Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard was thrilled by the performances of Philippe Coutinho and Jacob Ramsey in Wednesday's draw with Leeds United, convinced the latter will be an England international before long.

Villa played out a gripping 3-3 draw with Leeds at Villa Park, the visitors fighting back despite finding themselves 3-1 down at half-time.

Coutinho and Ramsey were crucial to Villa's lead – the Brazilian cancelled out Daniel James' early opener with a well-placed finish before setting up each of Ramsey's goals, both of which were well-weighted throughballs for the surging youngster.

It was the first time Coutinho has had a hand in at least three goals in a single game since August 2020, when he helped Bayern Munich to their remarkable 8-2 demolition of his parent club Barcelona in the Champions League – you have to go back to December 2019 for the last such instance that occurred in a league match.

Coutinho's struggles since leaving Liverpool have been well-documented, with the talented attacking midfielder struggling to find his niche at Barca and Bayern, but Gerrard is enjoying watching his old team-mate again.

He said: "Looking at Philippe's performance tonight, not just his goal and assists, if you don't love watching that you shouldn't be watching football.

"That was absolutely beautiful, some of the stuff he has done.

"It was vintage Philippe Coutinho tonight. He's certainly getting back close to where he was when the whole world was speaking about him.

"He's still got improvements to do from a physical point of view but in terms of his technical ability, you don't play for Brazil that many times or become a global superstar without that talent.

"He will get better and better. He is a joy to work with."

Ramsey, 20, is still waiting for recognition at international level with England, though Gerrard – who represented the Three Lions 114 times – is adamant the gifted midfielder is on the cusp of a call-up.

Gerrard did not want any comparisons made between himself and Ramsey, though he reckons the Villa academy product "is right up there" in terms of the standard of players he featured alongside.

"Listen he's not following in anyone's footsteps, Jacob Ramsey is Jacob Ramsey," Gerrard continued.

"He's going to be a terrific player and it won't be too long before the whole country are watching him, I'm sure, because he's in a top place.

"I know the level of the England players, I've been around it, and have enough experience to know it's only a matter of time but let's all be sensible and keep calm about it.

"I want him to make his own headlines with his football. He is a top talent, I'm loving every moment of working with him. He is getting stronger with each game because we're giving him the platform to express himself. He is in a wonderful place."

Duncan Ferguson hailed the work Wayne Rooney has done at Derby County as the former England captain acknowledged he is "flattered" by reports of Everton's interest.

Rooney, England's record goalscorer who had two spells at boyhood club Everton either side his trophy-laden stint at Manchester United, moved into management in 2020 at Derby, where he played out his final year as a player.

In his first half season at the club, Rooney kept Derby up on the final day. However, the Championship club's financial woes came to a head in September when they filed for administration, which was subsequently followed by a 12-point deduction and then a further nine-point penalty.

Yet against the odds, Rooney has Derby off the foot of the table and eight points from safety. 

Everton, meanwhile, sacked Rafael Benitez on Sunday after a defeat to lowly Norwich City capped a dismal run of just one win in 13 Premier League games. They sit 16th, six points above the relegation zone.


Ferguson, as he did in 2019 before Carlo Ancelotti arrived, has taken interim charge and will oversee Saturday's clash with Steven Gerrard's Aston Villa, but Rooney – along with Frank Lampard and Fabio Cannavaro – is a reported candidate, with Belgium having rebuffed an approach for Roberto Martinez.

Asked about the rumours during Friday's media conference ahead of Derby's contest with rivals Nottingham Forest, Rooney said: "I'm the same as everyone else. I see the speculation on social media and in the papers.

"Of course, Everton is a club I grew up supporting and I'm flattered to be brought up in those conversations. But I know Everton will know for them to have any communication with me, they have to go through the administrators.

"I think it's all hearsay as there has been no approach. My focus is on Derby."

Rooney was brought up in Ferguson's own media conference, and the Scot said: "I'm not going to drag on too many names who would be a good fit, but certainly Wayne's done very well at Derby, he's an Evertonian.

"He could be one candidate of many and he's proved himself as a very good manager."


Ferguson – who revealed Real Madrid manager Ancelotti had contacted him this week to offer advice – was pressed on whether he would like the opportunity to manage Everton.

"Maybe, down the line, one day – I always dream about becoming Everton manager – but I've not quite got that experience," he answered.

"My job at the moment is to take the upcoming games, steady the ship and the club will go through a process of identifying the new manager. 

"You never know in football, but my job at the moment is to focus on the next game and that's it. 

"We need a winning manager. A manager who can come and win games of football, build something and get us back up the league."

Everton have taken just five points in their last 12 Premier League matches (W1 D2 L9), the fewest in a 12-game span since earning four points between August and October 1994, and asked about Benitez's departure, Ferguson replied: "I think the results weren't there, we weren't too surprised, I don't think Rafa would be too surprised."

