Aston Villa are no strangers to Liverpool this season, nor is their talented academy side – and now another cup contest awaits against a familiar set of youthful faces.
Villa became the youngest team to face Liverpool back in January when they fielded a lineup with an average age of 20.65 years.
It came to be due to a COVID-19 outbreak in the senior squad before the two teams met in the FA Cup third round, where seven players from the under-23s and four under-18s were named in the XI.
A spirited performance followed against a strong Liverpool side, with the impressive Louie Barry equalising before a damaging three-goal spell in five minutes sealed victory for the Reds.
And now 17-year-old Barry will be out for a spot of redemption for Villa, this time in FA Youth Cup with the U18s sides to battle it out in the final later this month – the date is yet to be confirmed.
The young Reds secured their place in the final by notching a 2-1 win over Ipswich on Wednesday, with the highly-rated Mateusz Musialowski and Melkamu Frauendorf helping complete the comeback.
They must now overcome a Villa side on their home turf after the draw designated Villa Park as host for the final, where fans are expected to be in attendance in line with steps out of lockdown.
Lamare Bogarde, Arjan Raikhy, Benjamin Chrisene and Barry have been central figures for Villa’s U18s this season and were part of the XI to play against Klopp’s side earlier in the year.
The latter is the obvious danger man after netting his 20th goal of the season from just 22 starts in the semi-final win over West Brom.
Liverpool are aiming to win their fifth FA Youth Cup and second in three seasons following on from the success in 2018/19 – where eight of those finalists have since had senior outings.
The Liverpool captain has been out of commission for eight weeks, missing a total of 13 matches to date after groin surgery – but Jordan Henderson has provided a welcome recovery update.
The 30-year-old last donned the red shit against Everton back in February before being withdrawn midway through the first-half, where surgery on a groin injury soon followed.
Acting as an emergency centre-back at the time, it was another untimely blow for Jurgen Klopp and co. and his absence has been felt in more ways than one.
The hope had been that Henderson would return in late April but that time has come and gone, and Klopp’s update earlier in the week was that there is “no chance” for an appearance for his club before the end of the season.
With just three games left over the next eight days it comes as no surprise, but there remain hopes for his chances to feature for England in the Euros this summer.
Henderson’s individual programme continues and his update on Saturday shows that he is making significant steps forward in his recovery.
The skipper posted an update on Instagram showing off explosive work in the gym and ball work on the outside pitches at Kirkby that also included a spell of running.
It paints a welcome picture for Reds and appears to see Henderson on track with a chance to train with the rest of his teammates before the season comes to a close, as Klopp alluded to.
“That means Hendo will be then rested and has then a proper ‘pre-season’ for the Euros if everything works to plan. So no, he’s not out of that,” Klopp said earlier in the week.
While many of the Liverpool persuasion will hold reservations about Henderson’s involvement with England, that he is making strides towards full fitness is key at this stage.
Steven Gerrard has lifted his first league title after guiding Rangers to an undefeated season which eclipsed the 100-point barrier and set a list of new records.
After three seasons at the helm, Gerrard has returned Rangers to the top of Scottish football in relentless fashion with their 4-0 win over Aberdeen on Saturday ensuring an undefeated campaign.
It coincided with a day long known to be the one where the title would be lifted, with Gerrard’s side having confirmed their champions status back in March having set an unassailable lead over arch-rivals Celtic.
It has been a relentless campaign for Rangers who would end the season an incredible 25 points ahead of Celtic – their biggest points gap – after amassing 102 points and conceding just 13 goals in 38 games.
The club’s 55th title was won in style, with more than a few changes to the record books along the way.
Steven Gerrard lifts his first major trophy as a manager ? pic.twitter.com/x2tkEkhNFf
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) May 15, 2021
The shutout of Aberdeen saw them set a new Scottish record of 26 clean sheets, while their unbelievable tally of 13 conceded is a British record having eclipsed Chelsea‘s 2005 tally of 15.
While they became only the third team in Scottish history to finish a league campaign as invincibles, with the 102 point return a club record.
The trophy was lifted without fans present inside Ibrox, but fans did line the entrance prior to the game to greet the players and manager ahead of the historic day.
After James Tavernier raised the title high, Gerrard would be soaked in champagne before getting his hands on a league title for the first time in his illustrious career.
