Aston Villa-Liverpool Preview: Hosts hope for repeat of Benteke scoring form

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers knows that his side will face a tough task against Christian Benteke and Aston Villa on Saturday.

The Reds travel to Villa Park on the back of an impressive 1-0 win against Stoke City in their Premier League opener but the manager feels that they will have their hands full trying to stop a young Villa side who have also started well.

Paul Lambert’s men won 3-1 at Arsenal on the opening day and were unlucky to suffer a narrow 2-1 defeat at Chelsea on Wednesday.

Benteke scored three goals in those two matches and was a thorn in the side of Liverpool last term. The Belgium international – who handed in a transfer request during the close-season before revoking it – scored three times in the two Premier League fixtures against the Anfield outfit in 2012-13.

And Rodgers has warned his defence to be wary of the threat posed by the 22-year-old, as well as his team-mates, this time around.

“There’s no doubt Benteke is the reference point for the team – the ball goes up to him and he holds it up well. He’s a big, powerful boy,” the Northern Irishman told the press on Thursday. “I very much expect for them to have a very good season.

“They are very much a counterattacking team that set up to defend half a pitch and then break out with the pace of Benteke, [Gabriel] Agbonlahor in particular and young Andreas Weimann on the side but our focus is really on our own game. We know the form we’re in and, with the mentality and confidence of the players, it should be a really good game.”

Liverpool were excellent in their win against Stoke and should have scored more goals but were denied by the woodwork twice and goalkeeper Asmir Begovic on several occasions.

Daniel Sturridge scored his side’s goal from 20 yards and was particularly impressive, as were Philippe Coutinho and Iago Aspas in the continued absence of the suspended Luis Suarez, who is sidelined for a further five matches.

Liverpool are unbeaten in their last nine Premier League fixtures and are only missing defender Sebastian Coates (knee) due to injury.

Villa felt unfortunate not to have won at least a point at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, with Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic – who headed the winner with 17 minutes left – only given a yellow card after catching Benteke with a flailing arm.

They also had a late appeal for a penalty turned down despite John Terry appearing to handle the ball.

It was another impressive performance from Lambert’s side, though, with Fabian Delph and Ashley Westwood catching the eye in midfield and Benteke’s superb form in front of goal continuing.

Midfielder Charles N’Zogbia (Achilles) remains on the sidelines for Villa, who are also sweating on the fitness of Ciaran Clark (head), Nathan Baker (ankle) and Chris Herd (calf).

Recent history between the two sides is mixed, with both winning once against each other last term. Villa stunned Liverpool at Anfield with a 3-1 win in December but Rodgers’s men responded with a 2-1 away win of their own in March.

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