Saturday's game with Villa has plenty of side stories. Liverpool great Gerrard was on the winning side against Everton more often than he was against any other opponent in the Premier League (16), while Lucas Digne is returning to Goodison Park just over a week after he left due to a falling out with Benitez.

Philippe Coutinho and Steven Gerrard are back in tandem, nine years after they first began to forge an alliance at Liverpool.

Gerrard referred to Coutinho as a friend this week, but he is also set to be his boss at Aston Villa after the Brazilian agreed to join from Barcelona.

The theory is that if anyone can get a tune out of Coutinho, it should be his former Liverpool captain, given the strong relationship they had on the pitch, which has endured in the years since.

Barcelona hoped Coutinho would be a leader in their orchestra, but instead his displays often struck a bum note, and the Blaugrana are happy to have offloaded one of the most expensive signings in their history.

Exactly how much they have ended up paying Liverpool for Coutinho is unclear, given the various clauses that were in the January 2018 deal, but he cost the Catalans giants well over £100million, and the return on that investment was far from what was expected.

In LaLiga, he played 76 times, starting 51 games, and managed 17 goals and nine assists. Overall, he had 26 goals and 13 assists in 106 games.

Gerrard will be hoping the 29-year-old Coutinho can sprinkle some magic at Villa, having already shown his qualities in the Premier League.

After a slow start at Liverpool, his performances came on leaps and bounds; across his final two and a half seasons with the Reds, Coutinho managed 38 goals and 24 assists in 99 matches.

In this World Cup year, Coutinho will want to be playing regularly. Such a prospect was off the table at Barcelona, where planning for the long-term future is the order of the day, along with hacking down the wage bill.

Coutinho made an encouraging start at Barcelona, and across all competitions he managed 10 goals and six assists in just 22 games across his first half-season with the Blaugrana.

In 2018-19, he played 54 times and finished with 11 goals and five assists, with his productivity already in decline. From an average of 0.97 goal involvements (goals and assists) per 90 minutes in that honeymoon period after first arriving from Liverpool, his contribution shrank to 0.43 involvements per 90 in his first full season.

In an all-conquering Bayern side, that bounced back up to 0.84 goal involvements per 90 minutes in the 2019-20 campaign, but Coutinho could not crack on at that pace once back at Camp Nou.

Last term, as he made just fitful contributions, his involvements averaged out at 0.57 per 90, and this season's rate was just 0.3 as his inevitable exit approached.

In his final half-season at Anfield, the former Inter winger was contributing 1.2 goal involvements per game as his Reds form peaked.

Across his Reds career, Coutinho scored 19 Premier League goals from outside the penalty area, Opta said. Only Gerrard has scored more for the club from outside the box (33).

Since returning to Barcelona from Bayern, Barcelona have tended to do better when Coutinho has played no part in games.

When he has been involved, either as a starter or substitute, they have won just nine of 24 LaLiga games for a 37.5 per cent success rate, averaging 1.4 points and 1.5 goals.

But without him they have won 23 of 33 (69.7 per cent) in LaLiga, losing only three times, averaging 2.3 points and 2.4 goals per game.

It is little wonder he has played just 26 per cent of minutes across all competitions for Barcelona this season. Injuries have blighted his Barcelona career, and if this is the end, with a loan potentially leading to a sale, then all parties will be happy to move on.

Villa are signing a special player, one that Gerrard still likes to tag as a "magician", but also a footballer who perhaps needs a reminder of those old tricks in his repertoire.

If Gerrard can bring back that spark, that trickery with end results, Villa will be all the better for it.

Aston Villa have pulled off a significant coup by agreeing to sign Barcelona midfielder Philippe Coutinho on loan for the rest of the season.

The Brazil playmaker returns to the Premier League four years after leaving Liverpool to join Barca in a big-money move.

Coutinho will be reunited with his former Reds team-mate Steven Gerrard, who was appointed as Villa boss in November.

The 29-year-old Coutinho, who is contracted to Catalan giants Barca until June 2023, spent a loan spell with Bayern Munich in the 2019-20 season.

He has endured an injury-hit time at Camp Nou, with Barca attempting to cut him from their squad in the last off-season as they looked to clear room on the wage bill to not only register new signings, but also keep hold of Lionel Messi.

No buyer could be found for Coutinho at the time, but he is now on the move, at least temporarily, to Villa, who are 13th in the Premier League.

Villa said: "Aston Villa and FC Barcelona have agreed terms for Philippe Coutinho to spend the rest of this season on loan at Villa Park.

"The agreement, which is subject to the player completing a medical and receiving a work permit, also includes an option to buy and Philippe will travel to Birmingham in the next 48 hours."

Coutinho has made 16 Barca appearances across all competitions this season, starting five times and scoring two goals.

