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Fueled by Darwin Nunez’s breakout, Liverpool turn to Aston Villa

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah in warmups before a match on Aug. 27, 2023
Credit: REUTERS/Scott Heppell

Liverpool will attempt to continue their strong start to the new Premier League campaign on Sunday when they host an Aston Villa side that is also trending upward in the early days.

Liverpool (2-0-1, 7 points) pulled off arguably their best result yet last weekend, a 2-1 victory with 10 men over Newcastle United.

Darwin Nunez turned the match in the Reds’ favor with a brilliant 13-minute cameo, leveling affairs in the 81st minute before scoring the winner on a similar break down the right in second-half stoppage time.

After scoring only nine times in 29 appearances in his first season at Anfield, the Uruguayan has been relegated to a bench role so far this campaign. But that sequence showed it’s possible he could still become the devastating threat Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp envisioned after signing him from Benfica.

“Massive, massive, that’s clear,” Klopp said of his impact. “That’s what he wants, what we want. It’s exactly how it should have been — being a massive threat.”

Liverpool will be without captain and center back Virgil van Dijk, who will serve a one-game suspension after he was sent off in the 28th minute for the denial of an obvious goal-scoring opportunity.

Meanwhile, Villa goalkeeper Emi Martinez is questionable heading into Sunday’s game after missing Villa’s first three league fixtures with a calf injury.

The margins so far have been such that Aston Villa (2-1-0, 6 points) haven’t really felt the absence of their No. 1 goalkeeper, who is still less than a year removed from helping Argentina win the 2022 World Cup.

All four wins in all competitions have come by multiple goals, and no goalkeeper would’ve made a difference in their season-opening 5-1 throttling at Newcastle.

Still, there’s a sense his return could give manager Unai Emery’s side a major boost.

“He trained this morning,” Emery said on Friday. “Tomorrow is the last training (before Liverpool) which will be important if he is going to be available or not. Hopefully, yes.”

Liverpool have dominated the series of late, winning five in a row in all competitions before settling for a 1-1 draw in their last meeting at Anfield in May.

It’s been nearly nine full years since Villa’s last away win in the series, a 1-0 league triumph on Sept. 13, 2014.

–Field Level Media