And his success was met by a long list of congratulatory messages from Reds on social media:
What a fantastic achievement by Steven Gerrard. Just 13 goals conceded, too. https://t.co/G8poXvtgL7
— Paul Grech (@paul_grech) May 15, 2021
Invincible. Well in Stevie lad. ? pic.twitter.com/WTa2hI8iJs
— The Redmen TV (@TheRedmenTV) May 15, 2021
Congratulations to Steven Gerrard on doing the invincible and centurion season with Rangers. Massive achievement to accomplish. ????
Best English midfielder and manager in his generation. pic.twitter.com/mcfN4hZyi2
— Samue (@SamueILFC) May 15, 2021
Steven Gerrard has won his first title as manager, having gone the full season unbeaten in the league ? pic.twitter.com/Rg3fKSM9CJ
— The Anfield Wrap (@TheAnfieldWrap) May 15, 2021
Unbeaten in the Scottish Premier League
100% Record at Ibrox.
Steven Gerrard ? pic.twitter.com/z66oCBr48a
— – (@AnfieldRd96) May 15, 2021
Gerrard’s staff at Rangers includes Gary McAllister and former Liverpool under-23s coach Michael Beale as assistant managers, while ex-Reds Ryan Kent and Andy Firth are part of the first-team squad.
Venue – The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
Referee – Mike Dean
Date & Time – Sunday, May 16th @ 16:30
Current Odds – West Brom 11/1, Draw 11/2, Liverpool 2/9
What a win and performance from The Reds at Old Trafford! A fantastic result and one that keeps our Champions League qualification hopes alive. Time for that old cliché, though. It won’t mean anything if we don’t beat West Brom on Sunday. The aim now is to reach 69 points and pip either Chelsea or Leicester City to fourth place. All we wanted is something to focus on, something to cheer our Redmen on for in the last weeks of the season. Jürgen Klopp and his team have given us that now. They may be about to give us even more…FORM
West Brom Form
West Brom are already relegated from the Premier League. Sam Allardyce’s team has not won any of their last four fixtures. They are unbeaten in three at The Hawthorns, however. Everton were the last side to take the three points from there with a 1-0 win in early March.
The Baggies are 19th in the league with just 26 points from 35 games. They have lost 19 this season so far, winning only 5. They did manage to take a point from Anfield in late December after a 1-1 draw.
Liverpool are unbeaten in six games in all competitions, winning 3 and drawing 3 in that time. The Reds’ last defeat was 3-1 away to Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final.
Jürgen Klopp’s men won their last two games – 2-0 at home to Southampton last weekend and 4-2 at Manchester United on Thursday night.
Despite going behind early on at Old Trafford, Liverpool reacted brilliantly and took control of the game to mount a come-from-behind victory that will be remembered for years if they can go on and take a top-four spot.TEAM NEWS
West Brom Team News
Robert Snodgrass and Branislav Ivanović are out for West Brom.
I expect Sam Allardyce to try shore things up at the back with the introduction of an extra centre-half, namely Irishman Dara O’Shea.
Mbaye Diagne will lead the line for The Baggies with dangerman Matheus Pereira supplying the ammunition from the ’10’ role.
Liverpool Team News
Liverpool are without Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Joël Matip, Jordan Henderson, Ozan Kabak, Ben Davies, and Naby Keïta.
James Milner will face a late fitness test this week to see if he is available for selection.
Jürgen Klopp will go with almost the same starting eleven that fared so well at Old Trafford on Thursday night. One possible change could be the return of Sadio Mané to the starting eleven as Bobby Firmino ran himself into the ground against Manchester United and played all 90 minutes. Therefore, I think our front three at West Brom will be Mohamed Salah, Diogo Jota, and Mané.
Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips responded well after a tricky start against United. They went on to put in solid performances which should see them start at central defence again this weekend. This also allows Fabinho to continue in midfield.
Thiago Alcântara was in great form on Thursday and is really starting to influence games how we hoped he would.
Trent Alexander-Arnold could be in for a big finish to the season if his performance at United is anything to go by. What a game from the full-back playmaker.PREDICTED LINEUPS
West Brom XI (5-4-1) – Johnstone; Furlong, Ajayi, Bartley, O’Shea, Townsend; Yokuşlu, Gallagher, Maitland-Niles, Pereira; Diagne
Liverpool XI (4-3-3) – Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Phillips, Williams, Robertson; Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Thiago; Salah, Jota, ManéWHEN THEY LAST MET
Liverpool haven’t won any of their last four meetings with West Brom.