Across his time in Spain, he helped Barca win two LaLiga titles, the Copa del Rey twice and the Supercopa de Espana, scoring 26 goals in 106 appearances in all competitions. He scored 17 times in LaLiga.


Gerrard had refused to be drawn on talk of Coutinho joining Villa during a press conference on Thursday, but he lavished praise on the "magician".

"Sixty-three caps for Brazil, a serial winner, was incredible at Liverpool, so I can understand why he's linked to a lot of football clubs," said the former England midfielder.

"I can understand why a lot of supporters up and down the country are speaking about him. I don't think you get a nickname as a magician if you're not a special footballer, so he's someone I have an incredible amount of respect for."

Gerrard added: "I think if you go and have a look at his Wikipedia page, I think you'll see a serial winner wherever he's been.

"I've got nothing but positive things to say about the player. He's a friend of mine, so if I'm asked the questions I can speak for as long as you want."

Coutinho won the Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Champions League during his season in Germany with Bayern.

Aston Villa have pulled off a significant coup by agreeing to sign Barcelona midfielder Philippe Coutinho on loan for the rest of the season.

The Brazil playmaker returns to the Premier League four years after leaving Liverpool to join Barca in a big-money move.

Coutinho will be reunited with his former Reds team-mate Steven Gerrard, who was appointed as Villa boss in November.

The 29-year-old Coutinho, who is contracted to Catalan giants Barca until June 2023, spent a loan spell with Bayern Munich in the 2019-20 season.

He has endured an injury-hit time at Camp Nou, with Barca attempting to cut him from their squad in the last off-season as they looked to clear room on the wage bill to not only register new signings, but also keep hold of Lionel Messi.

No buyer could be found for Coutinho at the time, but he is now on the move, at least temporarily, to Villa, who are 13th in the Premier League.

Villa said: "Aston Villa and FC Barcelona have agreed terms for Philippe Coutinho to spend the rest of this season on loan at Villa Park.

"The agreement, which is subject to the player completing a medical and receiving a work permit, also includes an option to buy and Philippe will travel to Birmingham in the next 48 hours."

Coutinho has made 16 Barca appearances across all competitions this season, starting five times and scoring two goals.

Steven Gerrard described Philippe Coutinho as "a serial winner" and a "special footballer" amid rumours Aston Villa want to sign the Barcelona midfielder.

Coutinho is reportedly keen to secure a return to the Premier League this month after four years at Camp Nou in which he has struggled for consistent form and fitness.

Barca, meanwhile, are said to be eager to remove the Brazil international from their wage bill to free up funds to register new signing Ferran Torres and explore further options in the January window.

Gerrard was Liverpool captain during Coutinho's impressive spell at Anfield, in which the former Inter star was twice named the club's player of the season by both fans and team-mates.

There is speculation the Villa boss would like to reunite with Coutinho, and he was certainly not prepared to rule out such a move.


Asked on Thursday about the rumours around the 29-year-old, Gerrard said: "Sixty-three caps for Brazil, a serial winner, was incredible at Liverpool, so I can understand why he's linked to a lot of football clubs.

"I can understand why a lot of supporters up and down the country are speaking about him. I don't think you get a nickname as a magician if you're not a special footballer, so he's someone I have an incredible amount of respect for.

"But I don't want to add to any speculation, because he belongs to Barcelona."


Coutinho has won two LaLiga titles, two Copas del Rey and the Supercopa de Espana with Barca, scoring 26 goals in 106 appearances in all competitions.

However, he has found it difficult to establish himself as a key player during a period of upheaval at the club and has only started 15 games since the start of the 2020-21 season.

Coutinho spent 2019-20 on loan at Bayern Munich, winning the treble of Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Champions League titles, but he could not convince the German giants to make the move permanent.

"He won two league titles and two Copa del Reys with Barcelona," added Gerrard.

"I think if you go and have a look at his Wikipedia page, I think you'll see a serial winner wherever he's been.

"I've got nothing but positive things to say about the player. He's a friend of mine, so if I'm asked the questions I can speak for as long as you want."

Leeds United's home clash with Aston Villa on Tuesday has been postponed due to ongoing COVID-19 problems coinciding with injury issues within Marcelo Bielsa's squad.

Leeds fielded a depleted side in a 4-1 loss against Arsenal last Saturday before the Premier League announced Bielsa's side would not face Liverpool on Boxing Day due to having an insufficient number of first-team players to fulfil the game.

Villa were set to be Leeds' next opponents at Elland Road, but the league have accepted the Yorkshire club does not have the "required number of players available for the match (13 outfield players and one goalkeeper)".

Leeds confirmed there had been no new positive tests within the playing squad. However, the majority of those who tested positive before the Liverpool game remain in isolation.

