Liverpool vs Aston Villa 17:45
A stunning attacking, if not defensive, display from Liverpool saw them keep pace at the top of the Premier League after a pulsating 3-5 win away to Stoke.
Luis Suarez grabbed a brace, and he will no doubt have been delighted, and every centre-half in the league dismayed, to see Daniel Sturridge back on the field again with enough time to get himself on the scoresheet.
It is little surprise that the Reds have been enjoying such spectacular form this season now that Brendan Rodgers has some of their best attacking talents flourishing. In Luis Suarez and Phillippe Coutinho, Liverpool have the first and fourth ranked players on the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for total attempts on goal. The Uruguayan and his Brazilian colleague have had 78 and 46 attempts respectively.
Lucas Leiva remains one of the most effective defensive forces in the league this season, providing the stability for the like of Suarez and Coutinho to thrive. The Brazilian has won more tackles than any other player in the league this term, with 76 to his name according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.
Defender Martin Skrtel continues to solidify his place amongst the league’s defensive elite with some standout performances this term. He may well have his hands full this weekend though with Christian Benteke showing flickers of coming back to his best against Arsenal. The Slovakian leads the league for total defensive contributions (blocks, interceptions, clearances, tackles won) with 270 to his name.
Jordan Henderson’s influence continues to grow under the guidance of Brendan Rodgers, the former Sunderland prodigy starting to fulfill some of his vast promise. He’s completed more passes in the opponent’s half than any other player with 590.
A lacklustre first half performance from Aston Villa saw them go down 1-2 at home to Arsenal on Monday evening. Whilst Paul Lambert will have been relieved to see Christian Benteke back amongst the goals, he will need to get him team working much harder off the ball at Anfield this weekend.
Benteke may not be quite hitting the heights that he was last season, but his stats suggest how much Villa still rely on him regardless. The Belgian leads the Villa squad for total attempts on goal, with 34 in this campaign. Benteke is 33/10 with 888sport.com to score at any time this weekend.
The big front man will need to mind how he uses his imposing physique though, with a certain level of rustiness showing in his performance against Arsenal. He was picked up for the joint second highest number of fouls by any player in the last round with 4 according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.
The loss of Libor Kozak is another blow for Paul Lambert as he could have been an excellent foil for Benteke had a fractured calf and shinbone not ruled him out from the rest of the season. Despite only having 9 shots on goal, he still scored 4 goals, a superb return.
Ciaran Clark has identified himself as a possible permanent Villa captain after a string of consistent performances this season. Clark currently has the best tackle success rate of any Villa player to have attempted more than 20 tackles, winning 87.2% of his 34 challenges this term.