Aston Villa v Liverpool - Premier League

Preview: Aston Villa vs. Liverpool

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  • Benteke scored 3 PL goals vs. Liverpool last season, more than any other player
  • Only Manchester United have beaten Villa more times than Liverpool’s 10 wins at Villa Park
  • Steven Gerrard has scored more goals against the Villans than any other team

Aston Villa and Liverpool will battle it out at Villa Park on Saturday at 12:30pm ET (watch live on NBC and via NBC Sports Live Extra) in England’s second city.

Villa have had an extremely good start to the 2013-14 campaign and were very unlucky to lose against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, just four days after their terrific 3-1 win against Arsenal at the Emirates last Saturday.

As for Liverpool, they outplayed Stoke City for pretty much the entire game at Anfield in the opening game of the Premier League season early last weekend, but almost threw three points away late on.

Daniel Sturridge’s first half strike proved enough for Brendan Rodgers’ men but a whole host of missed chances almost proved costly as newly acquired Belgian ‘keeper Simon Mignolet had to save a last-minute penalty to preserve the win.

This game should be a real battle but good to watch. Paul Lambert’s young Villa side like to stroke the ball around and they will be eager to impress their home fans. Villa have had an incredibly tough start to the season, but two wins from three games against Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool would be a fantastic return.

While the Reds will be gunning to make an impression and win big at Villa Park. They are still without the suspended Luis Suárez and his fellow Uruguayan international Sebastien Coates, as the defender was ruled out of the entire season with a cruciate ligament injury. However their star man in the 1-0 win over Stoke was Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho cutting in form the left, Villa will have to keep a close eye on him.

For Villa Christian Benteke has already scored three goals in two games and will be a real handful for Kolo Toure and Daniel Agger. Injury wise for the home side, Nathan Baker look set to miss out with an ankle injury, while Ciaran Clark should return after a nasty face wound.

You can watch it all unfold live on NBC at 12:30pm ET and online via NBC Sports Live Extra.

What they’re saying

Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert: “We go into the Liverpool game with a lot of confidence. All you can ask is going into a game with a positive mindset that we can win. Brendan Rogers has a really good Liverpool side. We had two good games with them last season. I’m sure this will be no different. The two teams play football. We will see what happens. It will be a great occasion.”

Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge: They’re a good team, they’ve got good individuals and it’s not going to be an easy game for us. We won there last season, but it’s a new season now – they’ve got a point to prove, we’ve got a point to prove. It’s going to be a very good game for everyone to watch. But I’m going into the game with a positive attitude, just like all the boys are, and we’ll go out there and do our best.”

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers on Aston Villa: “They are very fast, energetic players. Andreas Weimann makes good runs and has a knack for a goal, it is about trying to control the counter-attack. But our focus is really on our own game. Our mind is very good at the moment. The players are continuing from last season and we just want to keep that going. We will go into this game with good confidence but expecting Aston Villa to be a good team and we’ll have to work hard to get a result.”

Prediction

If I had to stick my neck out on the line here, I would say a narrow Liverpool win. But it will be an incredibly entertaining game and I do expect to see plenty of goals. Villa will look to strike early and that may knock Liverpool off their stride, but if the likes of Steven Gerrard and Coutinho get on the ball, it could be game over for Benteke and co.

Bremen beats Wolfsburg to leave Bundesliga relegation zone

BELO HORIZONTE, BRAZIL - AUGUST 10:  Serge Gnabry of Germany reacts during the Men's First Round Football Group C match between Germany and Fiji at Mineirao Stadium on August 10, 2016 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.  (Photo by Pedro Vilela/Getty Images)
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WOLFSBURG, Germany (AP) — Midfielder Serge Gnabry scored twice as Werder Bremen moved away from the Bundesliga’s relegation zone with a 2-1 win at fellow struggler Wolfsburg on Friday.

Bremen and Wolfsburg are level on points and two above Hamburger SV, which is in 18th place and in the relegation zone.

It was a fifth defeat in six games for Wolfsburg coach Valerien Ismael, who won the league and cup double as a player with Bremen in 2004.

Gnabry fired the visitors ahead with a deflected shot in the 10th minute and made it 2-0 eight minutes later, controlling the ball with his chest before prodding home on the volley.

Striker Borja Mayoral, who is on loan from Real Madrid, scored with his chest following a Wolfsburg corner as Wolfsburg hit back moments later.

Midfielder Daniel Didavi struck the post with a free kick as Wolfsburg kept pushing for an equalizer.