Back in late December, the sides drew 1-1 at Anfield in the league. Sadio Mané put Liverpool in front before Semi Ajayi equalised late on for The Baggies.PREDICTION
WEST BROM 1 – 3 LIVERPOOL
The Reds are going to go big for this top-four finish. That win at Old Trafford confirms we are in for a rollercoaster end to the season. Liverpool can have no excuses if they don’t take all three points from already-relegated West Brom. I expect a win and at least one more goal for the red-hot Mohamed Salah.
Liverpool's 2000-01 UEFA Cup campaign took Gerard Houllier's team on a tour of iconic venues as the Reds gave a new generation of supporters a taste of the most special European occasions.
From an inauspicious first step in the competition to toppling FC Barcelona – via Czech Republic, Greece, Italy and Portugal, too – their journey through the rounds grew ever more thrilling and hopeful.
On the eve of the 20th anniversary of Liverpool lifting the trophy in Dortmund, we look back at how they reached the final in a tale of conquests, clean sheets and a ghost penalty…
First round – v Rapid Bucharest (1-0 on aggregate)
Houllier’s side kicked off their UEFA Cup adventure in the Romanian capital, where summer signing Nick Barmby bagged his first goal for the club.
The England international had already crashed one shot against the woodwork when Michael Owen carved through Rapid Bucharest on the half-hour mark and unselfishly teed up his teammate to convert.
Barmby’s effort separated the teams on the night and, indeed, in the tie as the Reds toiled in the return match at Anfield and played out a goalless stalemate.
Second round – v Slovan Liberec (4-2 on aggregate)
It was a similar story when Czech side Slovan Liberec visited L4 for the first leg of their second-round clash, in which Liverpool struggled to find a way through.
Robbie Fowler skied a penalty into the Kop shortly after the interval and it seemed Houllier’s men would have to do all the work away from home until Emile Heskey forced in an 87th-minute winner.
The second meeting could not have been more different and Slovan threatened an upset as Jiri Stajner headed past Sander Westerveld after just nine minutes.
But the Reds regained control through Barmby’s equaliser and raced clear on aggregate courtesy of late strikes by Heskey and Owen, rendering David Breda’s subsequent goal for the hosts mere consolation.
Third round – v Olympiacos (4-2 on aggregate)
Liverpool were back on their travels a fortnight later and established a marginal edge in a tricky-looking tie against Olympiacos with two away goals in Athens.
Barmby cushioned in a clever finish to score for the third consecutive round and Steven Gerrard looped in a header, but the Greek outfit replied on both occasions thanks to Alekos Alexandris.
The Reds showed no such mercy at Anfield, where Barmby’s hot streak continued – the midfielder released Heskey to put his side ahead and then squeezed a strike in off the post himself for a 2-0 victory.
Fourth round – v AS Roma (2-1 on aggregate)
The pick of Liverpool’s results in this run arguably came at the Stadio Olimpico in round four.
Fabio Capello’s Roma would finish the 2000-01 season as Serie A champions, with an undefeated home record, but were undone by a clinical Owen double early in the second half of the first leg.
The Reds’ 2-0 advantage became increasingly fragile as they rode their luck in the return meeting at Anfield, however, with Owen’s 60th-minute penalty saved by Francesco Antonioli.
Guigou then fired in from distance at the Kop end to halve the Italians’ deficit – and they looked on course to level the tie when a penalty was awarded for a handball in the box by Markus Babbel.
But almost as quickly as he’d pointed to the spot, the referee changed his mind, giving Roma, baffled and angry in equal measure, a corner instead.
Once the controversy subsided, Houllier’s team held on.
Quarter-final – v FC Porto (2-0 on aggregate)
The last-eight showdown with Porto was a much more straightforward affair by comparison.
A stalemate in Portugal against a side that would go on to lift the UEFA Cup two seasons later – and then the Champions League the following year – left the semi-final place in the balance.
But the Reds eased to a 2-0 victory back on home soil, with Danny Murphy and Owen scoring in the space of five first-half minutes to propel Liverpool on.
Semi-final – v FC Barcelona (1-0 on aggregate)
Now, only the Barcelona of Pep Guardiola, Patrick Kluivert and Rivaldo stood in the way of Liverpool’s first European final for 16 years.
Houllier’s charges shut the La Liga giants out at Camp Nou with a performance of precise defensive diligence for their eighth clean sheet in 11 UEFA Cup games.
