The Sunday Mail
MARVELOUS Nakamba’s Aston Villa take their English Premier Soccer League survival series to Anfield today, where they face champions Liverpool, who are smarting from a 4-0 thrashing at Manchester City and are still chasing the 100-point mark.
Villa are 18th in the league with 27 points from 32 matches, having won only seven matches in the current campaign despite spending close to 150 million pounds to overhaul their squad during the close season.
Nakamba joined Villa from Belgian side Club Brugge at the beginning of the season, for a fee of 11 million pounds, but the Zimbabwean now finds himself battling to stay in the Premier League as the Clarets and Blue are staring relegation in the face.
Villa manager Dean Smith has however, backed his struggling team to pull off “Mission Impossible” by getting a result at Liverpool and boost their hopes of staying in the Premier League.
“People will see our game at Liverpool as Mission Impossible — unfortunately, we haven’t got Tom Cruise with us, but I’ve got 11 players and I’ve seen a desire in their eyes,” Smith told reporters ahead of the clash at Anfield.
The 1-0 loss at Wolverhampton Wanderers last week was their 19th of the campaign, with Villa seeking their first win since the league restarted following the Covid-19 stoppage.
“They feel stung by criticism, you’re going to get criticism when you’re in a position we’re in. Their job is to prove people wrong. Without a doubt, we’ve seen a better Villa after the break,” Smith added.
“The points tally hasn’t shown that, we played Wolves last week and they’re pushing for the Champions League . . . there was nothing between the two teams. The only quality on show was the goal. If we manage to stay up this season, which I believe we will, there’ll be a better Villa next year. I’ve still not been relegated as a manager and don’t expect to be this season,” Smith said.
For the Reds, the hard work has not stopped for Premier League champions Liverpool under manager Jürgen Klopp despite ending a 30-year wait for the league title, according to midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Liverpool clinched their 19th English top-flight crown last week with seven games to spare before losing 4-0 at Manchester City on Thursday.
“There’s no days off at all and there’s no tolerance for levels to drop,” Oxlade-Chamberlain told the BBC.
“If they do from time to time, as a team we’re reminded that that’s not good enough and that’s not where we need to be to progress further.
“We need to do everything we can to try and stay where we are now and develop again because the league develops every single year and all teams strengthen.”
Oxlade-Chamberlain (26) said the team had not had time to reflect on the title triumph as the focus is on winning their remaining six games, starting with Sunday’s home clash against relegation-threatened Aston Villa.
“Usually I guess when guys become champions, there’s one, maybe two games to go,” the England international added. “Once it’s done it’s holiday and it’s a whole time to reflect on the season. For us, it’s a bit of a strange one because we haven’t really had a chance to really sit back and take in what we’ve done for this season.
“But it obviously feels amazing to know that we made it over the line and we’ve got that silverware for the club.” — Sports Reporter/Supersport.com