Tiago Ilori
Portugal U21 and Liverpool defender Tiago Ilori is yet to make a first-team appearance after joining Aston Villa on-loan this summer Getty

Liverpool defender Tiago Ilori could return to Merseyside next season, with the Portuguese defender struggling to make an impact in his current season-long loan spell at Aston Villa. The former Sporting Lisbon defender joined the relegation battling side at the start of the season, but is yet to make a first-team bow.

According to the Liverpool Echo, the Portugal U21 international could return to Anfield and join Jurgen Klopp's team for pre-season, as Villa might not take up the option to buy the center-back on a permanent basis, unless he forces his way into new manager Remi Garde's plans for the remainder of the season.

Ilori joined the Villa Park outfit on a temporary basis in the summer with a view to a permanent move at the end of the season, but has struggled to make his way into the first-team. He is yet to make an appearance for the senior team and has made just a solitary appearance for the Villa U21, when he was deployed as a defensive midfielder rather than in his preferred center-back position.

The current situation, however, does not favour the defender and it is unlikely that the relegation threatened team will make his move permanent, which will see him return to Liverpool at the end of the campaign. He was signed by former Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers in 2013, but has failed to break into the Reds first-team, spending time on loan, first at Granada in Spain and most recently at Ligue 1 side Bordeaux during the previous campaign.

The Reds, who are facing a defensive crisis at the moment, with Mamadou Sakho joining Kolo Toure on the sidelines, will be unable to recall him due to the terms of his contract. He is currently the sixth choice center-back, at Villa with Micah Richards, Joleon Lescott, Jores Okore, Jose Angel Crespo and Ciaran Clark ahead of him in the pecking order.

Tim Sherwood, who was sacked as the Villa manager recently, had indicated that the center-back, despite being assured on the ball, needs to toughen up before he can regularly feature in the Premier League.

"He has played in four different countries now so he has had a rounded upbringing," Sherwood said earlier in the season, as quoted by the Liverpool Echo.

"He has seen different styles of player, he is very cultured. I'm just trying to get into him the fact that sometimes in the Premier League you have to get your shorts dirty. It can't always be pretty and nice," the former Villa and Tottenham Hotspur manager added.