Anyone who knows anything about Liverpool Football Club knows that the new Main Stand is getting it’s debut tomorrow. A further 8,500 seats have been added to Anfield, taking the capacity to 54,074 in total. What you may not know is that another team is turning up at Anfield for us to play against…
Not only is there a team for the Reds to go up against, but it’s the defending champions of the Premier League. A title that, to our shame, has never been applicable to Liverpool. No one expected it to be a label applied to Leicester at the start of last season and some people still think that we should be battering them tomorrow as if they’re incredible accomplishment of last season deserves no respect. It does deserve respect, however, and here I’m going to have a look at what the best bets are for this clash of champions old and, hopefully, new.
Generally good news for Liverpool on the team news front. Jürgen Klopp held his press conference yesterday and confirmed that Emre Can won’t be back from his ankle injury in time to face the Foxes. That’s not ideal, truth be told, as Can is the player in the team best suited to playing the makeshift defensive midfield role that Klopp so likes to use. Henderson has been a decent stand-in and looked good against Spurs in that position, but Can has an extra edge there that might be useful against Leicester’s speedy counter-attack.
The only other players definitely out are Ragnar Klavan, who has torn a muscle behind his knee, and youngster Sheyi Ojo. The latter probably wouldn’t have made the XI anyway, but the former might have hoped to have been on the bench at the very least. He would almost certainly have been an emergency, given that Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren are hoping to form a decent relationship in the centre-back spots moving forward.
The two big decisions facing the manager revolve around the goalkeeper and the attacking positions. Loris Karius is now fully fit and has been training all week, but Simon Mignolet is almost certainly set to keep his place in the starting line-up. Philippe Coutinho has been away with Brazil and won’t have returned from a long journey home until the tail end of the week, so will Klopp risk using him from the start of the game?
Claudio Ranieri also has a bit of a decision to make regarding his goalkeeper. Kasper Schmeichel has had a hernia operation and was at risk of missing this game but all of the indications are that he’s been back in full training and is almost certainly going to start. Another starter is likely to be the club’s new signing Islam Slimani. The Algerian was bought for £28 million during the transfer window and is the record signing for a club and manager who loves to play 4-4-2.
The two major injuries for Ranieri to worry about are Jeffrey Schlupp and another new signing, Nampalys Mendy. Schlupp isn’t too much of a bother for the Italian, but Mendy’s absence could be slightly problematic for him. The Frenchman was brought into Leicester from Nice as a replacement for his countryman N’Golo Kante who joined Chelsea this summer. Kante was one of the driving forces behind the Foxes’ championship winning campaign last season and the energy provided by his replacement could be sorely missed.
The form of both teams is tricky to discuss, given the recent international break. Neither side has kicked a ball in anger for two weeks, so it will be interesting to see who hits the ground running. For Liverpool the start of the season has been something of a mixed bag. A brilliant win at Arsenal was followed up with a disappointing loss to Burnley, whilst a convincing 5-0 victory against Burton came before a draw against Spurs from a performance that merited more. Leicester are likely to play with a low block defence that could frustrate the Reds in the same way that the Clarets did, so a fast start is vital.
Leicester’s first few games haven’t gone as planned either. They lost the Community Shield match against Manchester United and immediately followed that up with a surprise loss to newly promoted Hull. A 0-0 draw with Arsenal at The King Power Stadium was a duller, more cagey affair than most people expected but they dispatched Swansea City in a manner most predicted they would. There results have been 1-2, 2-1, 0-0, 2-1 so if you’re keen to go for a specific scoreline then that might be worth bearing in mind…
What will the new Main Stand get to see on its debut, then? A rip-roaring win for the home side or a disappointing and limp start to the remaining 35 games?
A Tight Affair With A Goal Or Two
Leicester won the league last season by keeping things tight at the back and hitting teams on the counter. They’ve conceded in all but one of their games so far this season, but they haven’t allowed goals to rain in on them for quite some time now. Expect them to defend deep, invite Liverpool’s pressure on to them and look to create havoc at the back for us via Jamie Vardy and Islam Slimani.
For Liverpool it’s all about seeing how well they can break down a tightly packed defence as well as how our own backline copes with a combination of Vardy’s pace and Mahrez’s trickery. This is only Matip’s second Premier League game and both he and Lovren have got a mistake or too in them. Combine that with Simon Mignolet’s ability to be Simon Mignolet and I’m not convinced that this is the home side white-wash that many are predicting. You can get 8/1 for Liverpool to win 2-1 and 14/1 for Leicester to do the same.
Choosing A Goalscorer
If there are going to be goals than the natural question is: Who is going to score them? For my money Jürgen Klopp is going to stick with pretty much the same team that started against Spurs before the international break. He’s been working with Roberto Firmino for the entire fortnight as he wasn’t called up to the Brazil squad and if Sturridge is not going to start then the 5/1 you can get for Firmino to be First Goal Scorer looks very attractive to me. If you’d rather plump for him as Anytime Goal Scorer then that’s 8/5 and still a nice bet.
Islam Slimani is a really interesting proposition for Leicester. Across his career he has scored 100 goals in 231 matches, so a little over a goal every two games. For Sporting Lisbon, who the Foxes signed him from, he scored 57 in 109, so a little better than a goal every two. He’s 9/1 to be FGS and 11/4 to score at Anytime. If you’d like significantly longer odds then it’s 80/1 for Slimani to to be FGS and Leicester to win 2-1.. It’s 40/1 for him to be FGS and Liverpool to win 2-1. Is that worth a cheeky pound or two?
All of these predictions are little more than educated guesses on my account and my motto for this season is ‘Football makes fools of us all’. For that reason I’d suggest that my inkling that it’s going to be a tight game means that you should also put a bet on a high scoring game. It’s 6/1 for Liverpool to win and there to be over 4.5 goals and 40/1 for Liverpool to win 4-2. Neither thing should be discounted!
If you’re only looking for one or two chief bets to go for then my suggestions are Firmino First Goal Scorer at 5/1 and Liverpool to win 2-1 at 8/1. For slightly longer odds you can opt for the combo of Firmino FGS and Liverpool 2-1 at 30/1.