Liverpool's Aspas challenges Aston Villa's Delph during their English Premier League soccer match in Birmingham

Aston Villa 0-1 Liverpool: Reds see out an early lead at Villa Park (Video)

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Aston Villa seem to have a strategy this season: go down a goal early in the first half, then rally for the equalizer. But despite sticking with that method against Liverpool on Saturday, Villa never managed to find that equalizer. Daniel Sturridge gave the Reds the lead in the 21st minute, and despite a barrage of pressure by the Villa in the second half, held on to leave Birmingham with all three points.

Paul Lambert’s strategy didn’t go quite to plan this time around — perhaps because Liverpool took over twenty minutes to score their first goal? It was an absolutely lovely one, though. The Reds flew up the pitch, easily passing through the Villa midfield. Jose Enrique sent the ball in from the left, with Sturridge waiting in the center. The forward sidestepped through two claret and blue shirts, exposing the obvious flaws in the home side’s defense. Brad Guzan came out in an attempt to block the shot, but the goalkeeper slipped a little, making it easy for Sturridge to dance around him. With a Villa defender closing in, Sturridge took his shot from a tight angle, sending the ball into the roof of the net.

Just like in the midweek match against Chelsea, Villa came to life around the 40 minute mark. Unlike at Stamford Bridge, Christian Benteke was unable to find an equalizer before the halftime whistle blew. The Belgian had a terrific chance in the 42nd minute, holding off the Liverpool defense to get himself into a good shooting position. Benteke managed a sharp shot on target, but a diving Simon Mignolet managed to get his fingertips on the ball and push it out of danger.

The home side did much better in the second half, but they just couldn’t get by the Liverpool defense. Ashley Westwood made a couple of speculative attempts from distance, but they inevitably went high. Substitute Aleksander Tonev, making his Villa debut, quickly forced Mignolet into a save. Gabby Agbonlahor missed a golden opportunity when the ball fell to his feet, placing his shot just wide of the post.

Benteke sent in a wonderful volley in the 86th minute, but Mignolet pulled out a fantastic save, diving to his left to push the ball away. By the end of the match, Lambert had four forwards on the pitch and had shifted Leandro Bacuna to right back to help in the attack, but nothing seemed to work for the Villa manager.

Liverpool, for that part, felt content with the “bunker” part of “bunk and counter.” Their only shot of any note was one from Glen Johnson, and that attempt prompted angry yells from his teammates. There was plenty of space for Johnson to get into a good position, or to cross for one of his teammates, but instead the right back sent his shot very wide and very high. There was a shout for a penalty in the dying minutes of the match, when Guzan came out to keep Sturridge from scoring a second, but Mark Clattenburg felt there was no reason to point to the spot.

It may have been a loss for Aston Villa, but the young side will be relieved to walk away from this difficult stretch having picked up three points from their first three matches. Liverpool, meanwhile, will be thrilled with two wins in a row, and both of them clean sheets as well. However, next up for the Reds is hosting Manchester United at Anfield.

Lineups

Aston Villa: Guzan, Lowton (El Ahmadi 65), Vlaar, Okore, Luna, Bacuna, Westwood (Helenius 83), Delph, Agbonlahor, Benteke, Weimann (Tonev 73)

Substitutes not used: Steer, Clark, Herd, Sylla

Liverpool: Mignolet, Johnson, Enrique, Toure, Agger, Gerrard, Aspas (Cissokho 68), Coutinho (Allen 83), Henderson, Lucas, Sturridge

Substitutes not used: Jones, Alberto, Borini, Sterling, Wisdom

Goals: Sturridge 21 (L)

Champions League field set: Who can Arsenal, Man City, Leicester draw?

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 06: Leroy Sane of Manchester City (R) shoots from a freekick during the UEFA Champions League Group C match between Manchester City FC and Celtic FC at Etihad Stadium on December 6, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
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We have to wait until Monday for the draw, but the field is set for the UEFA Champions League’s knockout rounds.

Seeded
Arsenal
Atletico Madrid
Barcelona
Napoli
Monaco
Leicester City
Juventus
Borussia Dortmund

[ MORE: Examining Leicester, Man City ]

Unseeded
Paris Saint-Germain
Bayern Munich
Manchester City
Benfica
Bayer Leverkusen
Porto
Sevilla
Real Madrid


Premier League scenarios

Who can the three remaining clubs from England’s top flight face in the first knockout round?

Arsenal: Bayern Munich, Benfica, Bayer Leverkusen, Porto, Sevilla, Real Madrid.

Leicester City: Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich, Benfica, Bayer Leverkusen, Sevilla, Real Madrid.

Manchester City: Atletico Madrid, Napoli, Monaco, Juventus, Borussia Dortmund

As for Tottenham Hotspur, they are set to be seeded in the Europa League’s Round of 32.


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UEFA Champions League wrap: BVB stuns Real late, Spurs onto Europa

Tottenham's Harry Kane, 2nd right, is congratulated by his teammates after scoring his side's 2nd goal during the Champions League group E soccer match between Tottenham Hotspur and CSKA Moscow at Wembley stadium in London, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
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The knockout round draw is just days away, and we finally have the 16 teams who remain in the chase for the UEFA Champions League title.