"The league is aware that the decisions this week to postpone matches will disappoint supporters, and understands their frustrations at a special time of year when fans look forward to attending and watching football games," the Premier League's statement said.

"The league aims to provide as much clarity as possible, but unfortunately postponements sometimes have to be made at short notice, as safety is our priority. 

"Where possible, the league will endeavour to keep supporters updated if matches become at risk on a matchday."

Villa's meeting with Chelsea on Sunday remains set to go ahead, though they will be without manager Steven Gerrard after the former Liverpool midfielder tested positive for COVID-19.

The board reiterated its stance for their Premier League schedule to continue as intended following an emergency meeting between clubs on Monday, despite coronavirus ravaging fixtures throughout the top four tiers of English football.

"The board assesses applications to postpone matches on a case-by-case basis, based on existing rules and adapted COVID-19 postponement guidance, implemented in light of the new Omicron variant," the statement continued.

"While recognising a number of clubs are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks, it is the clubs’ and the league’s collective intention to continue the current fixture schedule where safely possible.

"The health and wellbeing of all concerned remains our priority and the league will continue to monitor and reflect public health guidance, always proceeding with caution."

In total, 14 games across England's top flight have been postponed in December.

Jurgen Klopp says he did not feel under pressure pitting his wits against Steven Gerrard but likened the way Liverpool made hard work of beating Aston Villa to "tooth pain".

Reds legend Gerrard suffered a 1-0 defeat on his return to Anfield as Villa manager, Mohamed Salah scoring the only goal of the game from the penalty spot after Tyrone Mings brought him down midway through the second half.

Liverpool dominated the game and Villa failed to register a shot on target, but they might have had a late penalty of their own for a challenge from Alisson on former Reds striker Danny Ings.

That is seven wins in a row in all competitions for the second-placed Merseyside club, who are a point behind Premier League leaders Manchester City.

Gerrard was given a great reception by the fans who adored him during his outstanding career, but Liverpool manager Klopp has no problem with the club legend constantly being talked up as his successor.

He told Match of the Day: "The good thing is I have no problem with this sort of thing. I will not be here forever, so I would love it to be Stevie! But no I did not feel under pressure today."

Klopp did have an issue with seeing his side have a few nervy moments with such a slender lead as Villa showed more ambition late on after spending the majority of the game camped in their own half.

He said: "The first 75 minutes was incredible football. It's difficult. The opponent defended compact. It looked really good, we played in the spaces we wanted to play, but we did not finish the situations, which is tricky.

"We came out in the second half and knew we had to keep going – and improve in moments. We were not calm enough in the last pass. We kept going.

"We scored with the penalty, then the relief was obviously too big and it was an unnecessary open game. Like tooth pain, nobody needs that. There are areas to improve even when we win football games, which is good."

Salah has either scored or assisted a goal in 14 consecutive Premier League appearances, just one off Jamie Vardy's record of 15 between August and December 2015.

The Egypt forward's goal was his 21st of the season, and he has converted his past 15 penalties in the Premier League, with only Matt Le Tissier (23) scoring more in a row in the competition between January 1994 and April 2000.

Mohamed Salah scored his 21st goal of the season as Liverpool beat Aston Villa 1-0 on the day Steven Gerrard returned to Anfield.

Villa boss Gerrard was given a great reception by fans who worshipped him during an outstanding playing career that saw the former captain establish himself as a Liverpool legend.

Gerrard was unable to prevent Liverpool from extending their winning run to seven matches, Salah tucking home a 67th-minute penalty after he was brought down by Tyrone Mings.

Jurgen Klopp's in-form side dominated Villa, although Danny Ings may have been unfortunate not to be awarded a late penalty, and second-placed Liverpool remain a point behind Premier League leaders Manchester City.

Sadio Mane thought he had been pulled back by Matty Cash in the penalty area early on, and Emiliano Martinez showed sharp reactions to keep out Andy Robertson's header as the Reds applied pressure from the start.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's dipping long-range drive was just over the crossbar before the dangerous Robertson went down under a challenge from Marvelous Nakamba, but both referee Stuart Attwell and the VAR again saw nothing untoward.

The agile Martinez stuck out his left hand to superbly deny Salah at his near post after the prolific forward had cut in from the right, with Villa standing firm to weather the storm in the rain.

Martinez palmed the unmarked Virgil van Dijk's powerful header into the Kop and Diogo Jota replaced Oxlade-Chamberlain 12 minutes into the second half.

There was huge relief for the majority of a packed crowd when Salah made the breakthrough midway through the second half, firing into the bottom-right corner after Mings upended the Egypt international with a clumsy challenge.

Alisson might have been lucky not to concede a penalty when Ings went down late on after a mix-up between the Liverpool goalkeeper and Joel Matip, as Villa were unable to force a late equaliser.

