Jack Grealish training ground confession may hint at change of striker from Aston Villa to Liverpool


Dean Smith looks set to mix his bag at Anfield on Sunday. The Aston Villa boss under fire will be desperate to see a reaction from his players after taking just two points out of a possible 12 since the lock was lifted.

Matt Targett looks set for a three-week sideline after tweaking his hamstrings against the Wolves on Sunday, which means a change to the left rear will be applied to Merseyside.

Neil Taylor, Kortney Hause, the return of Frédéric Guilbert and Ahmed Elmohamady are the runners and riders to take the place of Targett at the rear position.

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However, a more pressing problem for Villa was at the other end of the field.

Keinan Davis missed two big chances against Sheffield United while in games since, he has touched the ball just inside the box three times in 270 minutes of football against Chelsea (0), Newcastle (2) and Wolves (1). Mbwana Samatta, on the other hand, had six hits in the penalty area in the same three games.

Confidence at the front is currently there. Hause and Elmohamady have each scored in four games since Restart’s kickoff, with Villa’s attacking play currently far from enough to prevent relegation.

Against the wolves, Davis was his usual bullish self. The 22-year-old held the ball well, but again his middle position was too deep. Davis won 10 of his 32 duels against the Wolves’ back, but Samatta, his forward, was not on the same wavelength to recover the scraps and second balls.

Given Samatta’s problems in the last Villa games, Smith could turn to an unlikely source and accompany Anwar El Ghazi to associate Davis with his two-way attack.

Captain Jack Grealish’s comments about the winger caught the eye in an interview last month. The skipper said how El Ghazi continues to dominate finishing exercises in training.

“The fact that when it comes to finishing the exercises (in training), he’s always like the best, he always wins them,” said Grealish of El Ghazi.

“When he puts the ball on the edge of the surface during training or shooting exercises, his finishing ability is scary, it’s unbelievable. ”

El Ghazi caused trouble for Liverpool when he left Villa Park in November by intervening, including after only 30 seconds when he took the ball around Virgil van Djik before shooting Alisson in a golden shot.

In many games this season, Smith implored his Villa players to find El Ghazi on the first call before urging the Dutchman to float inside to try to create a scoring opportunity.

The 25-year-old has already played alone against Villa this year during the club’s attacking crisis, including against Watford in the 2-1 victory – Villa’s last victory in January.

El Ghazi has produced instinctive finishes against Everton, Burnley and Newcastle this season and, in all competitions, has scored six goals and helped seven.

The former Lille and Ajax player has been flattering to fall on the flanks this season, but with only six games left, a new position in the front could give El Ghazi and Villa that shot in the arm which they desperately need.


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