Liverpool Vs Aston Villa, Mon 6 Dec 2010

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Sotirios Kyrgiakos will take Jamie Carragher's place in central defence for Monday's Barclays Premier League encounter at home to Aston Villa as the vice-captain undergoes a shoulder operation.

Carragher sustained a dislocation in last weekend's defeat at Tottenham and is likely to be out for three months, leaving the team with only two senior centre-backs in the former Greece international and Martin Skrtel.

Manager Roy Hodgson will welcome back his first-choice players having left eight at home - only three of whom were injured - for the Europa League draw with Steaua Bucharest.

Captain Steven Gerrard is likely to be at least another week away from returning from a hamstring injury sustained on England duty last month while no date has been set for defender Daniel Agger's return.

Roy Hodgson expects former Reds boss Gerard Houllier to receive a warm welcome on his competitive return to Anfield.

But he hopes that is all he gets as the Englishman is keen for his side to continue their recent improvement, even taking into account last weekend's injury-time defeat at Tottenham.

Houllier sat alongside the man who now has his old job in the Liverpool dugout for Jamie Carragher's testimonial in September.

On Monday he will sit on the unfamiliar opposition bench where he will try to get one over on his former club, with whom he won the Carling Cup, FA Cup and UEFA Cup treble in 2001.

Houllier and Hodgson share many similarities and are close friends but that will count for nothing as Liverpool look to extend a four-match winning run at Anfield in all competitions.

"I have known Gerard for many years, since I went to Switzerland in 1990," said the current Liverpool manager.

"We have been friends for over 20 years, we've done a lot of work together in Europe for UEFA in the technical study groups and FIFA as well for that matter.

"I am delighted he is back in English football and I am certain he will get a very good reception when he comes back to Anfield because people appreciated the work he did for Liverpool.

"Like anyone in the Premier League, we all have difficult jobs on our hands and we know his team will be hard to beat, well organised and have some very good individual players.

"I am hoping we will carry on where we have left off in the last couple of games, particularly against West Ham (a 3-0 home win) and Tottenham (a 2-1 away defeat).

"If we can play at that level for the rest of the season I have high hopes we will do well."

Aston Villa winger Ashley Young is suspended.

Young collected his fifth booking of the campaign during the Carling Cup semi-final defeat against Birmingham in midweek and will have to serve a one-game ban. Midfielder Barry Bannan is also rated doubtful by Villa boss Houllier after being substituted with a groin injury against Blues.

Stephen Ireland and Robert Pires will come under consideration for a recall to the starting line-up. Former Liverpool striker Emile Heskey has resumed training following a knee problem but it is too early for him to be considered against the Reds.

Houllier expects a warm reception from Liverpool fans but he regrets the two surviving players from his era on Merseyside - Gerrard and Carragher - will be ruled out through injury.

Houllier lifted half-a-dozen trophies during his six years in charge at Anfield and helped the club out of the doldrums before leaving in 2004.

His focus is on helping Villa to move away from the bottom of the table but he has happy memories of his time at the Reds.

Houllier said: "I know the fans will welcome me, I'm sure because we had a close relationship and we worked together because the fans are part of the team.

"I know they contributed to the success that we had.

"They will remember (the success) and the fans in Liverpool, when I went back for TV reasons, were always full of cheerful hospitality.

"It is a club I liked even before going there so, having spent six years there, and being together with some people, obviously you can't forget the club.

"I might feel something special when I get on the pitch just before the game.

"Before that, I will do my job and be focused on the team."

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

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