What does it mean? Relentless Reds march on

Salah was Liverpool's match-winner yet again as he earned and converted the decisive penalty to end battling Villa's resistance.

The Merseyside club have only conceded twice in seven matches and stay just behind City, who beat Wolves 1-0 earlier in the day, while third-placed Chelsea needed a last-gasp Jorginho penalty to see off Leeds United 3-2.

This was a second defeat of his Villa tenure for Gerrard, who made 710 appearances for Liverpool, and they did not pose a threat until late in the game.

Spot-on Salah

Salah has now found the back of the net with his last 15 penalties in the Premier League. Only Southampton great Matthew Le Tissier (23 in a row between January 1994 and April 2000) has scored many consecutive spot-kicks in the competition.

Former Chelsea and Roma man Salah had six goal attempts here, hitting the target with two.

Marauding Robertson a massive threat

Robertson was a standout performer for the Reds and gave a Cash a tough afternoon. The Scotland left-back provided three key passes and made the most passes by a Liverpool player in the Villa half with 50. He also came close to an opening goal in the first half.

What's next?

Liverpool face struggling Newcastle United at Anfield on Thursday, two days after Villa are reunited with their former boss Dean Smith when they travel to tackle Norwich City.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp is expecting Steven Gerrard to "fight with all he has" when Liverpool host Aston Villa in the Premier League on Saturday.

Reds legend Gerrard was appointed manager of Villa last month following the dismissal of Dean Smith and has won three of his first four games in charge of the Midlands club.

The former England midfielder won a multitude of trophies during his playing days at Liverpool, including the Champions League in 2005 along with three EFL Cups, two FA Cups, the UEFA Cup and UEFA Super Cup.

He started his coaching career leading Liverpool's Under-18s side before joining Rangers in 2018, and last season led the Gers to their first Scottish Premiership title in a decade, ending Celtic's dominance.

Speaking ahead of their meeting at Anfield, Klopp was glowing in his praise of Gerrard as a person, saying: "To have this kind of relationship with people says a lot about Stevie.

"Honestly, since I've been here, I haven't heard one [bad] word... 'Stevie is a great player, great player, but…' there was not one 'but'. Everybody's only positive. 

"Then you meet him and you realise what a great guy he is actually. The talent he had could have led to a lot of strange characteristics, but obviously he's a really good guy. Which is nice.

"So everybody's happy for him that he's doing well. Now he's coming back to his club, it is his club. Not for 95 minutes I know, all fine. It will be strange for him, but he will fight with all he has."

Klopp was also asked about the future of Nat Phillips. The centre back started the 2-1 Champions League win against Milan at San Siro on Tuesday, but suffered a facial injury that his manager said is likely to keep him out of action for "four to five weeks". 

Phillips played 20 games for Liverpool last season, with 18 starts, after injuries to Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip, but his start in Milan was his first in any competition this season, and the 24-year-old has been linked with a move away in the January transfer window.

"I'm very happy that Nat is here, to be honest," Klopp told reporters. "But we will not block anything – I think, at least, it's not the plan anymore. But who knows what happens until January, then we would talk completely new.

"It's of course not the luckiest moment for this, but by the end of January he will be completely fine, definitely – or probably in the middle of January, I don't know exactly.

"So we will see that it will be completely fine. It's not complicated, it's just not cool. We will see what that means exactly, but in the long-term, it's no problem. Everything will be fine for Nat, definitely."

Steven Gerrard insists he is focused on delivering "a positive result for Aston Villa" ahead of his return to Anfield, claiming the "noise" surrounding the game does not affect him.

Gerrard played 710 times for boyhood club Liverpool, winning the Champions League, two FA Cups, three EFL Cups, the UEFA Cup and a UEFA Super Cup in the process.

The Liverpool legend will face his former club for the first time on Saturday as Aston Villa boss, having won three of his first four games since leaving Rangers to replace Dean Smith.

"The noise is for other people to get excited about," Gerrard said ahead of Saturday's game. "For me, it's about preparing the team in the best way I can to try to get a positive result for Aston Villa.

"For everyone else, it's a massive occasion. For me, it's three points, it's a big game of football, and it's 90 minutes that we need to focus on.

"If I'm on the bus, heading back down the M6 towards Birmingham, and I’m not the most popular at Anfield, so be it."

Gerrard did, however, say that he understood why his return had generated excitement and acknowledged he is looking forward to the reunion.

"I really respect and understand all the noise around the game for obvious reasons, because I'm going back to a club [where] I spent many years," Gerrard said. 

"It brings a smile to my face for a couple of reasons. One, because, obviously, I've got a good relationship with a lot of people at the club.

"I had a fantastic time there, a really good journey, I'm a local boy, [they're] the team I supported growing up, and I always will support that team – of course I will.

"But at the same time, it brings a smile to my face because I have the opportunity to go there and compete against a good team, a good manager with the opportunity to try to win the game, and that's my main focus."

