Villa should be level. Buendia’s low cross towards Watkins was diverted by Van Dijk into the path of Bailey, unmarked ten yards out, but he mistimed his shot and sliced the ball up in the air. What a chance!
12 min “I’m reminiscing Fowler’s goal vs Villa,” says Ali Mukadam, “turning Staunton and hitting that shot.”
I absolutely love that goal. I’m struggling to think of a goal that better demonstrates the sheer, mischievous fun of being young and utterly brilliant at football.
11 min “Remind me, why did Emery return to the Premier League?” says Jeff Sachs. “He must be a masochist.”
9 min Bailey wriggles into the area from the right and hits a rising drive that is comfortably saved by Alisson. It’s been a cracking start to the game.
8 min Alisson makes a superb point-blank save from Watkins, though it wouldn’t have counted as Watkins was just offside.
7 min That was Robertson’s 54th Premier League assist, which is a record for a defender. He was level on 53 with Leighton Baines.
Robertson’s corner from the right was eventually cleared to Alexander-Arnold, 40 yards from goal. He cut across an awesome pass with the outside of the right foot that found Robertson on the right side of the penalty area. Robertson was alert and deft enough to half-volley a first-time pass across the face to Salah, who had a simple tap in from eight yards.
Mo Salah gives Liverpool the lead with a brilliant goal!
4 min Mings is still down. He collided with Olsen and then fell awkwardly. That was such a good chance for Nunez, who chose the wrong time to demonstrate his unselfish side.
2 min An even better chance for Liverpool! Robertson curls a wonderful low cross towards Nunez, who inexplicably dummies the ball instead of taking the shot. Mings collides with the keeper Olsen and Digne beats Salah to the ball at the far post.
1 min An early half-chance for Villa. Buendia lifts a pass over the top towards Watkins, who forces a shot from the edge of the area that is saved to his right by Alisson.
1 min Peep peep! Villa kick off from right to left as we watch.
The players gather round the centre circle to pay tribute to George Cohen, one of the Boys of 66, who died last week.
There’s a cracking atmosphere at Villa Park, and the players are ready for business.
“Has the Klopp chap changed his team’s attacking shape,” says Ian Copestake, “as there seems to one be one forward fewer? And Oxlade.”
I think it’ll be 4-3-3 with Oxlade-Chamberlain or maybe Nunez on the left, but it could potentially be a 2-0-8.
The last six games between these teams at Villa Park – an unashamedly arbitrary cut-off point – have finished 0-6, 1-2, 5-0, 7-2, 1-4 and 1-2. Thirty one goals in six games!
Villa start the game in 12th place, though they will move into the top ten if they win tonight. Liverpool are seventh; victory at Villa Park would move them above Brighton into sixth.
Today’s Premier League scores
Danny Ings, who scored both goals in Villa’s win at Brighton before the World Cup, is only on the bench. Liverpool welcome back a number of big hitters, including Alisson, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Virgil van Dijk.
Aston Villa (possible 4-2-2-2) Olsen; A Young, Konsa, Mings, Digne; Kamara, Douglas Luiz; McGinn, Buendia; Bailey, Watkins.
Substitutes: Marschall, Cash, Ings, Chambers, Bednarek, Coutinho, Dendoncker, Archer, K Young.
Liverpool (4-3-3) Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Thiago; Salah, Nunez, Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Substitutes: Kelleher, Gomez, Keita, Elliott, Tsimikas, Carvalho, Bajcetic, Phillips, Doak.
Referee Paul Tierney.
Hello and welcome to live coverage of Aston Villa v Liverpool at Villa Park. On the face of it, the winter break came at a good time for these teams, who both had unexpectedly difficult starts to the season. But actually, both had started to hit form before they were rudely interrupted by Qatar. Villa won their first two league games under Unai Emery, and Liverpool won four matches in a row in all competitions.
That run ended when they lost a Carabao Cup thriller at the Etihad in the week, but Jurgen Klopp should still be confident that the real Liverpool will stand up for the rest of the season. Injuries remain a problem – Luis Diaz, Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino are all out – but many of their key players have had a good break. Mo Salah, Thiago Alcantara and Andy Robertson didn’t go to Qatar; Trent Alexander-Arnold played only 33 minutes.
Villa will be without their World Cup winner Emi Martinez, who is otherwise engaged with a Kylian Mbappe doll. Matty Cash, Jan Bednarek and Leander Dendoncker have been back a while and should be available.
Kick off 5.30pm.