Liverpool v Aston Villa: Rodgers not taking Villa lightly

Brendan Rodgers is wary of the threat posed by Aston Villa ahead of injury-hit Liverpool's clash with Paul Lambert's side on Saturday.

Villa are unbeaten in their last three trips to Anfield; drawing 2-2 in the Premier League last season after securing a shock 3-1 win during the 2012-13 campaign.

The West Midlands club have picked up seven points from their first three Premier League matches this season, conceding only one goal in the process.

Liverpool will be expected to secure all three points on Merseyside this weekend, despite being hampered by injuries, but Rodgers will not be taking Villa lightly.

He said: "They've started well. I'm pleased for Paul because he's gone in and looked to bring in young players.

"The first season was difficult but now they've done well. It's been a tough game for us in the last couple of years."

Mario Balotelli could lead the line as a sole striker on his home debut in the absence of Daniel Sturridge, who suffered a thigh injury while away on England duty.

Liverpool have also lost Emre Can (ankle) during the international break, while Martin Skrtel (knock) is expected to miss out along with fellow defenders Glen Johnson and Jon Flanagan (both thigh).

Joe Allen will be assessed after the Wales midfielder sustained a knee problem in his country's 2-1 win in Andorra.

Rodgers' side have won two of their first three top-flight matches and have a UEFA Champions League clash against Ludogorets to look forward to at Anfield on Tuesday.

Aly Cissokho spent last season on loan at Liverpool and the Villa left-back is eager to get one over on his former club.

"Of course, when you play against your last team it is a special occasion," he told Villa's official website.

"It should be a big atmosphere and it is going to be good to face my old team-mates.

"I hope we are going to keep going like we have been over the past few weeks and continue our good form. This year we have started well. We are confident. We haven't lost any games yet.

"We are focused in our work. We just need to do what we have done in the last three league games and be strong defensively. It is going to be a good occasion.

"It would be good to keep that success going."

Tom Cleverley could make his Villa debut following his loan switch from Manchester United and Lambert will be hoping captain Ron Vlaar (calf) is passed fit.

Villa were also buoyed this week by Gabriel Agbonlahor's decision to sign a new four-year contract, and fans will be on tenterhooks to see if Christian Benteke's ongoing return to fitness results in a spot in the matchday squad.