Gerrard has overseen defensive improvement in his short Villa tenure, conceding four goals in four games versus 20 in 11 before that, but he is keen to see his side on the front foot.

"We're a good team, we've got top players, we're a threat, and we want to make it as difficult as we can for Liverpool," Gerrard added.

"We're at our best when we play with controlled aggression and we're on the front foot. At this level, if you're passive in any area of the pitch, you can be punished quickly."

Jurgen Klopp is certain that Steven Gerrard will go on to become a Liverpool manager.

Gerrard takes his Aston Villa side to Anfield on Saturday, returning to his former club for the first time as a manager or a player.

The former England midfielder, who is a club great at Liverpool, won the Champions League in 2005 along with three EFL Cups, the FA Cup and UEFA Cup with the Reds during a glittering career.

He started his coaching career within Liverpool's youth set up before joining Rangers in 2018. Last season, he led them to their first Scottish Premiership title in a decade, ending Celtic's dominance.

Villa came calling at the start of November in the wake of Dean Smith's dismissal and Gerrard has overseen three victories from his opening four Premier League games in charge, only losing to Liverpool's title rivals Manchester City.

Gerrard has long been tipped to take over at Liverpool, possibly even from Klopp, whose current deal runs until the end of the 2023-24 season.

And Klopp – who began Friday's news conference by joking he would not take any questions over Gerrard – has no doubt the 41-year-old will manage Liverpool, though believes the right timing is crucial.

"Yes, I think, absolutely - the only problem is when is the right moment for that?" Klopp said about the prospect of Gerrard managing the Reds.

"Not only with Stevie but look at Frank [Lampard] at Chelsea, a similar story. Stevie's doing really well, he's very young from a manager's point of view.

"So it's about when he takes the job, not that he's not able to do it, but when does he want to do it?

"Is it the last job, the second or third job or whatever? Those are questions I can't answer but yes, I think it will definitely happen and it will be good for everybody."

Asked if Gerrard must first prove his credentials with Villa, Klopp added: "I'm not the right person to answer that.

"It's not up to me to make those kind of decisions, I don't know what you have to do before you become Liverpool manager.

"I know people say you have to win things but I think it's more important to win things while you are here. You can win things in the past but never win something again.

"Everything Stevie has done so far looks good and is going in the right direction. I cannot see a scenario where I am involved in that decision, but who knows what the future will bring!"

It is set to be a highly emotional return for Gerrard, who made 710 appearances across all competitions for Liverpool, though the German insisted there is no room for sentiment during the contest.

"It's a wonderful story," Klopp said. "Stevie is already an experienced coach, he's doing the job for a while, knows exactly how to approach games. He probably has no idea how it will feel when he steps into the dug-out.

"I had a similar feeling the first time I went back to Mainz, and the times I went back with Liverpool to Dortmund. It's strange. But I could handle it, Stevie can handle it. 

"Before I will shake hands, after I will shake hands, but in between I will go full throttle and he will go full throttle.

"I remember when we scored with Dortmund at Mainz, I forgot everything about my history, I was celebrating like a crazy devil. He has every right to do that as well, I just hope he has no reason for it."

Klopp also suggested Liverpool need to use the emotion of the occasion to create a vibrant Anfield atmosphere as they look to either keep pace with or leapfrog current leaders City, while third-place Chelsea are also in action on Saturday.

"Stevie might say there is no sentiment but from our point of view there is sentiment, we love Stevie, but we are all professionals," he said.

"Stevie can get the best reception in the world because he deserves it but in the 95 minutes we need everybody behind us. We have to throw everything in, use Anfield, and then it's difficult for each opponent."

History is not on Gerrard's side. Former players managing against the Reds at Anfield in the Premier League have lost 14 of their last 16 visits (W1 D1), with Kevin Keegan the last ex-Liverpool player to win there in 2003.

Trent Alexander-Arnold is looking forward to welcoming back his childhood hero Steven Gerrard but insisted feelings will be put to one side until after the game.

Liverpool great Gerrard, who left Rangers for Aston Villa in November, returns to Anfield to manage against his former side on Saturday.

Villa, who parted ways with Dean Smith following a run of five straight Premier League defeats, have won three of their opening four games under Gerrard, with the only blemish on their record coming in a credible 2-1 loss against Manchester City.

The Villans' form over the last four games would have them third in the league, with only City and Liverpool (both four) recording more victories, but returning Reds have lost 14 of their last 16 top-flight visits to Anfield as managers.

Alexander-Arnold is relishing meeting up with former Liverpool captain Gerrard, though he insisted he will save the pleasantries until after the final whistle.

"It will be strange," the right-back said to Liverpool's official website of Gerrard's homecoming. "The fans, it will obviously bring back a lot of memories for them. It will be good for him to return to where it all happened for him personally. 

