Downing gets Dalglish vote ahead of Villa return

Updated: 17 December 2011 08:40 IST

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish maintains he has been happy with Stewart Downing's form as he prepares to take the England winger back to Aston Villa for the first time since his transfer.

Downing gets Dalglish vote ahead of Villa return
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Liverpool:

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish maintains he has been happy with Stewart Downing's form as he prepares to take the England winger back to Aston Villa for the first time since his transfer.

Dalglish spent £20 million on the 27-year-old in the summer but the former Aston Villa and Middlesbrough man's performances have met with mixed reaction.

Downing has been involved in every Premier League match for the Reds but has created just one goal and has failed to score himself.

As Liverpool's most-expensive signing in a hectic summer in the transfer market, his displays have received plenty of attention.

Midfielder Charlie Adam and defender Jose Enrique have slotted into the side well, while Jordan Henderson has played in a number of different roles in midfield.

Dalglish believes that any criticism of Downing is due to the fact that Liverpool, who have kept four clean sheets in their last seven matches, have managed just 18 goals in their 15 Premier League games.

The Anfield club have lost three of their seven away matches in the Premier League this season and they need to improve that run at Villa Park in order to keep in touch with the race for the European places.

And the Liverpool manager feels that once his team start putting their chances away, Downing's statistics will take a similar up-turn.

Dalglish said: "Stewart has made plenty of chances for us.

"And he has had a few opportunities himself, which he has been unfortunate with.

"But if we had taken a greater percentage of our chances, or if luck had been more kind to us, than everybody's stats would be better.

"Our points tally would be better, our goals-for would be better, and individual stats would be better.

"Stewart has made a huge contribution to the fact we have hit the post 16 times and created so many chances and shots at goal. When they start going in everyone's stats will improve.

"I think all of the lads that have come in in their first season have settled in really well.

"There's not many people who have come in and settled as quickly as a lot of them have done here. We're delighted.

"Everyone keeps throwing up exams for people but I think (the squad) has stood the test of time."

Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish has warned Downing to brace himself for a hostile reception from the Villa Park crowd.

Former fan favourite Downing had insisted at the end of last season he did not want to leave the Midlands club only to hand in a transfer request to force through his Merseyside move.

McLeish said: "I think Stewart was a well liked lad here at Villa and I'm sure the fans will wind up the opposition.

"I'm sure Stewart will maybe not get too much flak because he is a decent lad and he did a decent job

"But maybe the fans will give a wee bit of apprehension-inducing stick."

McLeish admitted he envies the spending power Dalglish has been afforded in contrast to the sell-to-buy policy he works under.

He added: "There is a bit of a difference in the spending power in what they've spent and who they've brought to the club, guys who can make a huge difference, not only in club but world football.

"We are going in against teams like that as underdogs in almost every game but we are at home and the players have got to have no fear at this great stadium of ours.

"We have got to try to make sure the teams are leaving Villa Park knowing they have been in a big game."

Dalglish is still waiting for captain Steven Gerrard to return from a long-term ankle problem, while Brazilian midfielder Lucas has been ruled out for the season with a serious knee injury.

Villa will be without the suspended Gabriel Agbonlahor while Shay Given (hamstring) and Eric Lichaj (hip) remain sidelined, however Fabian Delph returns to contention.

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