[ MORE: Examining Leicester, Man City ]

Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 CSKA Moscow

Mauricio Pochettino‘s men came out of the gates hard at Wembley, which made it all the more surprising when Alan Dzageov gave CSKA a surprise 1-0 lead.

No fear, a dangerous Dele Alli was rewarded with a goal before Harry Kane made it 2-1 by halftime. And CSKA goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev recalled the last World Cup by pushing an Alli header in for an own goal.

Porto 5-0 Leicester City

The hosts needed this one, and a much-weakened Leicester City did not.

Riyad Mahrez and Robert Huth weren’t in the 18, and Danny Simpson, Christian Fuchs, and Marc Albrighton all started on the bench.

That made it a bit easier for Porto to strike, and Andre Silva, Jesus “Tecatito” Corona, and Yacine Brahimi gave the Portuguese side a healthy three-goal lead at the break. Silva added a second in the second half, this time from the spot.

Real Madrid 2-2 Borussia Dortmund

Karim Benzema scored a pair of goals, the second on a picture-perfect cross from James Rodriguez, as the reigning champs looked set for seeded status for the first knockout round.

But Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang made it 2-1 and Cristiano Ronaldo dinked a surefire insurance goal off the far post with 12 minutes to go. Aubameyang then found a sliding Marco Reus in the 88th minute to give Thomas Tuchel’s a share of the lead and the capture of the group.

Elsewhere

Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 Monaco
Juventus 2-0 Dinamo Zagreb
Legia Warsaw 1-0 Sporting CP
Lyon 0-0 Sevilla
Club Brugge 0-2 Copenhagen

All said, Juventus and Sevilla clinch knockout round berths, while Spurs, Legia Warsaw, Copenhagen and Lyon head to the Europa League.

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Champions League AT HALF – Leicester, Dortmund trail; Spurs lead (video)

Real Madrid's Henrico Casemiro, center right, jumps for a high ball during the Champions League, Group F, soccer match between Real Madrid and Borrusia Dortmund at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
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CONCACAF is representing in the UEFA Champions League’s final group stage match day, with a Mexico star scoring and a USMNT teenager getting the start at the Bernabeu against Real Madrid.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

Porto 3-0 Leicester City

Andre Silva isn’t hurting his transfer value, burying his third group stage goal against a weakened already-through Leicester. El Tri star Jesus Corona added to the advantage in the 25th minute, and Yacine Brahimi has the third.

Club Brugge 0-2 FC Copenhagen

The Danes are making a statement of intent, and will be hoping Leicester comes back against Porto.

Real Madrid 1-0 Borussia Dortmund

Christian Pulisic gets the start in a match where a draw would be enough for BVB to win the group. That’s not happening right now, as Karim Benzema beat his mark to a terrific 28th minute pass from Dani Carvajal.

Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 CSKA Moscow

Spurs started dominant, only to go down after the half hour mark. Dele Alli pulled them level, and Harry Kane put ’em ahead. A loss puts them out of both the UCL and Europa League.

Elsewhere
Bayer Leverkusen 1-0 Monaco
Juventus 0-0 Dinamo Zagreb
Legia Warsaw 1-0 Sporting CP
Lyon 0-0 Sevilla

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LIVE – UCL group stage finale: Leicester, Tottenham both in action

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 06:  Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur celebrates scoring his sides first goal with team mates during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur at Emirates Stadium on November 6, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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The final matchday of the 2016-17 UEFA Champions League group stage takes place on Wednesday with two Premier League teams in action.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

Leicester City is already through and has topped Group G with Claudio Ranieri‘s men securing a top spot for next Monday’s Round of 16 draw. The Foxes face FC Porto in Portugal with the hosts needing just a point to secure second place in the group and their spot in the last 16. Putting their Premier League worries aside, Leicester will aim to stay unbeaten throughout all six of their UCL group games.

Tottenham Hotspur wish they could say the same but Mauricio Pochettino‘s men have already crashed out of the Champions League with one game to go. They host CSKA Moscow at Wembley Stadium in Group E with Spurs needing just a draw to secure a place in the Europa League knockout stages. Bayer Leverkusen and AS Monaco has already qualified from Group E but Spurs’ Harry Kane insists they now want to go on and win the Europa League.

[ MORE: Permutations for each UCL group ]

Elsewhere Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund clash to decide top spot in Group F, while Juventus, Lyon and Sevilla are all still in the mix in Group H with the final game to come.

Below is a full schedule for Wednesday’s Champions League games, with each game kicking off at 2:45 p.m. ET.

You can follow live commentary and stats of each game by clicking on the link above, while we will have reaction right here on ProSoccerTalk.


Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League schedule

Group E
Tottenham Hotspur vs. CSKA Moscow
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Monaco

Group F
Real Madrid vs. Borussia Dortmund
Legia Warsaw vs. Sporting Lisbon

Group G
FC Porto vs. Leicester City
Club Brugge vs. FC Copenhagen

Group H
Juventus vs. Dinamo Zagreb
Lyon vs. Sevilla