Two weeks later at Anfield, a Kluivert handball from a corner allowed Gary McAllister to send a penalty beyond the reach of future Reds goalkeeper Pepe Reina.
And the Scot’s spot-kick proved the slender difference between the clubs, meaning a return to the showpiece for Liverpool 20 years ago tomorrow…
Liverpool travel to West Bromwich Albion for a 4.30pm BST kick-off on Sunday - here's how to watch and follow the game.
Sky Sports will televise the match live in the UK. Global television listings are available here.
Two minutes of match action will be available to watch on LFCTV GO from 8.30pm, with extended highlights, a full replay and more from midnight.
Use the code 2021GOFREE to start a free one-month trial of LFCTV GO now. This can be cancelled at any time.
Our Match Centre on Liverpoolfc.com and the official LFC app (iOS | Google Play) will be running on Sunday, too – providing live and interactive build-up, minute-by-minute updates, audio commentary, competitions, quizzes and much more.
But the biggest revelation has been that under no circumstances should you ever play poker with Premier League boss Richard Masters.
He was dealt a non-aggression pact between the two broadcasters most likely to get into a bidding war for the league’s live rights, a pandemic that has shut stadiums for over a year and threats from his most marketable assets to break away and do their own thing.
A lot was made of a weakened Manchester United losing to Leicester City on Tuesday night, an outcome that was part of a domino effect set in motion by the events of a week last Sunday.
Liverpool could either go all Neil Warnock at Sheffield United about it, complaining bitterly forevermore, or they could offer a positive response. Jurgen Klopp opted for the latter scenario, as his team successfully outclassed opponents that have always had an inflated opinion of themselves.
Tuesday was peculiar. The few United fans that cross my social media radar seemed to be in a buoyant mood on the back of their loss to Brendan Rodgers’ side. On one hand it was a result that was not overly helpful to Liverpool’s cause, while on the other, it did not stop claims being thrown out by them that United would be closer to Manchester City next season than Liverpool would.
This was a train of thought that had to ignore the obvious limitations of United’s shadow players, of course. Where is the fun in facing up to reality, when your last title win is stretching into the distant past?
If United do not win the Premier League next season, then by the time their next chance rolls around, it will have been a full decade since they won it. We have been there ourselves; we know how that works. One decade can easily become two; two decades can swiftly morph into three.
Arguably a game between two teams in false positions, there is no way a fully functioning contemporary Liverpool reach this stage of the season needing a perfect and possibly high-scoring end to the campaign just to scrape into a Champions League berth.
As for the team from Old Trafford, they have some undeniably compelling elements, but they also have some glaring weaknesses. They have resorted to resembling the United I grew up knowing them to be: fanciful notions of greatness, that yields the occasional cup, to offset their frustrations in the league being out of reach.
Long may Ole Gunnar Solskjær continue to take two steps forward, two to the side, and two backwards. It kind of makes him difficult to sack, while simultaneously being unable to bridge the gap to the likes of Klopp, Pep Guardiola, and Thomas Tuchel. When push comes to shove, part of Solskjær will always be the manager that was relegated, and then sacked, at Cardiff City.
A fine victory on Thursday evening, it still leaves Liverpool still needing to do likewise against teams piloted by Sam Allardyce, Sean Dyche and Roy Hodgson. Easier said than done given how we have struggled against meat and potato teams managed by meat and potato managers this season.
However, we have now cultivated something that has been sorely missing for much of the last 12 months, a sense of being upwardly mobile.
Not all, but many of Liverpool’s players are beginning to look like they are enjoying playing football again. If they can win the next three games, to rescue something positive from a wretched campaign, then there is scope to take that momentum into next season.
There were concerns here and there, but given we conceded two goals, Alisson had the occasional brain freeze, and Nat Phillips effectively scored an own goal, our goalkeeper and entire back line were quite imperious.
Trent Alexander-Arnold was a vision of perfection, Andy Robertson was everywhere, Rhys Williams didn’t put a foot wrong, and Phillips’s response to earlier misfortune was to be denied a clear penalty by a manc ref, via a succession of slow-motion replays, making an assist for the equaliser, clearing one off the line, that otherwise would have meant us going 3-3, and being an all-round obstacle to the home side’s hopes of finding a way back into the game. He is having the absolute time of his life.
In midfield, Thiago was arguably the best of the collective, while Fabinho and Gini Wijnaldum orbited him effectively. Subtly, it was here where the game was won and lost. Curtis Jones aside, who made an important cameo appearance, with little other options in terms of a Plan B, then the midfield’s Plan A had to work.
