Liverpool-Villa preview: Can MON follow Brown's lead?
By Villa reporter
Saturday 22 Aug 2009 21:03:00
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After Hull lost their first two games of the campaign, boss Phil Brown told his players: The season starts here. It was a tactic Martin O’Neill might do well to follow.

It worked for the Tigers – they won their first home league game of 2009 against Bolton. Could it work fpr Villa? Maybe, although O’Neill’s men, having lost at home to Wigan and at Rapid Vienna in the Europa League, have an altogether-tougher task when they go to Liverpool on Monday night.

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Villa head for Anfield as one of a handful of teams still without a point, though they have played at least one game fewer than one or two of the sides with them at the wrong end of the table.

Chances are, no-one will lose too much sleep if they come home from Merseyside with another defeat to their name – but that would leave them with a fair bit of catching-up to do already in a first half of the season which could be disrupted by numerous European games.

Villa don’t have a great record against the Reds – though they are hardly alone in that statistic. But memories of last season’s 5-0 hammering are still relatively fresh, and O’Neill will want his troops at least to compete better than they did that day, even if they do end up coming away with nothing.

In 176 games between the sides since they first met 115 years ago next month, on which occasion, incidentally, Villa scored a 2-1 away win, Liverpool have won 86 matches, Villa 52, with 38 draws.

You have to go back eight seasons to find the Villans’ last win at Anfield. That was a 3-1 triumph courtesy of goals by Dion Dublin, Lee Hendrie and Darius Vassell on a day which saw Steven Gerrard score and get sent off. Since that, Villa have drawn twice and lost five times there.

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So can they gain another victory this time? O’Neill certainly believes his side have what it takes to get over the opening-day 2-0 home defeat to Wigan and European loss in Vienna to notch their first point or points of the season at Anfield.

‘You just don’t forget these results, but you get on with it,’ said O’Neill. ‘Everton (who lost their first game 6-1 to Arsenal) finished above us last season and had a great season but they had a bit of turmoil and got beat and we all have to fight back from it. It’s a long season. I think it’s about getting that first win.

‘Last season we beat Manchester City at home, we then went to Stoke and got beaten by a very late goal and that was dispiriting to lose it. Then we fought back against Liverpool and drew at home with them and ended up, either side of Europe, winning two away games, away at Tottenham and away at West Brom. We’re capable of getting over it.’

Villa’s squad may be strengthened at Anfield if the signing of Blackburn defender Stephen Warnock goes through in time, but in any case it looks like Villa will certainly be stronger by the time the transfer window closes in just over a week’s time.

Some reports say O’Neill has £20m to spend, and while that seems a bit over-the-top, there can be little doubt there is serious money on the table for him.

‘We will have the players in. We have been trying to bring some people into the club for several weeks now and we would hope to do it before the transfer deadline,” is all he would say on the matter.

How he uses that cash will be vital to the season – how much he needs it may be a lot clearer at 10pm on Monday.

How will Villa fare this season? What’s our best hope – finishing in the top four, or winning a cup? If a cup, which one? Give us your predictions on our forum. It's quick and easy to register

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