"As players and people who are so close to it, we can't really let our feelings get involved. 

"[He was] someone who made a lot happen. Someone I massively looked up to. The heart and soul of the club for many years, someone who embodied everything about the club. 

"Someone it was really hard not to look up to; I think even opposition fans and people who wanted to hate him, you had to respect what he was doing on the pitch. 

"He showed a level of consistency not many players can, over a long period of time. There was a lot for me, growing up, that I admired about him.

"For me, growing up him being such an influential person for me – watching him and admiring him so much – I need to try to put that to one side and focus on the game and it's about winning that game, that’s all that matters. 

"And then after the game we can focus on those feelings. Going into it, we want to win the game. We know we have the chance to, so it's about coming away with the three points."

Gerrard is looking to become the first Villa manager to win his opening two Premier League away games since John Gregory (five in 1998), but Alexander-Arnold remembers being there when the former England international started his coaching career.

"He was coming down now and then to do his coaching badges," he continued. 

"It was good to get an insight into his way of life and obviously the way he saw the game. It was important for me to try to learn and study, and good to pick his brain from time to time and learn from him really. 

"At a young age, not many people get the chance to meet their heroes and effectively be trained and taught by them. It was massive for me, I was grateful for that."

Liverpool, who are a point behind leaders City, will be without Nat Phillips for Villa's visit after the centre-back sustained a cheekbone fracture in the 2-1 Champions League victory over Milan on Tuesday.

Phillips, though, does not require surgery after further diagnosis confirmed the extent of the injury and he is likely to return to action in the new year.

When Steven Gerrard was appointed Aston Villa boss at the start of November, there was one fixture fans, pundits and, possibly even Gerrard himself, will have immediately looked for.

Villa visit Liverpool on Saturday, as Gerrard makes his first managerial return to the club where he became a legend.

Gerrard won the Champions League, two FA Cups, three EFL Cups, the UEFA Cup and a European Super Cup across his Liverpool career. The Premier League title, of course, evaded him. His tally of 710 games in all competitions is the third-most in the club's history.

A first league title of his career did arrive last season, as manager of Rangers, who ended Celtic's quest for a 10th successive Scottish Premiership title.

Now, Gerrard heads back to his former stomping ground on the back of an impressive start with Villa. He has won three of his four matches in charge, losing only to Liverpool's title rivals Manchester City.

But history is not on Gerrard's side when it comes to former Liverpool greats going up against their former side at Anfield.

Ex-players managing against the Reds at Anfield in the Premier League have lost 14 of their last 16 visits (W1 D1), with the last win coming in 2003. Will Gerrard be able to buck that trend?


Return of the king(s)

Stats Perform has dived into Opta's archival data to assess how three great Liverpool players coped in their respective returns to Anfield as managers of opposition teams – Graeme Souness, Kevin Keegan and Kenny Dalglish. 

Those three club legends visited Anfield on 18 occasions in the Premier League, across a span of 16 years from 1992 to 2008. Between them, the trio managed just three wins.

Souness did not claim any victories from six trips back, across spells with Southampton, Newcastle United and Blackburn Rovers. Indeed, five defeats and one draw (one point from a possible 18) makes his record the poorest of the three. His worst result was a 4-0 defeat with Blackburn in 2004.

Keegan also lost on five occasions at Anfield in the Premier League, but did claim two wins as well, guiding Newcastle to a 2-0 success in 1993-94 and earning a 2-1 triumph with Manchester City in May 2003.

However, Keegan's most memorable return to his former club was a defeat. In April 1996, with Newcastle fighting Alex Ferguson's Manchester United for the title, they went down 4-3 in a Premier League classic.

Stan Collymore scored a famous stoppage-time winner to deal an ultimately fatal blow to Newcastle's title challenge – the Magpies having squandered the 10-point lead they held at Christmas.


Just under a year before, in May 1995, 'King' Kenny Dalglish took his Blackburn side to Anfield needing a win to guarantee the Premier League crown. They were also going up against United in the title tussle.

Liverpool had little to play for. They were already sure of a European place and a victory would mean United could win the title by beating West Ham.

"The only thing in our minds that afternoon, though, was winning the game," ex-Liverpool midfielder Jamie Redknapp told the Reds' website. "We're professionals and we want to win every game we play."

Liverpool did indeed inflict a 2-1 defeat on their former player-manager, who won three First Division titles in his first spell at the club, with Redknapp scoring a stunning winner. 

"It was one of the strangest moments of my life on a football field," Redknapp said. Fortunately for Dalglish, Blackburn and Liverpool's fans, the Reds' win did not hand United the title, with Ferguson's team only able to draw with the Hammers.

That loss was one of four Dalglish suffered at Anfield as an opposition manager. He claimed one win, in 1993.

