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Liverpool v Aston Villa: McAllister proud of mental strength in Anfield ranks

First-team coach Gary McAllister has praised the Liverpool players for not "shying away" ahead of Saturday's Premier League meeting with Aston Vila.

The Merseysiders went into Wednesday's League Cup clash with Carlisle United at Anfield aiming for a confidence-boosting victory after a run of five games without a win - a period that included a 3-0 home defeat to West Ham and a listless 3-1 setback at arch-rivals Manchester United.

It did not materialise, though, with Brendan Rodgers' men requiring a penalty shoot-out to knock out the League Two side and secure a place in round four.

The performance has ramped up the focus on Rodgers' position with speculation inevitably linking former Borussia Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp with the job.

Former Scotland international McAllister was quick to back the players following the Carlisle game and praised their desire to knuckle down and play through what has been a tricky period.

He told reporters: "We have asked players to take a bit more responsibility, we had that against Carlisle but didn't worry their keeper enough.

"The players have got to trust themselves, they kept trying, nobody shied away.

"The past couple of seasons it might be a criticism of Liverpool that they've maybe tried to score the perfect goal, but the fact is we had a few shots at goal."

Liverpool - yet to confirm the severity of injury problems suffered by Christian Benteke (hamstring), Roberto Firmino (back) and Dejan Lovren (ankle) - have scored just four goals in their six Premier League games this season, although they are likely to provide more of an attacking threat with the return of Daniel Sturridge.

Sturridge sat out the Carlisle game after playing for just over an hour in last Sunday's 1-1 draw with Norwich City - his first appearance in five months due to a hip problem.

The England international is set to lead the Reds' attack against a Villa side buoyed by the midweek win over Birmingham City.

Rudy Gestede scored the only goal as Villa triumphed 1-0 and boss Tim Sherwood was pleased his club's supporters could now enjoy the bragging rights over their city rivals after successive Premier League defeats to Leicester City and West Brom.

He told AVTV HD: "I was delighted to send these great fans home extra happy.

"I know the fans were disappointed after Saturday [a 1-0 home loss against Albion] but so were me and the players.

"We wanted to put it right for the fans. We wanted to please them. And I thought they were fantastic. They stuck with us throughout the game.

"The win means everything to them. They have the bragging rights now.

"We got this one out of the way and got the win that we deserved.

"Now you go with a smile into training.

"You still work as hard. We won't work any less hard. It doesn't change what we do. If we win, we work hard. If we lose, we work hard. That's how we always go about it."

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