Villa could lock down fourth place today


Watkins is one player the Reds want to keep an eye on. — ReutersWatkins is one player the Reds want to keep an eye on. — Reuters

THERE is a lot more riding on the outcome of Manchester City’s visit to Fulham than the fixture in which Aston Villa host Liverpool.

Yet it is the latter that has greater promise of an enthralling encounter.

An improbable result at Fulham’s Craven Cottage Stadium in today’s early kick-off could hand Arsenal the advantage in the title chase.

But that’s hardly likely to happen, given the conviction with which Man City are expected to approach the clash.

Pep Guardiola’s side will almost surely dominate possession and then run their hosts into the ground before helping themselves to a couple of goals or so, if not a hatful.

Man City trail Arsenal by a single point at the top of the league standings, but they also have a game in hand. Hence, they have an upper hand in the title race at the moment.

Villa, like Liverpool, have long spurned their chance of taking the title, but they still have much to play for.

A win on Monday would guarantee Unai Emery’s Villains fourth spot on the log and lucrative Champions League football next season.

It would be just reward for a side that has held its own against some of Europe’s best teams found in England and against whom they can come up without fear.

Ollie Watkins has been Villa’s star player in this campaign. He has a performance index of 99.75, clearly illustrating his impact on the side.

The 28-year-old Torquay-born England international has scored 19 goals this season and provided 17 assists.

His 67 shots on goal, with a conversion rate of 16.52%, rank him at the top of the list in the Premier League.

Douglas Luiz, a supreme and technically gifted midfielder, has also weighed in on Villa’s exploits, and it would be icing on the cake if they could wrap up fourth place at Villa Park.

Of course, Liverpool will not be keen on such.

They are trying to recover from seeing their title chances evaporate over the last fortnight or so, and they will still attempt to give Jurgen Klopp a decent send-off.

The German is leaving the Anfield club next week after nine years in charge, during which he enjoyed some great success.

A win in his last away league game would be a nice way to go out. And the Reds will again look to Mohamed Salah to deliver upfront.

The Egyptian was instrumental in their emphatic victory over Crystal Palace last weekend.

And coming as it did after his spat with the manager, more will be expected from Liverpool’s prolific goalscorer. — By SHAUN ORANGE

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