Added to this, in the front-three, Bobby Firmino has rightly been under the spotlight for his performances this season but this was more like it from him. While Mo Salah’s unerring magnificence has been the brightest aspect from a largely abject season, and this game was no different. Diogo Jota complimented both perfectly, much to the displeasure of Sadio Mane.
I personally do not have a problem with Mane’s snub of Klopp at the end of the game. He is frustrated, he cares, and he wants to succeed. Mane is a player that thrives on momentum, in the same way Firmino does. Within this, the downturns are very pronounced, to the point that in extreme circumstances they almost become pantomime villains.
Players of immense talent overcome these losses of form. Hopefully, this is the springboard for Firmino to bounce through the remaining games of the season; hopefully, Mane can follow Firmino’s example at Old Trafford during the remaining games of the season.
I think that we were always going to find this season a difficult one, even had stadiums been full, and the injury list a little kinder. We had put so much intensity into the previous three seasons, that a dip would only be natural. A campaign where we caught our breath, before breaking into a sprint once more.
Much of this will depend upon key components returning to fitness, and the potential freshening up of the squad during a summer where a high-profile departure might be needed in order to fund significant arrivals.
Just as he hits a major milestone at Liverpool, Mohamed Salah has again been linked with a move away. Here’s a roundup of all the LFC news and rumours on Friday.PSG want Salah if Mbappe leaves
The passion in Salah’s celebration at Old Trafford, wearing the captain’s armband no less, felt somewhat significant.
He is a player who deserves Champions League football, and the hope is that he will be able to enjoy that again with Liverpool next season.
But according to ESPN, Salah is on a shortlist of players that PSG are considering if Kylian Mbappe departs the club this summer.
PSG are said to be “hoping he would be open to a new chapter in his career,” though the price quoted is ridiculous.
ESPN claim that it is “unlikely that the Reds will consider anything less than €80m for him,” despite the fact that the equivalent of £68.9 million would not even be enough to buy his right leg.
Interestingly, RMC Sport’s Mohamed Bouhafsi has reiterated Liverpool’s interest in Mbappe – so maybe we can sort a swap deal…Leipzig give Konate deadline
Liverpool’s transfer plans could hinge on whether or not they reach the Champions League, and that may be the reason for a delay in the move for RB Leipzig’s Ibrahima Konate.
Konate is available for around £34 million due to a release clause in his contract, but despite Dayot Upamecano already having been announced to be joining Bayern Munich in a similar deal, there has been no such confirmation yet.
According to German publication Kicker, Leipzig have told Konate to inform them of his plans by the end of the month.
This is due to the Bundesliga side being eager to agree a new contract with the French centre-back, which would increase his wages and remove the release clause.
It has been similarly reported that Liverpool must activate Ozan Kabak‘s £18 million purchase option before the end of May if they wish to do so – it could be a busy fortnight ahead for Michael Edwards!The legends save Melwood
Quickfire LFC news
Let him prove it at Anfield first, perhaps!Tweet of the day
Typical Andy Robbo!
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) May 14, 2021Worth watching tonight
We’ll find out Liverpool’s opponents in the FA Youth Cup final tonight, with Aston Villa hosting West Brom at 6.30pm, live on BT Sport 2.
However, Klopp sees it differently, as he told reporters on Friday: “Our last three games are really tough, from different points of view.
“I really have to say, what Sam did again at West Brom deserves all respect.
“Not only that they got points – OK, not enough now, we have to say – but the way that they played was completely different, made brilliant signings, how he always does.
“So they were really good when they fought for [their place], and I know when all the pressure is off because it’s now decided they will not stay in the league, then that can give you some good feelings to express yourself and just play football.
“That can lead to everything, so we have to be really focused, prepared and strong to make our things happen. It’s a tricky one.”
“Our season is defined by all the games, [but] these three games can give an extremely positive outcome. We know that,” he said.
“I said it last night, most of the teams in the world fight the whole year for it, to be in a position that three matchdays before the end they have it in their own hands to go to the Champions League.
“We are one of them, so as much as the season was full of different challenges and problems, we are in that situation all of a sudden.
“That’s good, so yes it’s positive, but we don’t now make the second step before the first.
“We played last night, we recover now, we are fully focused on West Brom and then we will see what will be the outcome there.
“But yes, if we could make it that would be really good.”