Mancini reportedly not interested in Leicester City, De Boer says no

GENOA, ITALY - APRIL 20:  Head Coach of FC Internazionale Roberto Mancini looks during the Serie A match between Genoa CFC and FC Internazionale Milano at Stadio Luigi Ferraris on April 20, 2016 in Genoa, Italy.  (Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)
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Two top candidates to replace Claudio Ranieri at Leicester City have reportedly turned down any interest in the job.

Roberto Mancini, the heavy favorite out of the gates after Ranieri’s dismissal, tweeted his support for Ranieri after the news broke. “I am sorry for my friend Ranieri,” Mancini said. “He will be in the history of LCFC, in the hearts of Leicester fans and all football lovers.”

However, the fellow Italian has rebuffed Leicester’s informal advances towards his services. According to Sky Sports, Leicester sent “intermediaries” to “sound out” Mancini’s feelings towards the position, but came back empty-handed. The report states Mancini was turned off to the club after a short and unsuccessful spell there as a player in 2001.

That leaves a host of other names who have been linked to the job, with no clear favorite. One person mentioned was Dutch legend Frank de Boer, who is unemployed after an unusually short stint in charge of Inter Milan. However, De Boer’s agent went public to say he was not ever in the running.

“There is zero possibility that Frank could go to Leicester,” agent Guido Albers told Italian publication Tuttomercatoweb. “I too heard these rumors, but that’s all they are – rumors. I can affirm without doubt that Frank will not become the Leicester City manager. This will 100 per cent not happen.”

Albers explained that De Boer is only interested in joining a club in the offseason, preferring to enter a project with a blank slate rather than joining midseason with particular goals already clearly laid out. With Leicester, it seems De Boer is turned off by the notion of a relegation battle.

Win over Las Palmas again has La Real on edge of CL spot

GETAFE, SPAIN - DECEMBER 11:  Xavi Prieto of Real Sociedad in action during the La Liga match between Getafe CF and Real Sociedad de Futbol at Coliseum Alfonso Perez stadium on December 11, 2015 in Getafe, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
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All it took was one mistake. Real Sociedad’s Xabi Prieto capitalized, and has La Real once again on the verge of next year’s Champions League.

La Real finished 7th in 2013/14, and 9th in 2015/16, and this year, they’re closer than ever. Preito’s goal on the mistake by Las Palmas goalkeeper Javi Varas gave Real Sociedad the 1-0 road win and has them just a point off a Champions League place.

[ MORE: Antonio Conte pulling from experience to keep Chelsea on top ]

That could be even closer next week, as fourth-placed Atletico Madrid has to welcome Barcelona to the Calderon tomorrow, leaving the door open for La Real to make another move next weekend.

The goal down the stretch is not just to win the games they should, but make the teams above them work. La Real has won seven of their last ten matches, but the three losses came to Real Madrid, Villareal, and Sevilla, all teams fighting at the top of the table. They still have chances down the stretch, with matches against Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla, and Eibar coming up, with the latter on the docket next weekend.

Conte pulling from prior experience as title race pushes on

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 18: Antonio Conte, Manager of Chelsea looks on during The Emirates FA Cup Fifth Round match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Chelsea at Molineux on February 18, 2017 in Wolverhampton, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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Antonio Conte has recalled some painful memories to push himself and his players forward despite their commanding lead at the top of the Premier League table.

Chelsea sits eight points clear of Manchester City, and has the chance to go even further in front with many of the top teams off this weekend, but that won’t give the Italian any better sleep at night.

In the 1999/2000 season, Conte was nearing the end of his 13-year Juventus tenure. He’d won three league titles already, plus two league cup trophies and a Champions League title with the Serie A giants. With a comfortable nine point lead after 26 matches, the club became complacent. They would lose four of their final eight matches, collapsing on the final day in the pouring rain, allowing Lazio to come roaring back to win the title.

[ MORE: JPW’s Premier League picks for Week 26 ]

“I was captain of the team,” Conte said. “I remember after this game I must go to the European Championships with the national team. I didn’t sleep for six days because it was a shock for me to lose the title.”

Clearly, that still haunts him. “I have experienced this,” Conte continued. “When I continue to repeat that there are 13 games, there are 39 points… there is a long time before we can say we won the title. We must be focused, we must go step by step.”

The Blues host Swansea City at Stamford Bridge on Saturday before a trip to West Ham next weekend. If anyone believes the Chelsea players are complacent holding such a significant lead with 13 matches to go, it’s clear that’s not nearly the case. Anything can happen in three months.