Remarkably, Dalglish took Newcastle to Anfield in the 1996-97 season and, just under a year on from Keegan's famous defeat on Merseyside, the Magpies again lost 4-3. Steve McManaman, Robbie Fowler and Patrik Berger got the goals for Liverpool.

The new kid on the block

Gerrard will have to ignore the history books heading into this one, but he should not head to Anfield with in fear.

Villa have made an impressive start under their new manager. Across their four league games under Gerrard, they have scored 7 goals, with only four teams (Liverpool, Manchester City, Watford and Chelsea) netting more in that time.

They may have only created 34 chances, ranking them 12th in the league, but their nine opportunities crafted from set-pieces during Gerrard's first few weeks puts them second in the competition behind Watford (12).


That average of 2.25 chances from set-pieces per game under Gerrard is an improvement on the 1.6 each match across Dean Smith's his 10 Premier League games in charge this term, while the new-look Villa have also managed seven shots from set-piece situations already, the joint-most in the league.

Villa's defending has also improved. Whereas the Villans' defence was the third-poorest in the competition throughout the opening 10 top-flight matches (19 conceded), Gerrard's side have only let in four goals.

While Liverpool are in excellent form – even if they did only snatch a 1-0 win in the dying embers against Wolves – Gerrard can return with confidence.

And given he is often cited as a Liverpool manager in the making, this could be the first of several auditions for the Anfield hot seat.

Steven Gerrard could not wait any longer for a chance like the Aston Villa job, according to former Liverpool left-back Stephen Warnock.

Liverpool great Gerrard took his first job in management at Rangers in 2018, guiding the club to their first Scottish Premiership title in a decade last term after finishing second in consecutive seasons.

Gerrard decided to swap Ibrox for Villa Park in November after now Norwich City head coach Dean Smith parted ways with Villa following five straight Premier League defeats.

The former midfielder has started well with his new team, registering three wins from his opening four matches, with the only blemish on his record so far a credible 2-1 home loss against league leaders Manchester City.

Indeed, since Gerrard's appointment, Villa sit third in the English top flight over the last four games, with only City and Liverpool (both four) winning more games.

Former team-mate Warnock, who played for Liverpool between 2002 and 2007, believes Gerrard made the right move by taking up an unmissable opportunity with the Villans.

"To get an offer like Aston Villa, I think it was just an opportunity that he couldn't turn down," Warnock told Stats Perform.

"When you think of those types of jobs, how often do they come up? It was one of those situations. If he had waited until the end of the season, would that job have come up at the end of the season? I don't think it would. 

"Then it's two or three years waiting for another huge club. So, I think it was the perfect time for him to make the move.

"What he wants to do now is, he wants to test himself against the best managers in world football. In the Premier League, I'd say we've probably got the best four, arguably, when you look at [Pep] Guardiola, [Jurgen] Klopp, [Thomas] Tuchel and then [Antonio] Conte coming into that category as well.

"So you're putting yourself against some incredible managers; then he's going into somewhere where the club is ambitious and they've got finances, and they're going to back you in the transfer market. 

"There's an opportunity to draw players into the Premier League. Aston Villa itself is steeped in history, he feels that he can push them up the league, he can start putting them into European places. 

"Then it's a very healthy club to be at. I'm fortunate, I played for Aston Villa, I understand the magnitude of the club, how big it is, the pressure that comes with it, that will suit Steven Gerrard down to the ground."

Gerrard heads back to Anfield on Saturday to take on Klopp's side, though only three ex-Reds have managed victory on their return in 18 attempts in the Premier League. Kevin Keegan overcame his old side twice with Newcastle United and Manchester City, while Kenny Dalglish triumphed with his Blackburn Rovers outfit in 1993.

Nevertheless, Warnock expects Gerrard to want to prove a point in his Merseyside homecoming in what could seemingly serve as an early managerial interview, should Klopp ever decide to vacate his role at Liverpool.

"It's going to be a special moment for him in many different ways," Warnock said of Gerrard taking on his former side.

"He used to walk out from that tunnel as a player, not as a manager and especially not on the opposition bench. I mean, the occasion is going to be big, because Steven Gerrard returning to Anfield is a huge thing. 

"The fans will want to see the style of football that Aston Villa play, I think they'll be very interested to see how his team is set up. They'll applaud him win, lose or draw, he'll get a magnificent reception. 

"But Steven will go there wanting to get a result, he'll want to prove the type of manager he is, he'll want to upset Liverpool, because that puts him down on the radar. 

"It puts in people's minds that he's doing a good job at Aston Villa. Now, that is something that his team... he's got to instil that into his team as well. 

"He's got to get across that they're capable of going to Anfield and winning. And that's what winners do. That's what the best do, the elite players do. And the elite managers do as well. And that's what he's going to try and achieve."

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